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Recycler launches ecollective to make recycling electronics easier

October 5, 2010 |  9:22 am

EwasteWhether it's cellphones or computers, TVs or iPods, the average American household contains 23 consumer electronics items -- items that are so frequently discarded that electronic waste is now the fastest-growing waste stream in the country, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Although there are a bevy of recycling options for consumers, operated by the government (including the city of L.A.'s Bureau of Sanitation), retailers (such as Best Buy) and manufacturers, only 15% of electronic waste, or e-waste, is recycled in the U.S.

"The biggest barrier to e-recycling is time and proximity," said Carey Levine, director of marketing for ECS Refining, a California state-approved e-waste recycler in Santa Clara.

Today, ECS is launching ecollective -- a network of drop-off locations throughout the state for consumers and small businesses to recycle old electronics for free. Visiting the website, consumers type in their ZIP Code and are directed to nearby e-waste dropoff points. Directions to the site are included, as well as hours of operation.

The website also includes a list of what can be recycled through the program and the company's recycling procedures, which ensures e-waste is processed domestically and that personal data are  destroyed.

About 100 ecollective locations have been established so far, including 17 in Southern California. Within the next six weeks, ECS Refining plans to double the number of locations. The eventual goal is to service 95% of all California households with e-recycling locations located within 10 miles of their homes.

California is one of a handful of states that ban electronics from landfills because of their hazardous materials (such as the lead in cathode-ray-tube TVs) and their component parts' potential to be reclaimed and reused. Recapturing raw materials such as copper saves the energy, expense and environmental cost that it otherwise takes to mine new.

Since 2005, California has required consumers to pay a recycling fee at the point of sale for many, but not all, electronic devices with a screen, including TVs, computer monitors and portable DVD players. The $8 to $25 fee is used to offset the cost of state-approved recyclers, such as ECS, which break down, or "de-manufacture," the device, selling component parts on the commodities market or to companies that further process the materials.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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