The city of Charleston’s waste collection crews will no longer pick up discarded electronics, such as TVs, printers and computers, starting April 1.
Since 2011, the city had been sending those electronics to a private contractor to be disposed after the state Legislature passed a law in 2010 to keep them out of landfills.
Hazardous materials, such as lead and mercury found in large electronics, can pose a serious risk to human health and the environment if they end up in the waste streams, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The cost to use the private contractor to process electronic waste has more than doubled in the past five years, said Mike Metzler, deputy director of operations of the city’s Public Service Department.
He said the city collects about 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of electronic waste per month.
The change City Council approved Tuesday is expected to save the city about $150,000 to $200,000 annually. Crews will also be freed to pick up more yard debris, Metzler said.
Residents are being encouraged to find their own methods of discarding unwanted electronics.
“The consumer can recycle (electronic waste) for free, and there’s numerous ways to do that, versus the city spending taxpayers’ money to go and collect it all up,” Metzler said.
Residents can take old laptops, TVs and printers to one of Charleston County’s recycling drop-off sites: Romney Street Convenience Center on the peninsula, Bees Ferry Convenience Center in West Ashley, and Signal Point Convenience Center on James Island.
Smaller gadgets, including cellphones, video game consoles and cameras, can’t be recycled.
The county's website has more information about its hazardous waste collection program.
Goodwill nonprofit centers take electronics and wipes computer hard drives of data before they’re disposed. Details about its recycling program are online.
Many other national retailers will accept unwanted electronics and gadgets. Find a full list of businesses offering recycling programs on DHEC’s website.
Tonya Lott, of the county's environmental management department, said it's difficult to know whether the city's decision will have a significant impact on the county's recycling services at this point. In the past 12 months, the county collected 324 tons of electronic waste, she said.
If all the electronics that would have been collected by the city goes to the county, that would increase its load by more than a third.
Lott said she "would not call it a burden" to take on the extra items.
"We will just absorb that into our program, and we will watch that to see if our program is affected at all," she said.
The department uses a contractor to handle electronic waste. That means it isn't sent for processing with the rest of the recyclables to the Horry County plant.