'Small but important' recycling bill to be signed

Piles of electronic recycling sit Wednesday at the Bees Ferry Landfill. According to the governor's office, of the 53,800 tons of 'e-scrap' South Carolina generated last year, about 1,756 tons was recycled.

Wade Spees

Gov. Mark Sanford today will sign a bill requiring electronic sellers and manufacturers to set up recycling programs across the state in an effort to keep environmentally hazardous computer components out of landfills and away from the state's water sources.

The "E-Waste Recycling Bill" will keep thousands of tons of materials out of landfills in counties from the mountains to the coast.

The effort is not solely aimed at the plastics and glass commonly used in today's computers and television sets. Also targeted are technical components that contain heavy metals -- such as mercury -- that are used in all sorts of modern devices, including printers, and desktop and laptop computers.

"This legislation is a small but important part of this larger notion of stewardship, and our ongoing commitment to leave this state better than we found it," said Ben Fox, communications director for the governor.

The state already is no stranger to the problem of disposing of modern electronics. In fiscal 2009, South Carolina generated more than 53,800 tons of "e-scrap," the governor's office said. Yet only a fraction of that amount -- about 1,756 tons -- was recycled. The rest was sent to landfills and incinerators. Around 70 percent of all heavy metals in American landfills comes from discarded electronics.

Patrick Moore of the Coastal Conservation League's Columbia office said that as envisioned, the bill requires sellers of these devices to create a convenient drop-off or item recycling program. It could be as simple as promoting a monthly collection date, or in having ready space available to collect these items in a parking lot. "Whatever is most convenient to the average Joe," Moore said.

The effort has widespread support, including from the Sierra Club, Waste Management, Hewlett-Packard and other computer manufacturers.

South Carolina joins at least 21 states and New York City that have similar laws establishing a procedure for electronics recycling.

The bill-signing will take place today at 9:30 a.m. in the First Floor lobby of the Statehouse. Most of the provisions kick in July 2011, after a year grace period, Fox said.