A bill under consideration in the Pa. House would make it easier to recycle electronic waste

As of 2022, just nine waste collection sites offer unrestricted access to electronic waste recycling out of the 443 total e-waste collection sites across the commonwealth.

By: - October 30, 2023 5:41 pm

Workers sort through a pile of used mobile phones (Photo by Kuni Takahashi/ Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Lawmakers in Harrisburg on Monday heard feedback on a bill that would improve and update Pennsylvania’s electronic waste infrastructure and provide counties with a statewide e-waste program to allow residents to dispose of their electronics in a “safe and sustainable manner.”

State Rep. Lisa Borowski (D-Delaware) said her bill, House Bill 1607, aims to address the growing need for e-waste disposal, ease the financial impact on counties and local governments, and address the environmental concerns associated with e-waste. 

As a former township commissioner, Borowski said she’s personally grappled with the issue, telling the committee that the increased need for responsible e-waste disposal coupled with its high cost has “created a financial and environmental challenge across the state.”

The 49-page bill would give “residents access to convenient collection sites at no cost to themselves or their municipalities” according to Borowski. In its current form, participation from counties in the statewide program would not be required and residents would still be able to drop off electronics at a collection site of their choosing. 

Faran Savitz, a zero waste advocate with PennEnvironment, testified in support of the bill, saying it would update and improve Pennsylvania’s existing e-waste recycling infrastructure, increase funding for e-waste recycling programs, and make it cheaper for Pennsylvanians to dispose of their electronic waste.

Savitz told the committee that electronics and technological devices, such as TVs, headphones, laptops, chargers, and smartphones, are the fastest-growing part of the nation’s waste stream. 

“Since 2000, the amount of e-waste generated each year has seen a 42% increase,” Savitz said, adding that Americans collectively own more than 3 billion electronic devices, but just 30% of them get recycled. 

In Pennsylvania, it is currently illegal to dispose of most electronics in solid waste, due to their contents. 

Savitz said this makes it difficult for businesses and consumers to properly dispose of e-waste and leads to illegal dumping.

“Although this illegal dumping would be an issue with any waste, it’s especially harmful with e-waste since electronics are one of the most toxic parts of the waste stream,” Savitz said. “Having them enter our environment poses a threat to our wildlife, or water quality, even our human health.”

Recycling can allow those metals to be reused in new devices as well as old parts and components, keeping them out of landfills.

As of 2022, just nine waste collection sites offer unrestricted access to e-waste recycling out of the 443 total e-waste collection sites across the commonwealth, Savitz said. 

House Consumer Protection, Technology, and Utilities Committee Chairperson Robert Matzie (D-Beaver) said the issue of e-waste “deals with a hodgepodge of a variety of different programs around the state” adding that Monday’s hearing was the first step toward figuring out the best path forward.

The Committee’s Minority Chair, state Rep. Jim Marshall (R-Beaver) called Borowski’s bill a “herculean effort” to address the issue of E-waste. 

“We welcome the members and we welcome other stakeholders that are listening and are watching to give us any thoughts and/or insight that they may have in crafting and/or making a piece of legislation like this better,” Matzie said.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.