A recent survey by Computer Aid International (an IT charity) shows that one in five senior IT staff members of firms in the United Kingdom cannot say that none of their equipment ends up in landfills. In fact, only 65% could say with confidence that their unwanted electronic equipment avoided the landfill. That means 1 in 5 companies cannot be sure that they are not sending potentially toxic materials to landfills in the UK.

Sadly, in the U.S., it’s not that much different. In fact, it’s worse, since the UK has a national law banning e-waste in landfills while the U.S. does not. Less than half of those in the UK and a comparable number here in the U.S. recycle at least half of their old IT equipment.

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Electronic waste is a global phenomenon and a global problem. In a report last year from Unep, global e-waste generation is growing by about 40 million tonnes annually. In a less advanced nation like Kenya, for example, e-waste annual estimates are at 2,800 tonnes from TVs and 2,500 tonnes from PCs. Compare that to the U.S. at 2.3 million tonnes and China at 3 million tonnes. Yet Kenya’s waste is growing just as fast as are the U.S. and China’s (by percentage).

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There are 24 states in the United States (plus New York City) that have comprehensive e-waste laws and regulations. We are going through each of them to see how they have been implemented and the history and purpose behind each. Today, we are looking at the state of Maine, which passed its law in 2004.

The initial law, like California’s before it, covered only electronic devices with a screen. It included items like televisions, computer monitors, and other non-handheld devices which have display screens as well as computers themselves. In 2009, the law was updated to include other types of electronics such as desktop printers and video game consoles (not handheld).

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