The state Senate passed a regulatory reform bill tackling issues from landfill cleanup to water fountain requirements. The vote took place with little fanfare, but the smooth passage came only after the most controversial portion of the bill was dropped.
Initially Senate Bill 553 included a repeal of the state’s 9-year-old ban on television and computer disposal in landfills, but that was removed before the vote. At issue was cost. Disassembling old electronics is done largely by hand, and that’s pricey — especially for rural counties without landfills of their own.
Those against lifting the ban cited environmental concerns. Mercury, the toxic compound commonly found in large, older televisions, can find its way into leachate, the liquid that leaks out of landfills.
North Carolina Sierra Club’s Cassie Gavin says that leachate has to be dealt with in some way.
"If it goes into wastewater treatment plants, then you have that potentially toxic material going into the bigger water supply over time," she says.
While Gavin applauds the vote keeping the prohibition in place, she also acknowledges shortcomings.
“Of course changes in the recycling market are occurring, but we would argue that the recycling program can be resilient and can adjust to those changes," says Gavin. "So, we should keep it and make it better and ensure the local communities are getting the funding and the help that they need to be successful.”
The Senate Bill passed by a vote of 39-5. The House budget includes a provision to conduct a year-long study on electronics recycling. It will address financial concerns and look for ways to reduce costs.
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