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Bring out your dead (electronics): It's the law

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You better watch what you do with that old TV or computer, because starting Jan. 1 it's illegal for Indiana households, public schools and small businesses to put their discarded electronics in the trash.

But even though it's the law for you and me to recycle our electronics, much more of the responsibility falls on the makers of these toxic products. The regulations are part of the Indiana Electronic Waste Law that passed in 2009. Yes, the law keeps you and me from filling landfills with e-waste that contains toxic heavy metals, like mercury and lead, that would ultimately seep into our groundwater. But also since April, the law has required electronic manufacturers to collect and recycle at least 60 percent of the electronic products they sell in Indiana. If they don't meet the goal after two years they are required to pay a recycling fee for every pound short of their goal they fall.

On the other hand, there is no fine for homeowners, schools or small businesses that throw away electronics. Waste collectors won't pick up obvious equipment, like a TV, but they can't go through every trash bag searching for cell phones, mp3 players or other small electronics.

“Unfortunately, if [small electronics] are not visible to the solid waste crews, they will not be able to remove them,” said Molly Deuberry, of the Indianapolis Department of Public Works. “There is no plan for the crews to start going through the trash cans to ensure compliance. We are counting on Indianapolis residents to be good citizens and help by disposing of those items properly.”

You heard her. Get off your ass and get rid of that cell phone, calculator, printer, etc. properly!

Because, really, it's a win-win for everyone. Toxic heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium stay out of landfills and groundwater. Plus, it creates more green jobs because e-cycling centers can count on more electronics to recycle. And since it's now a requirement, e-waste collection is free. Hopefully, in the end, laws like this one, that force manufacturers to recycle their own products, will be an incentive for electronics producers to create long-lasting, less-toxic products that people won't want to get rid of after only a year or less.

But even without penalties for consumers who don't follow the rules, with this law, Indiana is going a step beyond the federal government — which doesn't mandate e-waste recycling — while joining 23 other states that have mandated e-cycling. About 61 percent of the U.S. population is covered by a state e-cycling law.

Here's how you can follow the law and maybe even make a little cash. The most obvious way is to take your e-junk to one of the city's ToxDrop locations (see below). But don't be too quick to give up these once-expensive items. Sites like Gazelle.com, BuyMyTronics.com and YouRenew.com will pay you for certain electronics that still work and will even pay for shipping. It's definitely worth shopping around old Blackberries and MacBooks before making the trip to the e-waste drop-off center.

Where to e-cycle:

Belmont Avenue Collection Facility
2700 S. Belmont Ave.
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.

IMPD Training Facility (located near Superior Court 13)
9049 E. 10th St.
1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Perry Township Government Center
4925 S. Shelby St.
2nd and 4th Saturday of each month, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Traders Point Collection Facility
7550 N. Lafayette Rd.
1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

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