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E-Waste recycling and awareness growing in Wisconsin

October 04 2012

Annual survey identifies positive e-cycling trends, but more awareness is needed

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin’s E-Cycle Wisconsin program continues its positive impact on the amount of electronics e-cycled throughout the state, according to the results from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 2011 statewide household survey.

“Participation in this program, as well as e-cycling in general, has grown since Wisconsin’s e-cycling law took effect,” says Thad Nation, executive director of Wired Wisconsin. “Wisconsin’s e-waste recycling law is smart policy, both for our environment and our economy.  These efforts keep hazardous substances like nickel and lead out of ecosystems and generate economic growth through the recycling and redistribution channels in the state.“

Wired Wisconsin was influential in its support of the state’s electronic recycling law, which was passed in 2009 and took effect in January 20120. The ban on disposing most consumer electronics in landfills or through incineration took effect in September 2010. Since then, the amount of electronics waste has dropped significantly in landfills throughout the state.

According to the most recent DNR survey, about 40 percent of respondents had heard about the state’s E-Cycle Wisconsin program, which was created to collect and recycle electronics. Overall, fewer electronics are being discarded: On average, only around five percent of unwanted televisions, cellular phones and computers in Wisconsin now end up in the trash, a significant decrease for the state.

The two main reasons surveyed residents gave for not e-cycling their electronics were that it was too expensive and they were unsure of disposal sites in their area. Some residents were also unaware of the many free e-cycling options available throughout Wisconsin.

“Not only do these efforts keep hazardous substances like nickel and lead out of our ecosystems, we’re also generating economic growth through the recycling and redistribution process,” says Nation.

The 2011 survey showed that neither income nor setting (rural/urban) affects recycling awareness among Wisconsin residents. However, age is a factor. Older Wisconsin are more likely to know about the ban and E-Cycle Wisconsin than younger residents. For example, more than 70 percent of surveyed Wisconsin residents age 63 and older were aware of the disposal band while less than half of residents aged 18-30 were aware of it.  Most residents surveyed noted that they had heard about E-Cycle Wisconsin and the ban through a news story or within the community, such as through a municipal waste hauler or municipal newsletter.

“New methods, such as the use of social media, can be used to increase awareness among younger demographic groups,” suggests Nation. “We need to tap into new information streams to make sure this message is getting out to more residents.”

A complete list of Wisconsin’s registered e-cycling sites can be found here.

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