This year’s deregulation bill emerged in the General Assembly on Thursday, and it includes a provision repealing the ban on discarding computers, televisions and other electronics in landfills.
The change would benefit manufacturers, who would no longer have to pay fees that help pay for local recycling programs. That would shift the costs of the recycling programs to cities and counties, which would have to divert funds from other sources or charge the public new fees.
The recycling program began in 2010, and about 30 million pounds of electronic merchandise was recycled in 2014. There are free drop-off sites in all counties. Nearly $1 million in fees were collected to run the program.
A bill last year that would have eliminated the fees was rewritten to require a study first. The state Department of Environmental Quality studied the issue and earlier this year recommended the legislature consider repealing the landfill ban.
DEQ says it based that recommendation on a 2010 finding by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that electronics can be safely disposed of in landfills. But the EPA said its preferred method is to reuse or recycle the material.
Sen. Trudy Wade, a Republican from Greensboro, said last year that the recycling fees deter companies from doing business in North Carolina. A Senate committee approved the legislation, House Bill 169, on Thursday and it is scheduled to go to the full Senate on Tuesday.
The Sierra Club issued a statement on Thursday saying the bill would dismantle a successful program that provides environmental safeguards at no cost to the public. The industry provides at least 600 jobs, according to the Sierra Club.
“Allowing computers and televisions to be thrown into landfills undermines an important industry as well as our environment,” said Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, spokesman for the Sierra Club.