Fiona Ma for State Assembly

Audit of state agencies reveals improper disposal of hazardous electronic waste

A State Auditor´s review of five large state agencies has discovered improper disposal of hazardous electronic waste contrary to state requirements.

The audit was requested by Assembly Members Fiona Ma (D-San Franciso), Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego) and Jared Huffman (D- San Rafael). All three lawmakers have sought legislative remedies for the burgeoning problem of hazardous waste and toxic materials in California.

The State Auditor´s report included a review of the disposal practices of the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Highway Patrol (CHP), Caltrans, the Calfornia Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Employment Development Department (EDD).

According to the report issued November 18th, the Department of Motor Vehicles Employment Development Department, Caltrans and the Justice Department indicated that they discarded e-waste in the trash. One unit of the CHP is also reported to have thrown 354 electronic devices, including stereos, fax machines and cameras in the trash.

Assembly Member Saldaña said that these devices are manufactured using hazardous materials such as lead, chromium and mercury that contaminate soil and groundwater if disposed of in landfills.

"Because of the hazard to public health and safety – including serious risks of cancer and birth defects - the state has set guidelines for the proper disposal of these devices," Saldaña said ."It goes without saying that the our state government has a duty to protect the public and abide by these requirements."

"State agencies cavalierly tossing these hazardous devices into dumpsters sets a really disappointing example."

"Clearly, some state agencies need to clean up their act when it comes to the proper disposal of electronic waste," said Assemblywoman Fiona Ma of the audit report.

"As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to make sure everyone knows how to take care of e-waste. If it isn´t clear, we need to make it clear."

"Most people assume they can just throw electronic devices in the trash when they are finished using them," said Assemblymember Huffman.

"This report highlights the need to educate people about proper disposal of their electronic materials, and underscores the reasons why recycling is critically important. Recycling not only protects our environment and public health, it helps prevent the dumping of e-waste in developing nations where workers, often times children, are exposed to toxic chemicals and heavy pollution."

The Auditor´s report cites the lack of communication from oversight agencies and state employees' lack of knowledge about e-waste as contributing to these instances of improper disposal. It also makes recommendations for better communciation between and within agencies about e-waste disposal responsibilities and protocols.