Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Getting to the Bottom of the Trash Can

Tracking down information about the mysterious, previously blogged-about trash can label turned out to be a great deal more difficult than I thought it would be.

As I mentioned in the last post, I asked for some insight from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, but they were just about as in the dark as I was.

Here's how they replied:
Mr. Baker,

I cannot find any reference to the label in question. Our best guess is that it is a label from the manufacturer to not throw away the electronic device (that's obvious, sorry). I can only speculate as to why they put this label on their devices, but there are probably at least two reasons:

1) there is a small amount of lead in the printed circuit boards. If you ground up the board and ran a chemical test on the material it could possibly be considered hazardous. There may also be mercury switches contained in the device as well;

2) often times companies want to appear "green" by directing consumers to not throw away these devices in the trash but rather encourage consumers to attempt to recycle the items (there is very little market for recycling of small electronic devices).

I can tell you that the Wyoming Solid and Hazardous Waste Rules and Regulations specifically exempt household hazardous waste from the hazardous waste disposal requirements. Simply put, our rules allow the disposal of these items in the trash as long as you are a household and not a business. Landfills have the option of banning any sort of item they wish from disposal at their site and they may choose to ban small electronics (many already ban larger electronic goods like computers, monitors and tv's).

I hope this response helps.

Joel Frost
Senior Environmental Analyst
So, after that candid but disatisfying response, I decided to contact Samson, the maker of a microphone I recently purchased carrying the "Not Trash" label. Today, I received this response:

The sticker you inquiring about is a result of international manufacturing regulations. Although these regulations do not apply in the U.S.right now, they will be mandatory in time. The standards are known as “ROHS”. A simple internet search on the term ROHS will shed more light on these regulations, if you are inclined to learn more about them.

Thank You,

Rob Garofala
Samson Product Specialist

And there I had it. All I needed to do was ask a European. Bah.

However, I have to say for a "Product Specialist" the Mr Rob Garofala didn't particularly impress me. For one, he told me to just look up the information for myself (yeah, yeah, I'm lazy for complaining...), but more importantly, I'm pretty sure he wasn't completely correct.

RoHS standards (from the European Union Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive) are closely tied to (but not the same as) the directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).*

As this page explains, the RoHS directive merely bans the limitless use of certain materials, while the WEEE directive is responsible for creating labeling such as the "Not Trash" icon.

Sure, I'm picking a nit, but if you want conclusive proof that I'm right, you can read over this page detailing WEEE labeling procedure. Then again, it's a lot easier to just look at the first page of Google image results for RoHS and WEEE.

If only I'd known to search for Weee! instead of "Not trash label"...

*While closely tied to WEEE regulations, there appears to be no tie between ROHS and ROUS.


Carol said...

Get to the bottom of the trash can and you find ROUS, it figures! That is where he belongs.

Anonymous said...

Hi, FYI this sticker is also reffered to as the wheelie bin label. This is a link to one of the many companies that selle them:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip, anonymous. If they didn't only sell to European buyers, I would be sorely tempted to buy a set, just for fun.

Thanks again.