With millions of dead batteries, burned-out fluorescent light bulbs and outmoded electronics dumped into landfills every year, officials want residents to know: It’s no longer OK to trash your trash. Starting Feb. 8, batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, answering machines, cordless telephones, radios and pre-1997 tennis shoes with flashing lights are banned from the garbage bin. Those once-innocuous electronics are now on a long list of hazardous materials barred from landfills because they contain mercury, corrosive chemicals or heavy metals that can eventually seep from dumps into groundwater or put sanitation workers at risk. “These items pose a human health and environmental threat,” said Karl Palmer, chief of regulatory and program development branch at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. “In the long run we don’t want these materials to get into the groundwater and the environment.” Rather, these discarded goods should now go to household hazardous waste collection centers or willing retailers. The new waste disposal rules make it illegal to throw out so-called universal waste, which includes electronics and appliances that contain mercury or other heavy metals. Mercury can cause nausea, vomiting, skin rashes and eye irritation when its container is broken and the neurotoxin is released. State officials said they’re focused on public education more than enforcement. “We’ll go after egregious violators, but we’re not going to go door to door looking in people’s trash,” said Ron Baker, DTSC spokesman. But some environmental groups worry Californians don’t know about the new rules and the local governments and recyclers aren’t ready for an onslaught of electronics and appliances. State waste officials estimate Californians will throw away 600 million batteries and 17 million fluorescent bulbs this year. Roughly 500,000 tons of toxic electronic waste that was landfilled in 2003 now has to be decontaminated and recycled. “It’s not going to be pretty,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. He believes manufacturers need to phase out the use of hazardous materials in electronics, and manufacturers should be required to take back and recycle products with toxic parts. Also the state may need to copy the bottle and can program and consider a 5- to 10-cent refund on batteries or fluorescent light bulbs to encourage recycling. Los Angeles officials said they already take batteries, fluorescent light bulbs and electronics at the city’s household hazardous waste disposal sites, and are prepared for the increase. “We do get a fair number now, nothing tremendous,” said Wayne Omokawa, the city’s program manager for e-waste collection. “People are very up to date and we don’t expect any big changes.” Goodwill Industries of Southern California takes electronics and its disabled work force dismantles and recycles the equipment. Facilities Director Gerardo Castro hopes to see more televisions, radios and answering machines coming his way. “We think its a wonderful opportunity to expand our recycling services. It increases our volume. We can provide more environmentally friendly jobs.” In addition to Goodwill, a number of thrift shops will take phones, computers, televisions and other universal waste that can be dismantled and individual pieces recycled. Some electronics dealers will take batteries. Many wireless phone stores will take old cell phones. Kerry Cavanaugh, (818) 713-3746 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!