Electronic waste, commonly called e-waste, is one of the fastest growing portions of our waste stream. Computers, televisions, VCRs, radios, cell phones and small appliances all collectively constitute e-waste. As new electronics become faster, cheaper and more efficient, now obsolete devices find their way into our waste stream -- creating the need for systems to properly dispose of them.

Careful disposal is important because many electronic devices contain potentially hazardous materials, things like lead, mercury, cadmium, zinc and nickel. If not recovered for recycling, these materials would likely end up in a waste-to-energy facility.

Incineration of e-waste can produce dioxin and contribute to heavy metal contamination in our air.

This doesn't just spell bad news for the environment; air pollution of this kind can lead to significant human health problems. Responsible recycling and disposal can help prevent the exploitation of people in underdeveloped countries, where much of our country's e-waste has typically been dumped.

This, among other reasons, has prompted states to pass e-waste recycling laws that help to ensure responsible recycling. Connecticut passed its first e-waste recycling law in 2007, and it allows Connecticut residents to properly recycle certain covered electronic devices -- including computers, monitors, printers and televisions -- for free.

The law requires municipalities to provide free drop-off locations. In Norwalk, this location is the transfer station on Science Road, and Darien residents can drop-off at the refuse disposal and recycling center on Ledge Road.

Connecticut residents can drop their covered electronic devices -- up to seven items at a time -- at no cost, where state-approved electronic recyclers then pick them up. From there, they're sorted by their manufacturer and manufacturers are billed for the cost of the recycling.

Many regional trash authorities, regional planning agencies and municipalities also hold one-day collections. And many manufacturers of electronic products, especially computer manufacturers, have implemented programs to recycle their products through mail-back programs or have partnered with retail stores for collection.

At this point, Connecticut's law only covers covered electronic devices. While the program may be expanded in the future, items like keyboards cell phones are not currently included. However, some municipalities will collect them, so check with your local recycling coordinator before putting them in the trash.

As of Jan. 1, 2011, Connecticut's law will specifically ban covered electronic devices from being disposed at any solid waste facility, so it's important that state residents become familiar with the e-waste recycling law in order to ensure that it's effective.

It's been a concerted effort on the part of states, municipalities, electronic manufacturers and retailers to find economic and convenient ways to deal with e-waste.

For more information on the state e-waste recycling program, please visit the state Department of Environmental Protection Web site at www.ct.gov/dep and click on "Materials & Waste Management."