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Revise rules for e-waste



Published: Fri, June 10, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



San Jose Mercury News: California has blazed the trail on collecting and recycling e-waste. Maine and Maryland are following.

Two dozen other states are considering legislation to keep old computers, TVs and other electronic devices out of landfills, where they take up space and may leach hazardous chemicals into the ground.

Congress is starting to pay attention. Although there are ways a national policy could go wrong, a consistent nationwide approach would be better for manufacturers and retailers than a patchwork of state regulations.

Recently, four members of Congress said they were forming the Congressional E-Waste Working Group. They are Mike Thompson, Duke Cunningham and Mary Bono of California and Louise Slaughter of New York. They say more than 50 million devices are thrown away each year.

It's no surprise that e-waste regulations are bubbling up from the states. Trash is a local and state problem. Congress doesn't have to collect it, find sites for landfills or worry about chemicals that might get into the ground or the water.

Making life difficult

But manufacturers and retailers in the consumer electronics business will find life difficult if 50 states have 50 programs.

In some states, customers might pay a fee when they purchase a TV or computer, as in California. In Maine and Maryland, manufacturers are required to pay for recycling. Other states might require the makers of devices to take them back.

But while businesses can agree that they prefer national consistency, they are not of the same mind on what that nationwide policy should be.

A coalition of manufacturers, retailers and environmentalists called the National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative failed to agree on a policy after three years of meetings.

But the more states that jump into e-waste regulation, the more the motivation for a national policy grows.




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