California as Test Run

By Mark Hachman  |  Posted 2004-09-30 Print this article Print

On the other hand, California often leads the way in environmental legislation, and it could be the model for a much-needed umbrella federal law, said sources at state and federal environmental agencies. The Basel Action Network (BAN), an environmental action group, worked to close many of the loopholes that were in the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003, said Jim Puckett, a BAN coordinator in Seattle. "How the heck you enforce this thing … is not clear at all," Puckett said. "Its very profitable to export. Whos going to really fine the people who are in the business of exporting? The state is not in the business of controlling this. At least [exportation of CRT waste] is illegal for the moment." The new California law respects the laws of other countries and makes it illegal to violate those, Puckett said, in effect enforcing the Basel Convention, which forbids trading with countries that have not signed it. But an exemption allows trade with Mexico and Canada, and the language of the law would theoretically allow hazardous CRT waste to be shipped to other states, he said.
Only Maine has passed a similar law, which governs the recycling of both CRTs and computer chasses. Televisions and computer monitors from households will have to be recycled beginning Jan. 1, 2006; until then, individual municipalities are assuming recycling costs. Under the law, those municipalities may dispose of CRTs and otrher electronic devices in landfills, according to Carole Cifrino, an environmental specialist for Maines Environmental Protection Agency. In January 2006, however, the individual computer and CRT manufacturers will assume the recycling costs, according to the law.
This year, Raymond said, 40 recycling bills were proposed in 20 states, down from 52 the year before. Hewlett-Packard Co. has been the most vocal computer manufacturer against additional legislation, Raymond said, choosing to lobby on its own for no-fee recycling legislation. Representatives from HP declined to respond to several requests for comment. Rules at the federal level have stalled; the Environmental Protection Agency had to pull out of NEPSI (the National Electronics Products Stewardship Initiative), a national, industrywide initiative to settle environmental issues, because of a prohibition against backing movements that could lead to legislation, Raymond said. According to Pat Nathan, global sustainable business director at Round Rock, Texas-based Dell Inc., the most influential guidelines for recycling, besides in the United States, can be found in Europe. In August, the European Union member countries were supposed to begin enacting the restrictions set down by the European Parliaments directives on "Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment," also known as WEEE. WEEE sets forward certain per-person collection goals to recycle electronic equipment. Greece is now WEEE-compliant, Nathan said, adding that Germany is nearly there. The problem, Nathan said, is one of education. Dell surveys have shown that European IT administrators are largely unaware of the WEEE mandates. "One out of three IT professionals … was aware that these products could be recycled," she said. "Ninety-two percent were unaware that WEEE would be in effect next summer." Check out eWEEK.coms Desktop & Notebook Center at for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.


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