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[GreenYes] Fwd: Mercury News 02-22-2002 Two bills address electronic discards
 Posted on Fri, Feb. 22, 2002

Two bills address electronic discards
By Noam Levey
Mercury News Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO - Pushing California to the forefront of national efforts to control the mounting volume of old computers, televisions and other electronics, two state senators have introduced legislation calling on manufacturers and consumers to pay the multimillion-dollar tab to recycle the waste.

Los Angeles-area Democratic Sen. Gloria Romero on Thursday introduced a bill that would require high-tech manufacturers to develop programs to recycle so-called e-waste or pay a fee to support statewide recycling initiatives.

In a separate bill, Sen. Byron Sher, D-San Jose, who has led previous efforts to expand recycling, is proposing that consumers pay a fee on new cathode ray tubes, the lead-infused devices used in most computer monitors and televisions.

``We can continue this economic engine,'' Romero said, dismissing charges that the new regulations would burden the tech industry. ``But it can be a cleaner economic engine.''

Both bills are designed to address an e-waste problem that many environmental groups and local governments say could soon overwhelm the state with thousands of tons of toxic scrap.

``It says a lot that the newest member of the Senate and one of the most veteran members of the Legislature are proposing solutions,'' said Mark Murray, director of Californians Against Waste Foundation, which helped develop the legislation.

But the proposed new regulations are already running into opposition from the high-tech industry, whose representatives say that California producers could be put at a competitive disadvantage if California places greater burdens on companies than other states.

The American Electronics Association and the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group advocate waiting until federal guidelines are established for the disposal of e-waste. ``It makes it unnecessarily complicated when you have a state-by-state process,'' said Margaret Bruce, the manufacturing group's environmental programs director.

Bruce said the discussion of e-waste is fueling unfounded alarm about the toxicity of electronics, which do not pose a health risk while they are being used.

But Romero, Sher and others say they are alarmed by statistics that some 6 million old computers and televisions are being stockpiled in California homes.

Computers and other electronics are filled with toxic materials such as mercury and cadmium that can pose health risks if they are not properly discarded; cathode ray tubes typically contain four to eight pounds of lead.

Sher's proposed solution would set up a system to collect money to fund recycling programs by requiring consumers to pay an ``advanced disposal fee'' when they purchase an electronic device with a cathode ray tube. The funds would then be distributed to local governments, non-profit agencies and others who handle recycled electronics.

Romero's proposal would require manufacturers to develop programs to hit recycling targets over the next decade, culminating in 2010 when 75 percent of e-waste would have to be recovered. Should manufacturers choose not to do the recycling themselves, they would be assessed a fee by the state.

Contact Noam Levey at or (916) 325-4315.

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