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[greenyes] Administration Position on E-Waste

    "Dunne, who recently told a group of recyclers and manufacturers that he
    sees himself as 'more of a facilitator and less of a regulator,' said in
    an interview he has no plans to pursue new rules or legislation. 
Instead,
    he has asked his staff to develop a voluntary plan."

washingtonpost.com
Dead Electronics Going to Waste
Millions of Tons of Used Devices Pose Threat to Environment
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, January 21, 2005; Page A04

In today's high-tech era, the temptation for upgrades is everywhere: a
slimmer cell phone, a sleeker desktop, a sportier BlackBerry.
But the consequences of the constant quest for better gadgetry are piling
up. Every time last year's monitor is chucked, it becomes a piece of
potentially hazardous waste.

More than three years after federal and industry officials began to talk
about how to cope with the "e-waste" problem, the situation has only
deteriorated. Americans dispose of 2 million tons of electronic products a
year -- including 50 million computers and 130 million cell phones -- and by
2010, the nation will be discarding 400 million electronic units annually,
according to the International Association of Electronics Recyclers.
Environmentalists say the rising tide of electronic waste is slowly
degrading in landfills and rivers here and abroad, posing a serious threat
to water and air. Computers, televisions and other advanced devices contain
neurotoxins and carcinogens such as lead and beryllium metal that are
leaching into waterways and entering the air through burning or dust.

With little notice, e-waste has become one of the fastest-growing sectors of
the country's solid waste stream, and technology products now account for as
much as 40 percent of the lead in U.S. landfills, according to the
Environmental Protection Agency.

For years, Americans were able to ship discarded computers and televisions
to China, where they were dismantled for scrap. But with an escalating
mountain of electronics waste threatening to overwhelm the country's storage
and disposal capacity, regulators and manufacturers are struggling to devise
a comprehensive solution to one of the nation's newest environmental
dilemmas.

"Here we recognize it as a problem, and a number of states do," as well,
said Thomas Dunne, acting assistant administrator for EPA's office of solid
waste and emergency response, who last month ordered his deputies to craft a
broad e-waste recycling strategy. "This is the next extension of pollution
prevention."
Still, no one is quite ready to take on the task of managing the high-tech
refuse that U.S. consumers are jettisoning with abandon. Federal regulators
have asked the industry to devise a voluntary system to cope with the
problem, but manufacturers are bickering over how to pay for it. In the
meantime, a patchwork of state regulations has emerged, as officials from
Maine to California seek to impose tougher rules on high-tech producers.

Activists say this haphazard approach to regulation is not enough. They say
it fails to protect Americans from potential danger and encourages recyclers
to ship e-waste to Asia, where it leaches into waterways and affects the
health of low-wage workers. The United States is the only developed country
not to have ratified the Basel Convention, an international treaty that took
effect in 1992 and controls the export of hazardous waste.

"There's a real electronics-waste crisis," said Basel Action Network
coordinator Jim Puckett, whose group monitors the global toxic waste trade.
"The U.S. just looks the other way as we use these cheap and dirty dumping
grounds."

Federal officials spent several years working with industry trying to
develop a nationwide plan, but e-waste recycling remains expensive, and
manufacturers are split on whether to eat the costs or pass them on to
consumers as a surcharge with each purchase.

"They came to a consensus about what the system would look like, but they
couldn't come to an agreement on how to pay for it," said Katharine Osdoba,
an EPA staff member who participated in the talks.

Dunne, who recently told a group of recyclers and manufacturers that he sees
himself as "more of a facilitator and less of a regulator," said in an
interview he has no plans to pursue new rules or legislation. Instead, he
has asked his staff to develop a voluntary plan. EPA issued nonbinding
guidelines in March on electronic-waste management, and it has backed pilot
programs under which such retailers as Staples, Office Depot and Good Guys
in Australia agree to recycle electronics at no charge for several weeks at
a time.

"..."


_________________________
Peter Anderson, President
RECYCLEWORLDS CONSULTING
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address
web: www.recycleworlds.net

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