[GRRN] ACTION ALERT: Producer Responsibility for Computers

Bill Sheehan (zerowaste@grrn.org)
Tue, 20 Apr 1999 05:38:12 -0400

Dear GreenYes folk,

The GrassRoots Recycling Network endorses and supports the campaign to stop
the US Trade rep and US electronics industry attack on the European computer
manufacturer Take Back directive. Please read on, write VP Al Gore, and add
your organization's name to the list!

/Bill Sheehan
GRRN Network Coordianator


Action Alert to Save Producer Responsibility from Attack by the US Trade

Don't Trade Away our Health and the Environment!

Your immediate assistance is needed to defend an important new initiative
that will help protect environmental health and safety by phasing out
persistent, bio-accumulative toxics and by cleaning up the life cycle of
computer manufacturing and other electronic and electrical products.

This new "take-back" Directive, developed by the European Commission,
focuses on Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and is
designed to address the growing piles of electronic junk. Besides phasing
out toxic chemicals, the directive will require producers of electronic and
electrical equipment to assume financial and legal responsibility for their
products throughout their entire life cycle; it also establishes a
framework for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

However, the US Trade Representative (USTR) -- at the request of the
American Electronics Association (AEA), the largest trade association of
the electronics industry with more than 3000 members -- is launching a new
lobbying attack on the WEEE Directive.

The AEA is using international trade law as a weapon to dictate global
health and environmental policy to protect the economic interests of its
members (Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Motorola, etc.). In a 15 page legal
position paper, the AEA asserts the proposed phase-out of the listed
persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic materials -- lead, mercury, cadmium,
hexavalent chromium and halogenated flame retardants -- and the provision
requiring at least 5% recycled plastics in electronic and electrical
products are "illegal" and violate World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Rather than working to defend and protect our health and environment, the
USTR staff is supporting the AEA's position in discussions with other US
and international agencies.

European NGOs such as the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), ANPED (the
Northern Alliance for Sustainability) and other environmental health and
consumer organizations in Europe have asked us to help protect the WEEE
Directive. By supporting their initiative, we are fighting for improved
global standards for everyone. If adopted in Europe, this Directive will
help our efforts for similar legislation in the US to reduce toxics and
promote clean production. It is crucial that US activists involved in
toxics, waste, recycling, incineration, corporate accountability, consumer
advocacy, international trade, human rights and/or democracy issues make
our voices heard before the US government adopts the myopic views of the
U.S. computer industry on these important environmental issues.

TAKE ACTION. Time is of the essence. With the intensive lobbying efforts
of the electronics industry, the US is formulating its position to oppose
this directive. Please take a few moments to fax or send a letter on your
own letterhead to Vice-President Gore and tell him to bring an immediate
halt to the USTR's lobbying activities. You can use the enclosed text as
a model. Please also send (or e-mail) a copy to Silicon Valley Toxics
Coalition (svtc@igc.org or fax 408-287-6771). We will add your name to
the action alert on our website. We may also publish ads in national
media. Thanks very much for your support.

For additional background on this issue:

**find a copy of the letter to Pres. Clinton and signatories at
**find a copy of the letter to the European Commission at
**find a copy of the draft directive on our website at
**view the position of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) at
**view the position of the AEA at http://www.svtc.org/cleancc/weeeaea.htm

White House Fax Line - 202-456-2461
Vice President Gore's e-mail - vice-president@whitehouse.gov
USTR - Ms. Charlene Barshefsky, US Trade Representative - fax 202-395-3911;
e-mail: cbarshefsky@ustr.gov
US EPA - Ms. Carol Browner, Administrator - fax: 2002-260-0279; e-mail:
To contact your senators - http://www.senate.gov/senator/index.html
To contact your representative - http://www.house.gov/writerep/

Dear Vice-President Gore:

We are writing to request your immediate assistance to help defend an
important environmental initiative, the draft European Commission Directive
on Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). This draft
directive -- which is designed to address the growing problem of obsolete
electronic equipment -- will help protect environmental health and safety
on both sides of the Atlantic by phasing out some of the worst toxic
chemicals, cleaning up the life-cycle of computer manufacturing, promoting
Producer Responsibility and encouraging similar Clean Production
initiatives outside Europe, particularly within the United States.

However, rather than defending and protecting our health and environment,
the US Trade Representative (USTR) is lobbying on behalf of the electronics
industry to oppose this directive as a barrier to international trade. We
ask that you intervene to put an immediate stop to the USTR's lobbying

We have learned that the American Electronics Association (AEA) -- whose
members include Microsoft, Intel, IBM, and Motorola -- is using
international trade law as a weapon to dictate global health and
environmental policy. In a 15 page legal position paper, the AEA asserts
that various provisions of the WEEE are "illegal" under international trade
law and, therefore, violate World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

In his March 15, 1999 statement at a high-level WTO symposium on trade and
the environment, President Clinton said, "We must do more to ensure that
spirited economic competition among nations never becomes a race to the
bottom. We should be leveling environmental protections up, not down." The
draft WEEE directive is an excellent opportunity to place these words into

We urge you to join us in working to make sure that weaker environmental
standards are not forced upon the European Union by unfair global trade
laws. At stake in this controversy are three vital environmental

1. Producers must be ultimately responsible for their products. The WEEE
Directive's premise is that the producer of all electronic products and
electrical equipment must be financially responsible for managing their
products throughout their lifecycle, including at the end of life. The
public should not have to pay extra taxes for waste management costs of
hazardous materials that producers choose to use in electrical and
electronic equipment.

2. Trade Associations must not be allowed to dictate environmental health
policy. It is vital to support the WEEE directive's provisions for
encouraging the recycling of plastics and phasing out toxic chemicals that
are persistent in the environment and known health hazards. We must leel
environemtnal standards up, not down. This will help clean up the entire
product chain, alleviate worker health problems, and reduce hazardous
emissions to the environment not only in Europe, but in America as well.

3. U.S. policy must represent all of us, not just large corporations.
The USTR has no right to lobby on behalf of corporations against the
interests of the American public. We are offended to learn that the U.S.
Trade Representative (USTR) and the American Electronics Association (AEA)
are using the World Trade Organization (WTO) to undermine important and
beneficial environmental initiatives.

The USTR is pushing the US government to take a position opposing this
regulation behind closed doors and without the benefit of public notice and
comment period required for proposed new regulations under US laws. Since
US law requires that the federal government involve the public in setting
domestic environmental standards, surely the federal government should also
involve the public before attacking the positive environmental standards of
other countries that will directly benefit the American public.

We call on you to reign in USTR's interference in the legitimate
environmental decisions of the European Commission. Given the direct
health and environmental impacts of the WEEE Directive on both sides of the
Atlantic, the US government should refrain from any further official
comment on this initiative until it has consulted all interested parties
through public notice and comment rule-making procedures.

Yours sincerely
(please add your name and organization here)

cc: USTR Representative Charlene Barshefsky
EPA Administrator Carol Browner
US Senators
US Representatives

Ted Smith
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
760 N. First Street
San Jose, CA 95112

>NOW AVAILABLE AT OUR WEBSITE -- New environmental justice maps
> http://www.svtc.org/resource.htm

Food for thought:

How Gandhi Definded the Seven Deadly Sins
Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Knowledge without character
Commerce without morality
Science without humanity
Worship without sacrifice
Politics without principle