Industry Offers Framework for Electronics Recycling Legislation

On May 24, the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) released a framework for federal legislation to establish a national program for recycling household TVs and information technology (IT) products such as computers and computer monitors.

The board of EIA's Environmental Issues Council, which includes companies such as HP, Lenovo, Panasonic and Sharp, approved the plan, and EIA officials have delivered copies to the Bush administration, Congress, state officials, industry stakeholders and environmental advocacy organizations.

"This agreement among consumer electronics and information technology manufacturers marks a watershed event for proactively addressing the electronics waste management issue," said David A. Thompson, director of the corporate environmental department for Panasonic Corp. of North America. "By recognizing the unique product distribution channels and customer usage patterns, EIA's agreement will facilitate greater electronic product recycling in an environmentally prudent and cost effective manner."

Matt Krupnick, public policy counsel for Dell, stated that the proposal is an important step forward in achieving industry consensus. "We will continue to work with policymakers to promote innovation, drive efficiency and create effective IT collection methods."

The framework, available at http://www.eia.org, calls for a bifurcated financing approach, separating TVs from desktop computers, laptops and computer monitors to reflect their divergent business models, market composition and consumer base. TV collection and recycling would be primarily conducted by an industry-sponsored third party organization and initially supported by a nominal fee paid by consumers at the point of purchase. The fee would eventually expire, once a significant number of so-called "legacy" sets are recovered.

Producers of IT equipment would implement a program to collect and recycle its products in a manner that is convenient for household consumers and at no cost to them. IT manufacturers would have to offer such a program as a condition of conducting business.

"Across the board, manufacturers made concessions to produce this consensus agreement," said Rick Goss, EIA's vice president of environmental affairs. "We sincerely hope that other stakeholders will be motivated by the same spirit of compromise as we seek a uniform recycling program that our country wants and needs."

Another provision calls for meeting the materials restrictions established by the European Union's Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive and a similar California statute. "Our companies design, manufacture and sell these products in the global marketplace and strongly support one consistent set of requirements," Goss said.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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