New Bill Would Make Manufacturers Financially Responsible For E-Waste

Minnesota legislature trying to establish a system to make it easier to comply with recycling, but would add costs to manufacturers.

St. Paul (AP)- After ordering people to recycle old televisions and computer monitors, the Legislature is on the verge of establishing a statewide system that would make it easier to comply with that directive.

The e-waste recycling law that went on the books last year could soon be joined by a comprehensive collection system that would put much of the financial burden on electronics manufacturers.

Similar bills are nearing final votes in the House and Senate.

'It's time we let people have their basements and their garages back,'' said Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, chief sponsor of the House bill.

Since the recycling law took effect in July, many counties have had difficulty setting up convenient and inexpensive options for residents, a possible reason why some equipment has turned up in ditches or woods.

The Association of Minnesota Counties recently reported that 53 of 87 counties had at least one instance of illegal dumping in the second half of 2006. And 44 counties reported still finding discarded equipment in trash containers.

Electronics devices contain hazardous materials such as lead and mercury. Nationally, the United States generated 2.63 million tons of electronic waste in 2005, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But only 330,000 tons was recycled.

The legislative proposal would require television and computer manufacturers selling equipment in Minnesota to register with the state and pay $5,000 the first year and $2,500 a year afterward.

Down the road, they would have to collect and recycle an amount of material approaching the weight they sold the previous year. For every pound that manufacturers fall short, they would have to pay 50 cents into a fund available to counties or other collectors for their recycling programs.

Outside an 11-county Twin Cities area, recycled residential electronics would count for 1.5 times their actual weight to account for higher transportation costs.

Minnesota would be the fifth state to set up such a program, following California, Maine, Maryland and Washington.

The plan has the backing of retailers like Best Buy Co., but opposition from Hewlett-Packard.

The computer maker argues the goals are too high and warned that consumers aren't likely to recycle enough product for manufacturers to avoid paying the 50-cent-a-pound penalty. Those penalties could be passed along to consumers in the form of higher purchase prices.

More in Operations