July 26, 2005

Wyden-Talent E-Waste Legislation Moves Forward with Key Senate Committee Hearing

Senators testify today at Environment and Public Works Committee hearingon their plan to create a national e-waste recycling program

Washington, DC - Legislation sponsored by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.) to combat the growing nationwide problem of electronic waste received a hearing by the Environment and Public Works Committee, a key step toward the bill being enacted into law. Wyden and Talent testified at today's hearing on their bipartisan Electronic Waste Recycling and Promotion and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, which would provide consumer and industry tax incentives to create the first-ever nationwide e-waste recycling infrastructure. The Wyden-Talent proposal would make it more convenient and cost-effective for American consumers to recycle computers, computer monitors, laptop computers and televisions, which typically contain a number of hazardous toxins including lead, mercury and cadmium. "The typical home or office computer contains about 14 pounds of plastic, 4 pounds of lead, 8 and a half pounds of aluminum, more than 12 pounds of iron, half a pound of nickel, and other environmentally harmful chemicals," said Wyden. "To keep a hazardous stew of toxic e-waste from poisoning water supplies, people and the environment, our legislation aims to help America put less electronic trash into the landfill, and more into the recycling bin." "We want to provide an incentive for people to recycle electronic waste and create an infrastructure that makes the process as convenient and cost-effective as possible," said Talent. "This is a common sense idea that will help protect our land, air and water from toxins such as lead, mercury and other hazardous materials contained in electronics." Some experts estimate that more than 2.2 million tons of obsolete computers, televisions and other electronic equipment are discarded in American landfills annually, with that number expected to grow in the coming years. The Wyden-Talent e-waste recycling legislation would: • Establish an $8 per unit tax credit for companies that recycle at least 5,000 display screens or computer system units per year. • Establish a $15 tax credit for consumers who recycle their old computers and TVs, provided they use qualified recyclers. • Prohibit the disposal of any electronic equipment containing a display screen greater than four inches or any computer system unit in a municipal solid waste landfill, beginning three years after the bill is passed. This provision is contingent upon the EPA Administrator finding that a majority of U.S. households have reasonable access to e-waste recycling. • Modify the EPA's Universal Waste Rule to classify display screens and system units as "universal wastes" to allow for easier collection, processing, transportation and recycling. • Require federal executive agencies to ensure that every display screen or system unit procured by the government is recovered and recycled. • Direct the EPA Administrator to study and make recommendations to Congress on the feasibility of establishing a nationwide recycling program that would preempt any state plan, within one year. Currently, some states are developing e-waste recycling programs; however, no such program exists on a national level. A unified, national program may ultimately be desirable for consumers because manufacturers and retailers frequently have a difficult time adhering to different standards under various state laws. Under the current system, states that do not enact their own recycling laws can become dumping grounds for those that ban e-waste disposal. A number of groups have expressed their support for the approach taken in the Wyden-Talent e-waste recycling bill, including the National Recycling Coalition, the Environmental Technology Council, the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition, Waste Management Corporation, Hewlett Packard Corporation and Intel Corporation.