March 03, 2005

Wyden, Talent Introduces Legislation to Curb Growing Problem of Harmful Electronic Waste

Tons of harmful chemicals from e-waste could threaten the environmentand public health each year if not properly recycled;Legislation jumpstarts a nationwide electronic waste recycling infrastructure

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.) today introduced legislation that would give consumers and industry tax incentives to safely dispose of old or outdated personal or office electronics, which contain a number of hazardous toxins including lead, mercury and cadmium. Harmful e-waste is a large and growing problem in the United States, with some experts estimating that more than 150 million tons of electronic equipment were disposed of in 2004 alone. The Electronic Waste Recycling and Promotion and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 would provide incentives to create the first-ever nationwide electronic waste recycling infrastructure, making it more convenient and cost-effective for American consumers to recycle computers, computer monitors, laptop computers and televisions. The proposed legislation also directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of various e-waste recycling programs to recommend a national program. "Growing mountains of e-waste are clogging our nation's landfills and posing great risks to Americans' health and to our natural environment," said Wyden. "As technology improves and folks get newer and faster computers, they need a safe and easy way to get rid of their old machines. This legislation gives consumers, recyclers, retailers and manufacturers alike incentives to recycle old computers responsibly." "Americans don't want to throw their electronic scraps out with the garbage, but without a recycling infrastructure, sometimes the only alternative is stockpiling them in their homes," said Talent. "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. 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." Specifically, the Wyden-Talent e-waste recycling bill 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. The bill is expected to be referred to the Senate Finance committee, of which Senator Wyden is a member.