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Wired for Laws

Wired for Laws

Three states propose bills for managing electronic waste.

The debate continues about how to best address electronics waste disposal. And it continues to be on the minds of state legislators.

In late February Colorado, West Virginia and Hawaii all were pondering different types of e-waste legislation.
The Colorado state legislature is considering a bill that would ban certain electronic waste from landfills. The bill passed the Senate, according to the state general assembly’s website. The ban would begin July 1, 2013, at which time state agencies must facilitate the recycling of e-waste devices with a certified recycler. The ban would include computers, printers, televisions, digital video disc players and video cassette recorders.

Counties that don’t have at least two e-waste recycling events per year or an ongoing e-waste recycling program could vote to be exempt from the ban.

In Hawaii, the state legislature is considering an electronics recycling fee for retailers and consumers, recycling collection centers and an e-waste disposal ban, according to its Web site. Senate Bill 2822 and House Bill 2560 would require retailers to pay an advance recycling fee for electronics transactions and pass that cost to consumers beginning July 1, 2014. E-waste recycling centers would be established and certified.

The disposal ban on all e-waste would take effect July 1, 2015. The fees would range from $1 for devices weighing up to one pound to $20 for devices weighing more than 75 pounds.

Meanwhile, West Virginia is pondering a move in the opposite direction. A bill introduced in the West Virginia legislature, according to its Web site, would lift that state’s ban on landfill disposal of e-waste. House Bill 4643 would amend a landfill e-waste ban that took effect on Jan. 1, 2011, to allow for the landfill disposal of computers, computer monitors, televisions and other devices.

The original ban also prohibits the landfill disposal of yard waste and some other items like lead-acid batteries and tires. Under the current proposal, that language would not be changed.

While there’s been activity recently on proposed e-waste legislation and landfill bans, Jason Linnell, executive director of the Parkersburg, W. Va.-based National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER), says it’s been slowing down.

“We’re definitely seeing fewer new bills being introduced this year,” Linnell says in an interview.  And what has been proposed probably will struggle.

Legislation in West Virginia is not likely to go anywhere. The landfill ban hasn’t gotten out of committee, Linnell says, and another proposal for an advance recycling fee isn’t faring much better.

Lifting the landfill ban, which was passed in 2009, came up last year as well and is being pushed by some haulers, he says. In response to that sentiment, officials are looking ways for haulers to recover costs.

Linnell says prospects for the Hawaii proposal are also hard to nail down. The state already has a prodcuers responsibility program for most types of electronics. The new proposal might expand it to a larger set of electronics.

There currently are e-waste laws in 25 states, equaling two-thirds of the population. “That’s part of the reason why we’re seeing fewer bills,” Linnell says. “We’ve had so many states that already have passed it.  There are fewer states that would be likely candidates to pass some type of producer responsibility approach.” Fifteen or 16 states, he says, have landfill bans.

Because there’s been no unified national approach to e-waste legislation, a lot of states are confused by the range of different tacks being taken. Some are taking bits and pieces of other states’ legislation, and many are preferring to work on voluntary programs, Linnell says. “You may see that in Colorado.”

Figuring out what’s working and what’s not working is a priority for the NCER. And keeping pace with technology continues to be a challenge for e-waste regulation. “We have laws for recycling old cathode ray tubes (CRTs), and what’s being sold today are flat screens, tablets,” Linnell says. “What does that mean for recycling programs in the future, especially ones that depends on weight, and what does it mean for recycling that will be processing the material?”

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