California Gov. Nixes E-Waste, Bottle Bills

California Governer Gray Davis recently vetoed Senate bills (S.B.) 1523 and 1619, two pieces of legislation devoted to creating a recycling infrastructure that handles the state's growing electronic waste problem. He also knocked down S.B. 441 — despite bipartisan support — which proposed glass and plastic recycling reform. State Democratic Sens. Byron Sher and Gloria Romero introduced the legislation.

Davis instead said he would support a future law that addresses e-waste producer responsibility and limits e-waste exports, which could expose residents of foreign countries to harmful toxins. S.B. 1523 would have imposed a $10 fee on televisions and computer monitors discarded within the state, beginning in 2004. The funds would have been directed to the Sacramento-based California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), which then would have distributed grants to waste haulers, recyclers and municipalities. S.B. 1619 would have created goals and time frames for increasing the amount of recovery and electronics recycling in California.

Davis showed hesitation with both e-waste bills, saying they may not have been the most efficient or cost-effective approaches. For example, he noted, Sher's bill would require the state to hire 64 new people while the legislature was directed to cut 7,000 jobs. Davis also said that building a state bureaucracy to address e-waste was not the best solution to manage the problem.

“California needs a comprehensive and innovative state law that partners with product manufacturers, establishes recycling targets, and provides for the safe recycling and disposal of electronic waste,” Davis said in his letter to the state, encouraging the electronics industry to help solve the problem. He also asked the California Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work with the legislature, government, industry and stakeholders to create a successful state e-waste program. And the governor also directed the Department of General Services to ensure the purchase of more environmentally friendly electronic products.

The electronics industry supported the governor's decision, noting that Romero's bill would have created unattainable goals and time frames to increase recovery and recycling. Environmental groups, such as Sacramento-based Californians Against Waste (CAW), also saw Davis' veto as a positive thing. “It's odd because we're usually unhappy with vetoes,” says Mark Murray, CAW executive director. “But the governor is proposing a program that goes beyond what we were able to get through the legislature this year. We are eager to work with the administration to implement his vision.”

The third bill Davis vetoed, S.B. 441, proposed reforms to the processing fee and recycling funding provisions of the California Beverage Container Recycling Act, known as the “bottle bill.” The bill, among other things, was designed to establish a recycling incentive to increase collection rates.

However, Davis suggested the bill was “flawed” in resolving how the container processing fee increase is calculated, and it would have required the state to hire 27 new people and spend $4 million annually when the legislature has directed the administration to cut positions.

“If the intent of this legislation is to resolve … the calculation of the processing fee, future legislation should be narrowly crafted,” Davis wrote in his response.