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Massachusetts e-waste bill sets new standard

A bill that would relieve cities and towns of the costs of recycling discarded computers and electronics passed fav...


A bill that would relieve cities and towns of the costs of recycling discarded computers and electronics passed favorably through the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture, and is now on track to pass by the end of the legislative session. The legislation calls on manufacturers, or “producers,” to pick up the tab for recycling toxic “e-waste,” which has been flooding municipal recycling programs and imposing a high cost on fiscally strapped cities and towns. The bill received a favorable report without any dissenters.<br>
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“It’s about time that we are seeing significant movement on this bill,” said Rep. Mark Carron (D-Southbridge), lead sponsor of the legislation. “The time is right for the legislature to take action and pass this strong Producer Take Back Bill this session,” he continued. “We have 163 cities and towns in our state who have endorsed this bill, because they currently are diverting tax money from things like education and crime prevention to pay for e-waste recycling. We need the companies to do the right thing and get involved in solving this problem.”<br>
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Last year, Rep. Carron filed H-3238, The Electronic Product Producer Responsibility Bill, with over 60 co-sponsors in the House and Senate. The bill also has broad appeal to municipalities, and as mentioned above, 163 cities and towns state-wide have passed local resolutions supporting producer responsibility (also called “Producer Take Back”) and endorsing the approach outlined in the bill. It is expected the bill will now be assigned to the House Committee on Ways and Means.<br>
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“This legislation establishes a comprehensive system for the collection and recycling of electronic waste, said Rep. Frank Israel Smizik (D-Brookline), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “At the present time we are placing an undue burden on already strained municipal budgets. By promoting proper disposal, reuse and recycling of these products we can remove dangerous toxic chemicals from the environment, and better protect our natural resources and the public health,” finished Smizik.<br>
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“This Bill will save cities and towns substantial recycling costs by rightfully placing the burden and expense of electronic waste, especially cathode ray tube disposal, on producers, instead of on local taxpayers,” said Senator Brian A. Joyce (D-Milton), Senate lead sponsor.<br>
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The National Safety Council estimates that 315 to 600 million computers will soon be discarded. Computers and televisions are costly to dispose of properly and are already overwhelming citizens, charities, schools, small businesses and city and county governments. Recycling options are expensive, and cities and towns in Massachusetts are paying for the collection and recycling of electronic products, with an estimated price tag between $6- and 21 million dollars annually. The rising rates of discard will be heightened with the onset of technologies like flat panel screens, high definition television (HDTV) and digital video-disc (DVD) players.<br>
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“This Bill is a common sense measure that is good for taxpayers and good for the environment,” said Boston City Councilor Stephen J. Murphy. “I’ve supported the approach in H-3238 for several years because it will save money for the City of Boston, while also encouraging manufacturers to make less toxic products,” he continued.<br>
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“This bill will help already overburdened municipalities recoup the costs of keeping hazardous electronic products out of the waste stream, said Sen. Pamela Resor (D-Acton), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture. “It is a first step towards getting manufacturers to take responsibility for these hazardous materials and encouraging consumers to recognize their own responsibility in keeping these products out of our land fills and incinerators,” added Resor.<br>
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“A key advantage of this system is that Producers can establish their own take back programs or can work cooperatively with municipalities or processors, ” said Kara Reeve, Campaign Organizer for Clean Water Action. “H-3238 provides a financial incentive for producers to set up their own collection and recycling programs in order to keep their products out of the municipal waste stream,” continued Reeve.<br>
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Computers televisions, and other electronics contain many toxics like lead, mercury, chromium, cadmium, polyvinyl chloride, hexavalent chromium, dioxin-like flame retardants and other hazardous substances. They pose a threat to human health and the environment if improperly disposed of at the end of their useful life.<br>
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Growing support for Producer Take Back policies is wide-spread across the country. Just two weeks, ago a Producer Take Back bill passed in both the House and Senate in Washington State. It is expected that the Governor will sign the bill into law within the next weeks. The State of Maine began implementing a Producer Take Back Bill in February and the legislatures in several states, including Rhode Island, Minnesota, and New York City, are also considering Producer Take Back bills this year.<br>
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“I appreciate the leadership from Hewlett-Packard and Dell, two computer companies that have supported Producer Take Back and have helped move this issue forward,” concluded Carron.<br>
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Key Components of H-3238:<br>
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Covers a wide scope of products, including all televisions and computer screens (including Cathode Ray Tube and flat-panel products), desktop and laptop computer units, printers, scanners, and card readers;<br>
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Allows flexibility for manufacturers to set up their own programs or work with municipalities or processors in the state;<br>
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Builds upon the existing collection and recycling infrastructure in the state by allowing municipalities and processors to participate in the program if they choose to;<br>
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Guarantees transparency in recycling practices by processors in order to maintain high environmental and labor standards.<br>
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For comment and analysis, see Editor’s Blog at left of the home page at www.solidwastemag.com


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