Advance Recycling Fees Up for Discussion
Electronics retailers are quietly pondering their
regulatory options at the news that the State of California
will not be able to effectively collect the $4-8 environmental
fee (advance recovery fee or “ARF”) on cathode ray
tubes (and LCD and plasma devices) on mail-order and Internet
sales companies outside the state.
The Board of Equalization made the ruling at
the end of November. One major retailer said they were considering
support for state advance recovery fees but now they cannot
because it is an unfair advantage to Internet companies over
brick and mortar retailers.
A source at the California Board said there is
no way the state can know when these sales are made. Technically,
the consumer is liable for the CRT fee, and an out-of-state
seller can voluntarily register and collect fees from their
Since this is the first ARF in the nation, there
are no other precedents. The source points out that even though
this is not technically fair to regular retailers, it is less
money than the regular 8% sales tax that such mail order sellers
are not collecting now on electronic items.
The Board has estimated that it will eventually
need about 68 people to handle fee collection and audits on
the new ARF, though they have only added 15 people so far. The
fee is expected to involve 75,000 registrants. Sources also
stress than since Dell Computer Co. has a nexus in California
it will be collecting the fee from its customers anyway.
Ted Smith, who is stepping down as head of the
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, acknowledged that the current
fee collection situation is “a mess”.
He also admitted that that money flow in California
is cumbersome. Smith felt some of the issues on fee collection
could be addressed in future legislation, though others are
Smith said the group prefers to support a simple
takeback mandate like the one in Maine.
Meanwhile, the Computer Takeback Campaign has
decided to take aim at Apple Computer, based on its surveys.
Smith felt the other coalition members (e.g. Panasonic, IBM,
Sony and others) were trying to get out of paying for historic
e-waste by pushing the visible fee concept.
The new campaign features amended Apple graphics
with titles like From iPod to iWaste. The environmentalists
have already protested at Apple headquarters, claiming Apple
is doing little on the recycling front, and they took their
case to MacWorld, a major California conference January 13.
Meanwhile, the state will begin collecting the
ARF fees from regular retailers this month.