California Legislature Adopts E-Waste Front-End Financing Measure

Sacramento, CA - Legislation to establish recycling goals for obsolete computers and televisions while requiring retailers and manufacturers to collect front-end fees to finance a recycling system passed the state legislature.

Senate Bill 1523 (introduced by Sher, D-Stanford) was adopted on the final day of the legislative session with the support of local governments, private recyclers, environmentalists and at least one of the state's largest computer manufacturers-Apple Computer.

The measure comes in response to the growing problem of obsolete electronics, some of which is hazardous. Last year, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control recognized that the cathode ray tubes-picture tubes-in most computer monitors and television sets contain toxic levels of lead and other hazardous materials, and appropriately, banned their disposal in landfill.

"E-waste is one of the fastest growing and problematic components of California's waste stream," said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. "More than 10,000 computer monitors and TVs become obsolete in California every day. Most continue to be illegally disposed of in landfill where the toxic lead and other hazardous materials pose a threat to public health and the environment."

The bill would establish a $10 recycling fee to be collected by retailers and manufacturers on the sale of all computer monitors and television sets containing hazardous cathode ray tubes (CRTs). Revenue from the fees would be used to make Recycling Incentive Payments to private, public and non-profit enterprises that establish systems for the collection and recycling of CRT devices.

The measure also establishes CRT device recycling goals: 25 percent by 2004; 50 percent by 2007; and 75 percent by 2010. It is estimated that just 20 percent of computers and 10 percent of TVs are currently being recycled.

The measure was supported by local governments, environmentalists, non-profit thrifts such as Goodwill, and private recyclers.

"Local governments simply do not have the resources to develop and finance a new hazardous waste collection infrastructure for electronic waste," said Murray. "The cost of properly handling obsolete computer and television e-waste alone is projected to cost local agencies more than $125 million annually."

The measure was also supported by California-based apple Computer.

SB 1523 included language prohibiting the export of toxic CRT devices to poor countries, consistent with the International Basel Treaty.

Governor Davis has given no indication of whether or not he will sign the measure.