Discussions to continue on renewing
national e-recycling initiative
Following a September 13 meeting with electronic
manufacturers and retailers, recyclers, environmentalists and state
officials, the Congressional E-Waste Working Group agreed to continue
discussions to explore options for safely disposing of and recycling
hazardous electronic waste.
The bi-partisan group formed in 2005 by House
of Representatives members Mike Thompson (D-CA), Mary Bono (R-CA),
Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Zach Wamp (R-TN), brought together various
stakeholders to Capital Hill to discuss potential solutions.
Among the many aspects brought forward, serious
attention was focused on how to develop a solution to the growing
problem of obsolete electronics disposal, what role the federal
government can play to mitigate e-waste’s harmful effects
and how to distribute the responsibility for disposal of these products.
“The problem e-waste poses to the environment
and our health is clear and it is encouraging that many groups are
actively working towards a solution,” says Thompson. “However,
rather than having a patchwork of state regulations and individual
company policies, a federal solution may be a more effective approach.
By bringing these groups together, we’re a lot closer to finding
a realistic way of decreasing the amount of e-waste ending up in
At the request of the stakeholders, the E-Waste
Working Group will hold another meeting in a few months. The goal
is to come up with suggestions for a policy model, including how
it will be paid for and which electronic products it will cover.
With suggestions in hand, the group will be prepared to develop
an e-waste policy.
Among the attendees of the September 13 meeting
were representatives from Best Buy, the Consumer Electronics Retailers
Association, Dell Inc., the Electronics Industries Alliance, Electronic
Waste Recycling Program – California, Goodwill Industries
International, Hewlett-Packard Company, IBM, International Scrap
Recycling, Kodak, the National Recycling Coalition, Panasonic, Product
Stewardship Institute and Sony Electronics.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates
that 100 million electronic devices become obsolete each year. E-waste
now accounts for more than 40 percent of the lead and 70 percent
of the metals in landfills.
California, Washington, Maine and Maryland have
already passed e-waste legislation and another two-dozen are considering
their own measures. Many of these approaches vary in whose responsibility
e-waste is, whether the onus should be on producers, retailers,
recyclers or consumers.
The E-Waste Working Group recently asked the United
States Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution of the Morris
K. Udall Foundation to determine whether a mediated negotiation
among key e-waste stakeholders would be productive and would expedite
a resolution of the issues that remain in dispute.
“The Institute found consensus among those
stakeholders interviewed for a national approach to e-waste, and
has provided the group with a set of recommendations for moving
forward,” says Thompson. “September’s forum was
the first step in that direction.”