Uncle Sam won’t budge until who funds what is settled

Jul 30, 2008 | 01:31 PM |

With the use of consumer electronics in the United States growing every day, one big question is what to do with equipment that reaches the end of its life. The logical answer is to recycle. But absent a national e-cycling standard, many consumers don't know how to recycle defunct computers, cell phones, TVs, DVD players and various other devices.

Industry observers say it is hard to estimate how much electronic equipment reaches its end of life each year and how much is recycled. A much-quoted 2006 report by the International Association of Electronics Recyclers estimated that about 400 million devices (about 2 billion pounds) are scrapped each year.

In 2005, the United States generated 2.6 million tons of electronic waste (about 1.4 percent of total discards), of which only about 12.6 percent was recycled, the Electronics TakeBack Coalition says on its Web site, citing federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data.

There have been moves on several different fronts to address the problem. Electronics "take-back" legislation was enacted in five states in the first half of this year, bringing the total number of states with electronics take-back regulations to 14 thus far, EPA spokeswoman Roxanne Smith said. New York City also has passed take-back legislation, with 13 states on their way to doing the same.

Several electronics manufacturers and retailers also have voluntary take-back programs, although many of these are only for their own products. Very little has been accomplished on a broad-based, nationwide basis, even though interest is high, Smith said.....

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