When electronic product manufacturers'
weigh-in on the subject of a federal electronics recycling
program, their oppinions are as diverse as those they hold on
state- and company-based programs.
"I believe it is critical for manufacturers
to offer their customers free recycling solutions for the
products they manufacture," Bryant A. Hilton, a spokesman for
Dell Inc., Round Rock, Texas, said. "Dell believes that a
combination of free and convenient options for consumers, a
focus on consumer awareness about the importance of recycling
and industry innovation will increase electronics recycling
rates over time."
Most electronics makers agree that consumer
convenience is of utmost importance when it comes to
"What we would like to do is make recycling
as easy as purchasing electronic products. It is only if we get
to that point that we will be successful," said Doug Smith,
director of corporate environmental affairs at Sony Electronics
Inc., San Diego.
But the consensus seems to break down when it
comes to whether e-cycling should be administered under one
federally mandated program or a continuation of the current
Frank Marella, senior manager of corporate
environmental affairs at Sharp Electronics Corp., Mahwah, N.J.,
said he would prefer a federal program, but questions whether
that is politically feasible. Of the various state programs
already established and others pending, no two programs are
identical, making it very difficult for manufacturers to meet
all the requirements imposed upon them. "The only way to have a
uniform program is to have a federal law that would supersede
all the existing state laws, and I don't think that will
happen. None of the congressmen from those states would vote
for such legislation," Marella said. Some people want to get
around that by making it part of the Resource Conservation and
Recovery Act (RCRA), "but one argument for not doing that is
that RCRA is very complex and if it is revised people will come
out of the woodwork to change other parts of the law as
David A. Thompson, director of corporate
environmental affairs at Panasonic Corp. of North America,
Secaucus, N.J., said that if a federal law doesn't preempt
existing state laws, manufacturers would still be stuck with
adhering to all the different state laws plus the new
requirements of any federal legislation.
Actually, it isn't all that difficult to
comply as things stand now, Thompson said. "California is
probably the most difficult as we need to disclose the content
of our products each year, which is burdensome. The next
challenge will be when New York City and New Jersey come
online, as they don't offer us a simple way to comply with
their legislation. Manufacturers need to develop their own
recycling plan and submit it to them. That will be difficult,"
Dell actually prefers this approach, which is
more closely in line with the company's recycling policies. New
York City and New Jersey aren't the first to do this, Hilton
said, noting that Texas was the first to pass legislation
having no-cost programs designed by manufacturers and
registered with the state.
It is important to have a program, whether
one broad federal plan or many state ones, that meets
everyone's needs, according to Renee St. Denis, director of
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Americas Product
Take Back program, adding that each state has crafted
legislation that it feels fits its citizens best.
Hilton maintains that Dell was the first, and
remains the only, company in its industry to provide free
consumer recycling worldwide. "We offer free recycling for any
Dell-branded product at any time with no purchase required
(including home pickup)," he said.
Hewlett-Packard's consumer recycling
program-available in 52 countries, including the United
States-requires a $10 to $30 fee to cover the reverse logistics
cost of picking items up, but the customer is given coupons for
at least that amount to purchase a new HP product. It also has
a similar program for small business customers.
Sony recently launched a free electronics
recycling program in cooperation with Waste Management Inc.,
Houston. People can drop off Sony-brand products at specified
Waste Management drop-off sites-currently there are 138 in 32
states-to have them recycled for free.
"We will be in all 50 states by September and
plan to eventually have a location within 20 miles of any major
population center nationwide," Smith said, noting that while
Waste Management is primarily known as a waste hauler it
operates four ISO 14000 recycling facilities in the U.S. where
about 70 percent of the products from this program will be
recycled. The rest go through service providers who undergo ISO
audits and pledge not to export waste.
Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba America Consumer
Products LLC, Wayne, N.J., teamed up last September to form
joint-venture electronic product management company Electronic
Manufacturers Recycling Management Co. LLC (MRM), originally to
comply with the requirements of Minnesota's electronics
recycling law, said Thompson, who also is president of that
venture. The law requires each electronics manufacturer in the
state to recycle a volume equal to 60 percent of its current
sales, but gives no guidance on how that should be done.
MRM, which currently has 16 electronics
companies participating and 75 drop-off sites in Minnesota,
plans to expand its program to other states that have passed
similar legislation. The company also is looking to continue
the collaborative approach and develop a recycling proposal
that could be submitted to states that require manufacturers to
devise their own recycling plans.
"Most manufacturers find it difficult to do
on their own and, if manufacturers develop too many recycling
programs consumers will be confused," Thompson said. MRM,
however, has no intention, at least at this time, to extend its