With the exception of California, the states enacting
mandatory recycling of computer monitors and televisions have
chosen to make manufacturers pay the bills. But the details
vary substantially-Washington state is not Oregon is not Maine.
Several electronics manufacturers have launched nationwide
recycling programs for their own branded goods. The result has
been a patchwork.
An interesting alliance surfaced briefly during the
Democratic National Convention in late August. A Denver press
conference saluted South Korea's LG Electronics Inc. for
starting a U.S. recycling program under which the receiving and
processing will be handled mostly by the Recycle America unit
of Houston-based Waste Management Inc.
Cooperating in the Denver briefing were retailer Best Buy
Co. Inc., the Electronics TakeBack Coalition and the Product
Stewardship Institute. The participants described themselves as
having agreed on a framework for federal e-scrap legislation
and "establishment of a sustainable recycling infrastructure at
the federal, state and local level."
The Electronics TakeBack Coalition has begun playing a
watchdog role, publicizing which manufacturers it rates as
effective recyclers and which ones flunk. South Korean-owned
Samsung Electronics America Inc. won a transfer to the list of
good guys in September after having been picketed earlier in
the year. "Samsung is the third major TV manufacturer, after
Sony Electronics and LG Electronics, to offer free, nationwide
recycling for its products," the Electronics TakeBack Coalition
said in its press release.
Are the manufacturers and advocacy groups that cooperated in
Denver moving toward a lobbying alliance? Not yet, according to
Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack
Coalition, which is based in San Francisco. "The group that met
in Denver definitely does not constitute an organization. I
would call it a group of interested parties in the e-waste
issue," she said.
"Discussions about federal legislation (on the topic) have
been happening for the last eight years within various groups,
associations, formal and informal networks," Kyle added.
From 2001 to 2005, the dominant forum for diverse
stakeholders to interact was the National Electronics Product
Stewardship Initiative (Nepsi). Probably the most divisive
issue was who would pay for recycling TVs and monitors from
manufacturers no longer active.
The Denver grouplet will continue to chat, "but it's unclear
if it will lead anywhere or even become an ongoing discussion,"
Another alliance that has coalesced around a recycling issue
recently is the Coalition Against Copper Theft. It advocates a
federal statute setting a nationwide standard for documenting
copper scrap transactions. Cash payments of more than $500 for
copper at scrapyards would be prohibited.
Based on skirmishes in state legislatures, one would expect
such a lobby to be backed by electric utilities, farmers,
construction firms and landlords. And, yes, they are indeed
involved. But the executive director is a lobbyist for Home
Depot Inc., retailer of tools, accessories and supplies for
household improvements. Also aboard the National Association of
Chain Drug Stores and the Food Marketing Institute.
Retailers haven't been complaining in public about
disappearing copper; the apparent rationale is to avoid giving
useful ideas to potential shoplifters. One gambit, according to
Home Channel News, is to buy a bulky but cheap
product, remove it from its carton and refill the box with
rolls of copper wire before leaving a hardware store.
The Copper Theft Prevention Act (H.R. 6831), introduced in
the U.S. House of Representatives in August, describes the
problem this way "Thefts are on the rise because of the lack of
pressure on the scrap and salvage yards that pay for copper and
other precious metal without asking questions about where the
material came from. Combating the problem will take better
communications between metal businesses and law enforcement