Trade group forges e-waste proposal

The Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA), a trade group representing manufacturers of tech products, has come up with a recycling agreement supported by both television and computer hardware makers, it said Thursday.

The agreement, covering TV sets, computer monitors, desktops and laptops sold to consumers, is the first e-waste plan supported by a consensus of TV and IT hardware manufacturers, said Matthew Flanigan, the EIA's interim president and CEO. EIA members will use the agreement to push for the U.S. Congress to pass a consistent national e-waste policy, EIA officials said.

Five states have passed electronics recycling laws and all of those laws differ significantly, said Richard Goss, EIA's vice president of environmental affairs. Congress "is our preferred venue for getting this issue resolved," Goss said. "I don't think it serves anyone's interest -- the manufacturers, the retailers, the recyclers, the general public alike -- to have this patchwork of state approaches."

Under the EIA plan, retailers of TV sets would collect a recycling fee when the sets are purchased. That fee, not yet determined, could give the entire cost of transport and recycling for televisions.

For computer hardware, manufacturers would be required to offer "reasonably convenient" recycling services at no cost to consumers.

Several IT hardware makers have already instituted recycling programs, while most TV set makers have not. The TV fee would be temporary to help pay for the recycling of the millions of TV sets already sold, EIA officials said.

The EIA will share the agreement with members of Congress interested in e-waste issues. One bill in Congress, introduced in January by Representative Mike Thompson, a California Democrat, would establish a recycling program through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The recycling fee could not be more than US$10 per piece of hardware.

Several manufacturers praised the agreement. The plan is an "important step forward in achieving industry consensus," Matt Krupnick, public policy counsel for Dell Inc., said in a statement.

The agreement would require manufacturers to keep recycling records and to use recyclers that meet environmental management standards.

Another part of the agreement calls for manufacturers to meet hazardous materials restrictions established by the European Union's Restriction on Hazardous Substances directive and a similar California statute. It's important for manufacturers marketing products worldwide to have similar requirements in the countries they sell to, Goss said.

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