U.S. Water News Online
SALEM, Ore. -- Oregonians will be able to clear their
basements and closets of obsolete televisions, personal computers,
laptops and monitors at recycling centers funded by high-tech
manufacturers under a bill approved unanimously by the Oregon House.
The proposal still needs to be approved in the Senate and signed
by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to become law.
The measure would require electronics manufacturers to open
recycling sites or to help pay for collective sites where eligible
electronic devices could be returned free of charge.
Many smaller electronic devices such as cell phones and iPods are
not covered under the bill.
"This measure embodies a growing ethic of environmental
responsibility among American manufacturers generally, and producers
of electronic equipment in particular," said Rep. David Edwards.
The Hillsboro Democrat and other lawmakers emphasized that the
measure took a market-based approach to addressing electronic waste,
or e-waste, which presents a growing environmental problem for
governments around the world.
Oregonians threw away 32,500 tons of computers, televisions and
other out-of-date electronics in 2005, mostly into landfills or
dumps. Many devices contained toxic metals such as mercury, lead or
cadmium that could leach into groundwater.
The bill would also make it illegal for Oregon landfill operators
to knowingly accept electronic waste that could be recycled.
Electronic devices that now are recycled through private companies
or other programs often are sent to Asia, where they are stripped of
metals by hand, exposing workers and the landscape to harmful toxins.
The Oregon proposal is intended to reduce the amount of obsolete
electronics headed into the waste stream by forcing companies to pay
for the cost of recycling their products -- a model lawmakers said
would result in devices that are cheaper to disassemble and less
"Once waste management costs are internalized, the market will
determine the response," said Edwards. "This gives a competitive
advantage to less wasteful, more economically recyclable products and
can provide an important economic incentive to drive innovation
toward more efficient resource use."
Computer manufacturers would be required to recycle products in
proportion to the amount of their products collected for recycling in
Oregon. For television manufacturers, the requirement would also take
into consideration their current market share in the state.
The measure was endorsed by Hewlett Packard, which has had an
extensive recycling program for its products for nearly 20 years, but
gained the support of other industry heavyweights after lawmakers
said they intended to enact electronic waste recycling program this
"It gave a lot of incentive for industry to sit down at that table
and make it work," said Rep. Ben Cannon, D-Portland.
Oregon is known for its recycling ethic. In 1971, the state passed
the nation's first bottle bill, requiring a 5-cent deposit on beer
and soda containers. If the electronic waste bill gains final
approval, Oregon would join California, Maine, Maryland, Washington
and Minnesota in passing such legislation.
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