Washington — Senate and House members from both sides of the aisle vowed to work to find a federal legislative fix to the "crazy quilt" of inconsistent burdensome state and local legislation that is emerging to deal with the rapidly expanding stream of electronic waste in the wake of the digital television transition.
Speaking at the CEA Washington Forum Monday, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he is making it part of his ongoing mission is to protect "innovators from protectionists" in enacting legislation impacting digital electronics. He has already co-sponsored Senate Bill S510, which would offer tax incentives to recycling, but he said that would likely not be enough.
"I want to put a challenge in front of you. I want the industry to be in my office on Monday morning after the upcoming Congressional recess," Wyden said. "We are going to try to get a good cross section of retailers, recyclers, manufacturers and some of the various governmental bodies — and I would like you to work with me as you have done in the past … If I can help set the climate, you all can go off and do your thing. We have got to get that done now with respect to e-waste, because the problem has grown so dramatically in the last few years, it really will put your industry at risk to the prospect of misguided, ill-advised measures being adopted at the state and local level."
Wyden said it was important to take pre-emptive action with a "sensible national policy" before more states enact their own legislation regulating e-waste. He said it was also necessary that the Federal action preclude states from adding any additional measures in the future.
Currently, states including California, Maryland, Maine and Washington have enacted laws covering e-waste. Each varies significantly from each other, with some states putting much of the burden on retailers, while some expect manufacturers or owners of brands of disposed products to carry the load and expense for ensuring products are properly recycled or discarded.
Similarly, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a separate keynote address that he warned the industry the year he first ran for Congress that recycling laws were on the way.
"Seven-plus years ago, I knew I was going to be a candidate, and I went before one of our government committees at the Consumer Electronics Show. I said that Congress will eventually act on heavy metals going into landfills, and particularly CRTs, unless our industry acts," Issa said. "As much as our industry is now acting, the fact is that California acted before our industry and this created an unreasonable burden on companies to try and deal with multi-state jurisdiction."
"I hope that Congress now does act, not because I wouldn’t have preferred that it had come from the industry, but because our country’s success is commerce passing seamlessly over state lines," he said. "We’re not passing seamlessly over state lines and it needs to happen. That is something that will go before Energy and Commerce, and I will do everything I can as a member on leave of absence to make sure I’m relevant."
Gary Shapiro, Consumer Electronics Association president/CEO, reminded attendees that his association recently launched a new Web site at www.mygreenelectronics.org to help consumers easily locate area recyclers, in addition to listing "green" electronics products that are deemed eco-friendly, and a list of myths and facts on consumer electronics and energy consumption.