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Bottle bill for electronics.

Byline: The Register-Guard

People sense that it's wrong to discard old televisions, computers and other electronic gear. That's why an estimated 75 percent of obsolete electronic devices end up in storage rather than in Dumpsters. That's why Lane County's electronics reuse and recycling program took in 140 tons of equipment in its first 11 months of operation, even though people have to pay to drop off most items.

E-waste, as it's called, has some residual value, and contains hazardous material that doesn't belong in landfills. It's time Oregon created a bottle bill-style program for e-waste.

Senate Bill 740, now awaiting action in the state Legislature, would create a statewide program to keep old electronic devices out of the waste stream. It would be financed by a fee of no more than $10 collected at the point of sale. No new government program would be needed - money collected through the advance recovery fee would be administered by the state Department of Environmental Quality to support private, nonprofit reuse and recycling programs.

Lane County's e-waste program is the only one of its kind in the state. Everywhere else in Oregon, people must find their own ways to keep electronic gear out of the landfills - and amazingly enough, the reuse and recycling rate is 10 percent, further evidence of people's hunger for an alternative to simple disposal.

In Lane County, people can drop off electronic devices on six days of the month. Fees range from $5 to $20 for televisions, depending on the size. It costs $8 to drop off a computer monitor, $5 for a laptop computer, and $35 for a photocopy machine.

Pete Chism, Lane County's waste reduction specialist, says SB 740 would simplify the county program by relieving it of the need to collect fees. People would already have paid in advance for e-waste recovery, and would simply deliver their equipment for reuse and recycling.

SB 740 is supported by an unusual coalition of recyclers, environmentalists and a group of 13 electronics manufacturers, including many of the world's largest. The manufacturers understand that their production processes will have to change if landfills continue to be their products' final destination. Recycling and reuse programs are well developed in Europe and Asia, and variants exist in three other states, so companies with global markets are not threatened by SB 740.

Opposition comes from retailers who don't want to add to the price of the products they sell - even though their customers must eventually confront the price of disposal. Consumers can subsidize reuse and recycling, or they can pay to expand landfills and clean up hazardous waste. An advance recovery fee - like the disposal fee collected by tire stores - would meet with public acceptance.

Chism has some criticisms of SB 740 - he thinks the fee might not be high enough to sustain the recovery program, and he would like to see provisions in the law to prevent recylers from dumping e-waste in counties that lack adequate environmental safeguards. The Legislature should pay attention to Chism's voice of experience - and it should also acknowledge his program as proof that a reuse and recycling program can work. Oregon should take the concept statewide.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Proposal diverts TVs, other gear from landfills
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 18, 2005
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