Government mandates multiply

Government mandates multiply

Regulators and lawmakers in the U.S. and elsewhere are forcing companies to take responsibility for disposal or recycling of the goods they sell.

Michele Raymond, president of recycling industry specialist Raymond Publishing of College Park, Md., said 52 bills were introduced in 26 state legislatures last year just to regulate the recovery of used electronics products, many of which contain hazardous materials.

Legislation passed in California gives the state responsibility for recovery programs. It proposes a $6 to $10 fee on electronics with lead-based cathode ray tubes, phases out heavy metals, and requires manufacturers to report, label and provide public education.

Some of the strongest pressure for management of returned goods comes from outside the U.S., particularly in Europe, where the handling of returned goods is heavily regulated. "Electronics makers already have three sets of take-back mandates to comply with in Europe and Asia - there are laws on packaging, batteries, and now electronics products," Raymond said.

Raymond's firm conducts an annual survey of state recycling managers. Of the 32 state recycling managers who responded to the latest survey, only three felt industry should handle and pay for collections of used electronics products; 12 favored drop-off centers set up by government, with industry handling other operations; and 14 suggested that fees be levied on future waste initially and industry later on to absorb the cost. Only one respondent favored a totally government-run system.