PORTLAND, OR - February 12 - Industry, government and environmental stakeholders completed a 3 year process on Wednesday in Portland, OR without reaching a final agreement to solve the nations growing e-waste crisis. Stakeholders had come together in a last-ditch attempt to frame a nation-wide policy to pay for cleaning up the growing crisis of toxic computer and TV wastes. The participants, who have been meeting for over three years as the National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative (NEPSI), failed to reach a consensus financing agreement for a final proposal to Congress. Industry still hasnt been able to come up with a financing policy that works, said Ted Smith of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an environmental group prominent in the debate over solutions to electronics waste. For three years, IBM and several TV manufacturers have lobbied for a skimpy recycling fee, which would pass on most costs to local governments. Now, late in the game, electronics companies have finally come up with a new vague outline that would allow some companies to take responsibility for their own products rather than charge consumers an extra fee. David Wood of the GrassRoots Recycling Network added: Contrary to assertions by industry lobbyists that the problem is now solved, the ball is clearly in the electronics industrys court to finally come forward with a comprehensive financing solution that is supported by a significant portion of the market share for both computers and televisions. Since most people have very little confidence that the industry will be successful in this task, the states are continuing to aggressively move forward with their local legislative solutions.
On Tuesday in Portland, coinciding with the meeting, leaders from the Computer TakeBack Campaign, a coalition of environmental and recycling groups in the US and abroad, issued a 35 page report, called Poison PCs and Toxic TVs E-waste tsunami to roll across US: Are we prepared? At a news conference held outside the NEPSI meeting yesterday, Smith said, If the proposals being offered at the beginning of these meetings by IBM and the TV industry become national policy, our research shows that US taxpayers will end up with a bill of almost $7.5 billion from computer and TV manufacturers to pay for properly recycling toxic electronics trash from 2006 to 2015. IBM will get off the hook for about $455 million.
The report finds that:
1. Computer and TV wastes are toxic. Computers, TVs and many electronics contain toxic materials and their dead carcasses constitute hazardous waste. This E-waste should not be buried with municipal garbage.
2. Were facing an imminent e-tsunami of computer and TV waste. Laws and practices are slowly catching up to the hazards associated by these remarkable innovations. If the standard being debated within the National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative (NEPSI) had been adopted calling for an advance recycling fee or ARF of $5 per unit local solid waste officials will be swamped by an e-tsunami of computers and TVs. The new report predicts that if this ARF approach which is loosely based on a new California law, and supported by IBM and several TV manufacturers is adopted at the (NEPSI) meeting in Portland on, the wave could hit the U.S. starting in 2007 and peaking in 2010.
3. If we dont watch out, taxpayers will get stuck with the multi-billion dollar cost of managing e-waste. The cost to properly handle just the TVs and computers in this looming wave of e-waste is at least $10.7 billion (depending on assumptions regarding the cost per unit to properly and safely recycle computers and TVs), and could reach as high as six times that. The price to taxpayers (or rate or fee payers, depending on the nature of local and state services) from the unfunded national mandate proposed at NEPSI will range from $7.5 billion upwards to a high of $45 billion.
4. IBM benefits most from current proposals being proposed by NEPSI. Although IBM has been the dominant force in PC sales for over two decades, the company is now moving away from a business model based on sales toward a model based on e-services and business solutions. Their future sales of products will be far less than previous sales, as their market share for personal computers has slid from about 15% to 5%. Yet many of the obsolete computers that are now becoming e-waste and will soon come out of storage were built and sold by IBM before they changed their business model. Since IBMs financial responsibility under the NEPSI model will be greatly limited to a small ARF paid on a small and shrinking market share, the full costs of paying for their legacy e-waste share will be subsidized by taxpayers, ratepayers and/or other manufacturers.
We want to nip this problem in the bud, said Robin Schneider, from the Austin-based Texas Campaign for the Environment. Some manufacturers are starting to step up to the plate. Theyre taking back their own trash from consumers. Thats more efficient, and gives an incentive for better and less polluting design.
The Computer TakeBack Campaign is currently supporting several state legislative proposals, including a measure introduced this week in Wisconsin.
To see an advance copy of the report, visit www.svtc.org/index-New.html and follow the links to an Adobe .pdf of the report and the cover.