Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obama Win Bolsters Hopes of National E-scrap Legislation

With the close of the historic campaign of President-Elect Barack Obama, all eyes turn to what effect his win has on the multitude of issues facing the country. The growing importance — and media profile — of end-of-life electronics management makes it possible that some progress may happen on a national level. With the profliferation of patchwork state programs — 17 have been signed into law at present — will the Obama presidency see a national e-scrap bill in its own right?

"Obama's election opens up the door wide open for more environmental legislation," said David Daoud, research manager for IDC's Personal Computing, PC Trackers and Green IT Programs. "With his comment in his acceptance speech on a 'planet in peril,' there is no doubt the environment will become front and center in the next four years."

In an interview with DISCOVER Magazine (New York) before the election, Obama expressed support for "challeng[ing] manufacturers of computers, printers, and other electronic equipment to more effectively take back these products," leaving some hopeful for concrete action.

"The change in the administration and Congress can only bode well for those that wish to see environmental initiatives, concern about toxic trade, both imports and exports, and engagement in international environmental agreements like the Basel Convention," said Jim Puckett, founder of the Basel Action Network (Seattle). "Time will tell, but things are now more hopeful than ever that we will see legislation that not only requires manufacturers to collect e-waste and divert it from landfills, but to prevent it from being dumped offshore as well."

Though the likelihood of a stand-alone bill seems unlikely, something could get packaged into a larger bill covering energy, like with the recent passage of the Recycling Investment Saves Energy Act, bundled with the $700 billion economic bail-out package. "It will likely begin with a more proactive mandate for [the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Washington)], but with the Democrats winning more seats, we are likely to see fresh federal legislation in the areas of e-scrap and electronic waste," said Daoud.

"I suspect states will fight hard to keep their privileges so as not to cannibalize on revenue opportunity existing, and planned, e-scrap programs generate," Daoud continued. "At the end, one should expect some serious changes in the way the federal government approaches environmental issues, and e-scrap programs are not going to be spared from this loud voice of change."

Consumer Electronics Association President and CEO Gary Shapiro released a statement today, congratulating Obama on his win, and didn't miss the opportunity to press for a national measure. "We look forward to working with President-elect Obama to find innovative new ways to protect our environment through such measures as a national approach for recycling and energy efficiency," said Shapiro.

Of course, industry will is not the only ingredient needed for a national approach. "Let's remember that the main obstacle to federal takeback legislation hasn't been objections from the Administration — it's been disagreement within the industry and other stakeholders about what direction the legislation should take," said Barbara Kyle, national coordinator for the Electronics TakeBack Coalition (San Francisco).


Source: E-Scrap News, Nov. 6, 2008