U.S. Congressional Group Eyes E-Waste Disposal Laws

Four members of the U.S. House of Representatives have created the Congressional E-Waste Working Group to work on standardizing national laws for recycling and disposing of discarded electronic and computer equipment.

In an announcement earlier this week, the four representatives said they had formed the bipartisan working group to find ways to make the recycling and disposal process more efficient nationwide.

"E-waste is a national problem that needs a national solution," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York) in a statement. "Since the year 2000, we've increased the number of electronics entering the waste stream by at least 10 million units. As we continue to dispose of more and more units each year, finding a national disposal approach becomes more and more critical. We can no longer afford to ignore this growing problem."

Joining Slaughter were Reps. Mike Thompson (D-California), Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-California) and Mary Bono (R-California). Meanwhile, legislation that would give tax breaks to individuals and businesses that safely dispose of computers and other worn-out electronic devices has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

50 Million Discards Per Year

The Congressional working group will explore potential solutions to the growing problem of electronic waste, and at the same time will educate members of Congress about the consequences of ignoring the situation. More than 50 million computers are disposed of each year, the working group said, and the machines contain harmful elements such as lead, cadmium and mercury that can leach into the environment if not disposed of properly.

"Electronic recycling has not received the attention it deserves from the federal government, and this is why we have established the E-Waste Working Group," Cunningham said in a statement. "My colleagues and I stand here today to show our personal commitment to solving this important issue."

Two states, California and Maine, already have e-waste laws, and Maryland recently joined them in the cleanup effort, according to the working group. Another 24 states are considering their own laws.

But facing different disposal laws in different states creates a problem for computer and electronics makers, retailers, and others, the working group said. It recommends creating standardized national regulations that establish uniform disposal procedures across the country.

Manufacturers have tried to create standards in the past but have split over how best to devise such a program.

The working group hopes to hold a congressional hearing on the issue this summer. After its creation was announced Tuesday, representatives of the Consumer Electronics Association, the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition, the Electronics Industries Alliance, Panasonic, Sony, Hewlett-Packard, and Goodwill Industries met for a congressional staff briefing on the topic.

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