Sunday, October 15, 2006

Congressional E-Waste Caucus Considering Legislation

The European Union has required computer hardware manufacturers to assume "takeback" responsibility for the equipment they produce for several years (in PDF). Now, a group of four US legislators is looking into the possibility of making such recycling requirements the law here in the US. According to an article at, server vendors particularly favor a national approach to a patchwork of state and local regulations:

Major server manufacturers would probably prefer no legislation at all, but federal regulations, as opposed to local ones, enable them to standardize equipment takeback programs. If legislation on electronic waste is varied state to state and city to city, manufacturers could pay more to recycle products, and the cost could trickle down to end users.

David Douglas, Sun's vice president of ecoresponsibility, said national legislation would work best and similarly to the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive in the European Union (EU), which says responsibility for e-waste rests on manufacturers.

"If we were having to deal with local regulations and local disposition facilities in every state, to deal with every state's nuanced costs, that would clearly involve cost to our basic equipment," he said.

David Isaacs, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s (HP) director of government and public policy, said the company's goal is always to get as much resell value out of the equipment it is taking back from customers.

"Our goal, our approach is how we can make that cost as small as possible while still doing the job and meeting our goals," he said.

The amount of "e-waste" created in the US makes this a hopeful development all by itself; the precedent it might create could have major impact on manufacturing. If companies are required to assume responsibility for a product through its lifecycle, it will make sense for them to create equipment, whether cars, appliances or computers, from parts that are easily disassembled and reused. This would end up saving companies (and consumers) money -- the lighter environmental footprint is almost an afterthought, but it's certainly still there. Additionally, economic growth would be fostered, as companies might be more willing to upgrade equipment, as they wouldn't end up paying disposal costs. Sounds like a promising concept... anyone have a sense of how this is working in the EU?

Via Slashdot and Hugg

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