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New law makes computer, TV makers pay for recycling
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Manufacturers of televisions and computers will foot the bill for recycling and safely disposing of their products once they are discarded under a measure signed into law Friday by Gov. Christine Gregoire.
Under the new law, manufacturers will have to establish a program to collect, transport and dispose of old electronic products. Household consumers, schools, charities, small governments and small businesses will be able to drop off their e-waste without charge once the program is fully implemented, by Jan. 1, 2009.
The proposal was prompted by the state Department of Ecology's two-year study of recycling alternatives for the products.
"With the upcoming switch to high-definition television, now is the time to put this program into place in our state," Gregoire said before signing the measure.
Gregoire vetoed a section in the bill that would prohibit the export of e-waste to certain other countries, saying the state did not have the authority to restrict exports.
Maine recently passed a similar law, though consumers pay $2 a piece to recycle their products. A California law requires payment of a disposal fee when a TV or computer monitor is purchased, while Maryland assesses registration fees from computer makers and disburses the proceeds to municipalities for use in collecting and recycling old computers.
Nineteen other states and New York City have electronic recycling bills pending this year, said Suellen Mele, with Washington Citizens for Resource Conservation.
"This is landmark legislation," said Mo McBroom, with the Washington Environmental Council. "It's the biggest advancement in recycling in over a generation."
Washington residents discard more than 1 million televisions and monitors each year, according to Ecology. Nationally, about 2 million tons of e-junk are disposed of each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
An average computer monitor contains six pounds of lead, which can seep into waterways and poison the environment.
The companies argued that the law unfairly burdens them with financing the entire system and puts them at a competitive disadvantage to foreign producers that can be difficult to track down and may not pay for their share of recycling.
"This is a matter of survival for the companies," said Ric Erdheim, senior council for Philips Electronics and spokesman for the Electronics Manufacturers Coalition for Responsible Recycling. "Where are we going to get the money to pay for all of this?"
In her signing letter, Gregoire said she is asking Ecology "to work closely with all affected stakeholders to ensure that this bill is implemented in a fair and equitable manner."
Other bills Gregoire signed Friday include a crackdown on driver-training schools that would strengthen the authority of the Department of Licensing to oversee such operations. The measure also increases the training requirements for an instructor's license and would require inspection of each driver-training school and its business practices. Staff would have to undergo criminal-background checks.
Gregoire also signed a measure that makes it a felony to have sex with animals. The law was prompted by a widely publicized Washington state case in which a man died of injuries suffered while having sex with a horse. The measure makes bestiality a Class C felony, which is punishable by a maximum five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Anyone videotaping such acts also could be convicted under animal-cruelty laws, as could anyone permitting such acts to take place on his or her property.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company