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Washington Legislature Mandates Mandatory Recycling of Consumer Electronics: Bill Sent to Governor

March 15, 2006

The Washington Legislature has enacted mandatory recycling of electronic waste (“E-Waste”), joining just three other states nationally who have enacted legislation addressing the millions of tons of obsolete consumer electronics products disposed of annually. The bill has been sent to the Governor, who is still considering it amidst opposition from some electronics manufacturers. The goal of the legislation is to keep E-Waste out of landfills, because of potentially harmful quantities of mercury, lead and other hazardous materials. If signed into law, the Electronics Waste Recycling Bill (the “Act”) will present new requirements and some opportunities for manufacturers, retailers, assemblers, collection companies and waste disposal companies. It is being watched nationally, as other states consider similar legislation.

A. Applicability

1. Covered Electronic Products (“CEPs")

CEPs include TVs and monitors that measure 4” or more diagonally (CRTs and flat panels), laptops and desktops (CPUs). Articles exempt from the Act include screens contained in a motor vehicle or aircraft, monitoring or control systems, medical devices, devices used in home appliances (such as ovens and refrigerators) and portable communications devices, such as PDAs and cell phones.

2. Covered Persons

Persons required to recycle under the bill include households, charities, school districts, small businesses (businesses under 50 employees), and small governments (cities with a population of less than 50,000, counties with less than 125,000 and special purpose districts). Larger businesses and governments are excluded, meaning that they will not be able to take their E-Waste to collection facilities set up under the legislation, and will have to arrange other means of recycling.

3. Manufacturers

Manufacturers include anyone who makes a CEP sold in the state of Washington, regardless of how it is sold (e.g. over the internet). A manufacturer is defined to include anyone who assembles a CEP from parts made by others, or who resells a CEP from parts made by others, or who resells a CEP under its own brand name, including retailers who sell CEPs. Importers and resellers of imported CEPs are covered as well. Special rules apply to “new entrants,” meaning persons covered by the Act but who have sold a television in the state for less than the ten (10) years or a desktop, laptop or monitor for less than the five (5) years.

B. Requirements

Covered manufacturers and retailers face a number of short term and longer term deadlines under the Act.

1. Registration

Beginning January 1, 2007, each manufacturer must register covered CEPs with the Washington Department of Ecology (“Ecology”), and pay a fee to cover the administration cost of the program. All products sold in the state must also be labeled with the name of the manufacturer by that date.

2. Recycling Plans

Manufacturers must elect by February 1, 2008 whether to participate in a state-wide E-Waste recycling plan (“standard plan”) or to develop their own plan (“independent plan”). The standard plan and all independent plans are to be submitted to Ecology for approval by February 1, 2008 as well. The standard plan is to be developed by CEP manufacturers, acting through a new public body, known as the Washington Materials Management and Financing Authority (“Authority”). All manufacturers are members of the Authority, which is to act through a Board of Directors appointed by the Director of Ecology. The Authority is to operate without public funds, and to pay its costs by charging its members. It may maintain offices, hire staff, consultants, and other professionals to help carry out its work.

The standard plan, and all independent plans, are required to meet performance standards, which are to be enacted by Ecology by rule-making. Performance standards may include financial assurance to ensure proper closure of recycling locations.

Any independent plan and the standard plan must establish a system for collecting, transporting, and recycling CEPs sold in the state. It must fairly compensate persons who collect and process CEPs. There must be at least one collection site in each city or town with a population greater than 10,000. The standard and all independent plans must describe the process and methods to be used to recycle CEPs, provide for audits of each processor, and include timelines and public outreach campaign. Plans must be updated every five (5) years.

3. Implementation

The Standard Plan and approved independent plans must be implemented and fully operational by January 1, 2009. In other words, in less than three years, Washington is to have a fully operational state-wide mandatory E-Waste program. Meeting that ambitious deadline will require literally hundreds and perhaps thousands of manufacturers, retailers, waste collectors, transporters, and waste disposal companies, across the state, and indeed worldwide, to work together to provide a mandatory recycling service, free of charge, that currently does not exist, to millions of people.

4. Cost

The cost of Washington’s E-Waste program is to be borne by CEP manufacturers, in proportion to the amount of E-Waste their products generate in the state. The program is not paid for by new taxes, nor is responsibility for it given to public solid waste authorities. The system is designed - perhaps uniquely in the state and the country – to be developed, driven, and paid for by the private sector.

5. Enforcement

Ecology is authorized to impose penalties on any covered person who does not comply with the registration requirements under Section 4 of the Act, the education and outreach requirements of Section 12, the reporting requirements found in Section 14, labeling requirements under Section 16, retailer responsibility requirements under Section 17, collector and transporter requirements under Section 24, and performance standards under Sections 25 and 26. Violators are to first receive a warning, and can then be fined $1,000 for the first violation, and $2,000 for subsequent violations.

After January 1, 2009, no manufacturer may sell a CEP in the state of Washington if it does not have an approved individual plan. Violators may be fined up to $10,000 for each violation. If the Authority or any manufacturer fails to implement their approved plan, they may be fined up to $5,000 for a first violation and $10,000 for subsequent violations.

For a copy of the bill, see http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=6428&year=2006. For more information, contact Brad Marten.

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