|NYC RULING 2008|
|February 14, 2008
City Council Approves a Bill Requiring Residents to Recycle Electronics
By ANTHONY DePALMA
New York City is a step closer to adopting one of the toughest electronics recycling laws in the nation, despite strong objections from manufacturers and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The City Council on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would impose a $100 fine on anyone who throws an old computer, printer or other electronic gadget into the trash. Recycling the electronic waste will become mandatory, and manufacturers will be required to take back their own products as well as those made by companies that have gone out of business. The Council estimated that New Yorkers purchase more than 90,000 tons of electronic products every year. The gadgets contain hazards like lead and mercury, and most end up in the trash.
If the new measure becomes law, the city’s voluntary electronics collection and recycling programs would be replaced by a variety of programs designed and run by Sony, Dell and other electronics manufacturers. Those efforts could include curbside pickups, returns by mail and in stores, and neighborhood collections. Manufacturers could pick the type of recycling program they preferred, said Councilman Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn, who, with Councilman Michael E. McMahon of , was a prime sponsor of the bill. The companies would have to take back enough pieces of equipment to meet mandatory tonnage standards or face fines. Mr. Bloomberg has made it clear that he will not support mandatory thresholds.
“The administration supports ‘e-recycling,’ but the current bill has untested and arbitrary industry performance standards, which we will not support,” said John Gallagher, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, who was traveling. “These standards penalize manufacturers for the actions of customers, which we believe is unconstitutional.” The mayor was expected to veto the measure, which passed 47-3, but the strong level of support in the Council could lead to an override or to concessions from both sides. “We think it’s very important that the bill have specific goals and thresholds in it because that is what you need to make sure this actually happens,” said the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, who supported the bill. Ms. Quinn said that discussions with the mayor’s office were continuing, and that she and Mr. de Blasio were confident that a compromise could be reached.
New York would become the first major city in the nation with an electronics recycling law that takes aim at producers. Ten states, including and , have already adopted similar measures. ( ’s law is not yet in effect.) Under ’s proposed law, manufacturers would start collecting electronics for recycling in 2009. Starting in 2010, city residents could be fined $100 if they threw out a piece of electronic equipment. In 2012, manufacturers would have to collect enough discarded electronic equipment to equal 25 percent of the average weight of the goods they sold in the city during the previous three years. For example, if Hewlett-Packard or Gateway sold an average of 1,000 tons of computers, monitors and other equipment over three years, it would be required to take back 250 tons of products a year for recycling.
In 2015, the minimum amount collected for recycling would have to increase to 45 percent and would top out at 65 percent in 2018. Manufacturers would be fined $50,000 for each percentage point they fall below those standards. During the first two years the law was in effect, manufacturers would only have to accept their own products. But starting in 2011, they would be required to take products from any manufacturer, including companies that have gone out of business, or face a $2,000 fine for each item they refused to take. Parker E. Brugge, environmental counsel to the Consumer Electronics Association, which represents 2,200 producers and retailers, said it would be difficult, if not impossible, to keep track of a manufacturer’s sales in the city. “Manufacturers typically sell to large distributors, and once they sell to them, they don’t know where those products end up,” Mr. Brugge said. Producers objected to the so-called e-waste recycling bill when it was introduced three years ago. Since then, the Council has lowered the enforceable standards and made other adjustments.