On Thursday I participated in a press conference with Chittenden County Vermont Senator Virginia Lyons. She has introduced a bill to the Vermont legislature that would require electronics manufacturers to fund or partially fund a statewide ewaste recycling program. The bill is still “on the wall” and has not been brought before the legislature. Remarkably, she received a letter from the People’s Republic of China pressuring her to drop this electronics bill. This has happened in other industries, notably toys (states regulating lead in toys), and in agriculture (certification of “organic” food exported from China.)
The ewaste issue is very important to our company. We strongly support the concept of Senator Lyons’ bill. Such a bill could be good for the environment, fair to consumers, and fair to businesses that make, sell, and service electronic goods.
Small Dog has underwritten an ewaste recycling program for about a decade. We’ve recycled over 215 tons of ewaste. This program costs our business tens of thousands of dollars annually, but the success of the program shows that consumers know and care about the issue.
Right now, with our current system, the cost of ewaste recycling in Vermont is unfairly placed upon consumers, local governments, and a few retailers who choose to do the right thing. It can cost $15 or more to recycle an old TV; that’s a steep fee for many people and businesses. It’s almost a penalty.
Electronics are unique because they can contain hazardous elements, which, in quantity, are toxic to our environment. In similar industries, producers are responsible for the cost of recycling their products when they become obsolete. We believe the consumer electronics industry needs to catch up, but they won’t do it unless it’s mandated.
We support this bill because it endorses a “shared responsibility” between electronics producers and the general public. It levels the playing field. Mandated producer responsibly that includes recycling makes it much easier for consumers to do the right thing. It’s worked in other states, it’s worked in other countries, and it can work in Vermont.
A couple of years ago, Apple started an optional computer take-back recycling program in all of their Apple Stores (we like to say that they were catching up to Small Dog).
Almost as soon as Apple had to bear the cost of recycling their own products, their products became greener, cleaner, and easier and cheaper to recycle. During the same timeframe, Apple’s revenues and market share have shot through the roof. [Apple has realized a billion dollars in profits every quarter during that timeframe.]
This shows that when manufactures have a stake in recycling their products, they become motivated to design them for an entire life cycle. This does not need to harm the bottom line.
Equally important, it means the cost of recycling is shared by the entire marketplace.
Again, we support Sen. Lyons bill and hope to see it pass without any further foreign interference.