E-Waste Showdown

New York City is being taken to court over its “e-waste” plan.

Oral hearings are scheduled to start next month in a court case that could test the limits of manufacturer participation in electronics recycling.

The case pits New York City against tech industry groups the Computer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which are seeking an injunction to stop the city’s proposed electronics recycling program.

In a background conference call on Thursday, supporters of the city’s recycling mandate said the notion of “extended producer responsibility,” or taking on some of the cost of recycling used electronics, is being put on trial. There is also concern that a ruling in favor of the CEA and ITI could weaken existing programs or stall passage of new ones, they said.

The growing amount of e-waste, which contains heavy metals and other hazardous materials, has led 19 states to introduce electronics recycling legislation, said Scott Cassel, the executive director of product stewardship council. In addition to electronics, there are 31 states with producer responsibility laws for some sort of product, such as paints or thermostat and light bulbs that contain mercury.

Having been willing compliants with state law in the past, the industry is balking when it comes to this proposed plan.

Until now, electronics and computer industry manufacturers have complied with state laws. Five companies–Sharp, Panasonic, Toshiba, Vizio, and Mitsubishi Electric–created MRM, a company that offers recycling services nationwide. There are now 400 drop-off sites, which should grow to 600 by the end of next year, said Peter Fannon, vice president of corporate and government affairs at Panasonic of North America.

The industry associations, however, are contesting the legality of the New York plan, arguing that it’s unconstitutional and designed in a way that places “enormous burdens and costs” on manufacturers. In its motion for a preliminary injunction (click for PDF), the CEA and ITI single out a rule where “direct collection” must be provided for all electronics over 15 pounds. (Source: CNET)

Depending on the outcome, wonder if it will affect the Wisconsin e-waste law.

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