Bill forces firms to recycle electronics

ST. PAUL -- Electronics manufacturers that make TVs and other video devices sold in Minnesota should help recycle those products, a House committee decided Thursday.

ST. PAUL -- Electronics manufacturers that make TVs and other video devices sold in Minnesota should help recycle those products, a House committee decided Thursday.

A state law that went into effect last July made it illegal to throw away electronic devices such as TVs or computer monitors. Many Minnesota counties and cities don't have adequate recycling programs to handle all of the items being disposed, Rep. Brita Sailer said, arguing that manufacturers need to take an active role in recycling old electronics.

"The intent is to simply make sure the counties aren't left holding the bag," Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, told the House Environment Policy Committee.

The proposal, which has been debated in similar forms for several years, drew criticism from legislators who want a comprehensive electronic recycling program but said details in the current bill could drive some manufacturers away.

"We want these folks to be doing business in Minnesota," said Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings.


Counties in rural Minnesota have been hit harder by the new electronics disposal law than those in the Twin Cities area because there are fewer recycling facilities. That drives up hauling and transportation costs, which citizens pay through taxes or fees, Sailer said.

County officials said they expect with advancements in TV technology, more units will become obsolete. That could result in more junked monitors.

"Clearly, doing nothing will end up costing Minnesota taxpayers a great deal more, said Victoria Reinhardt of the Association of Minnesota Counties.

Under the proposal, manufacturers must pay the state $5,000 to enroll their first year in the program, and $2,500 each subsequent year. It applies to firms headquartered in Minnesota and elsewhere.

They then must recycle at least the same amount of electronics products that they sold in Minnesota. During their first year in the program, companies would only have to collect the equivalent of 80 percent of their previous year's sales. The program tracks the weight of items sold and recycled, not the actual number of devices.

There would be incentives for manufacturers to pick up disposed items in rural Minnesota, said John Steiner, Polk County's solid waste administrator. Devices collected outside the Twin Cities area would have a higher recycling value.

Big-name firms said they support recycling but are concerned the state's requirements would be too high.

"So high, in fact, that we would not be able to meet our responsibility," Heather Bowman of Hewlett-Packard told legislators. Consumers get rid of old electronic devices less frequently than they purchase new products, she added.


Some lawmakers echoed those concerns, noting that even efficient county recycling programs would not meet the requirements.

"Are we setting this up to fail?" Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, wondered.

The bill passed on a voice vote after a two-hour hearing, but still must be considered by at least two other committees before moving to the House floor. A companion Senate bill advanced through a committee earlier this week.

Scott Wente works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

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