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House OKs e-waste recycling plan

ST. PAUL -- Electronics manufacturers would shoulder the cost of recycling items like televisions and computer monitors under a bill Minnesota lawmakers passed Tuesday.

ST. PAUL -- Electronics manufacturers would shoulder the cost of recycling items like televisions and computer monitors under a bill Minnesota lawmakers passed Tuesday.

The bill, which passed 112-21 in the House, requires manufacturers to fund ongoing recycling efforts of products that can no longer go into the garbage can.

"This bill makes sure that manufacturers will share in the responsibility that up until now has fallen primarily on counties and property taxpayers," said Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, who sponsored the bill.

Supporters said the legislation makes it easier for Minnesotans to comply with 2006 measures - which outlawed the disposal of electronics into the waste stream - by raising about $20 million a year slated for recycling efforts.

Last year's law created an unfunded mandate, Sailer said, forcing counties to charge residents up to $60 to legally recycle a large unit of what is known informally as e-waste.

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"I expect that you will see those extra fees going away," Sailer said.

The bill requires electronics manufacturers to either establish an e-waste recycling program of their own, or partner with counties in devising a system, Sailer said.

Unregistered manufacturers wouldn't be allowed to do business in the state.

Officials expect provisions in the bill to raise funds through annual registration fees, which would fall on about 160 manufacturers who do business in Minnesota. The bill also calls for variable fees that could be imposed if manufacturers fall short of collection targets.

Manufacturers could avoid the variable fees by recycling 60 percent of all items produced in the previous year. Devices collected outside the Twin Cities metro area would count for 1.5 times their actual weight.

But that goal is "unattainable," and achieving it means manufacturers spending more, said Richard Goss, vice president of environmental affairs for the Electronic Industries Alliance.

"That cost has to be reflected somewhere in the system," he said, adding that it could drive up prices for consumers.

E-waste recycling measures in California cost the electronics industry $14 million a year, Goss said.

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Lawmakers also called the bill's guidelines unattainable and unnecessary.

"We're collecting more money than we need to collect," said Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar.

Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount, defended the legislation against critics claiming it will lead to greater state bureaucracy and a strain on the business community.

"This is not to collect money," Ozment said. "This is to get recycling done."

Large manufacturers would pay an initial registration fee of $5,000 and $2,500 each additional year.

Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, was concerned the registration fees might "explode" before long.

"We're just coming in with an introductory offer today of $5,000," Westrom said.

A similar bill is expected to be heard this week in the Senate.

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Brian McClung, spokesman for Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said "the governor feels that the bill is overdue and looks forward to signing it."

Four other states have passed bills addressing e-waste recycling.

Mike Longaecker works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

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