State Level Environmental Advocacy Has a Dark Side

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At the close of a decades-long period in which there was almost a complete absence of progressive environmental policy and law making at the US Federal level, US states have shown us how to lead. The Clean Energy States Alliance is but one example of how information sharing among states has created cost-effective, green policy and law making. The 'green-state-laboratory' strategy, effective as it has been, is easily turned around for "un-green" purposes, however. Anecdotal evidence indicates the State-based approach to national advocacy is being utilized by PR firms and major industries, for very different outcomes.

A notable example was Monsanto getting several States to ban, either by law or executive declaration, the labeling of dairy products as being produced without bovine growth hormone. (See:- Astroturf Alert: Afact Fights Absence Labeling)

Push back happened when the operation was revealed as something less than grass roots. And, ground gained by the operation was seemingly lost when Wal-Mart announced they were phasing out milk made with the aid of hormones.From Cows To Computers:
Dell Computer recently distributed model state legislation called INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY MODEL STATE LEGISLATION (downloadable as pdf file here).

Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia have adopted Dell's framework with various alterations for extended producer responsibility (EPR). A similar bill is awaiting the governor's signature in Missouri.

Dell's mild solution is in the legislative hopper in at least three other states. The model bill does not require the government to approve a manufacturer's plan to recover its own branded products, although Oklahoma has added that provision. Collection systems must simply be reasonable [and] convenient. Whatever works best for the manufacturers and brand owners complies with the law. However, collection does have to be offered free of charge to the consumer.

Sounds like it might be a good starting point for uniform State-level electronics "take back" regulations until you read over the details.

Televisions are "exempted" in the model legislation proposed by Dell. Wait until 2009 when the HDTV broadcast standard becomes mandatory and curb-sides and empty lots all over North America become littered with old TVs. Then we'll see what's convenient for local officials and US State Legislators.

Here, incidentally, is the link to the Dell online catalog where one can buy televisions from such notable brands as Sony, Sharp, Phillips, and Vizio. Wonder what those firms' respective advocacy people think about the No-TVs approach to e-waste management? Here's an excerpt from the model.

This legislative approach covers computer, display and printing devices. It does not attempt to include other very different products, such as TVs, phones, or PDAs. The goal of this legislative approach is to offer a simple, convenient recovery system. Adding other products, manufacturers, and collection approaches would make this too complex and likely unworkable.

TVs are excluded because returned TVs are older, bulkier, heavier, less likely to be refurbished and reused, and of less value for components than returned IT products. It makes more sense to adopt separate solutions to address such different products. TVs are defined here to be telecommunication system devices that can broadcast and receive moving pictures and sound over a distance, and include a TV tuner.


This, however, is the real kicker: the darkside.
The Dell approach would preempt state laws in the event that a national program is established that 'substantially meets the intent' of the model bill provisions.
So, if the US Congress can be persuaded to enact similar legislation, and the President signs it into law, it will contain a poison pill that uses the "superior authority" of the Federal government to overturn any preexisting, more stringent, state law provisions.
SECTION 11. FEDERAL PREEMPTION.

This Act shall be deemed repealed if a federal law or a combination of federal laws takes effect that establishes a national program for the collection and recycling of covered devices that substantially meets the intent of this Act.

Although each state might seek to address this important resource recovery issue on its own, the most efficient and effective approach is not a state-by-state one but a national solution.

The National Center for Electronics Recycling has calculated that having different state
programs carries significant costs above and beyond what would be needed for a uniform national approach ($25 million per year in such "dead weight" costs with just the four current state programs), which consumers and manufacturers bear through increased fees and product costs.

See also:: Prototype Sony Product Take-Back Scheme Announced

Via: The always insightful and worth-your-consideration Crosslands Bulletin, by subscription. Image::CityPages, Get ready for another E-Junk Tsunami

Tags: Electronics

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