Wisconsin Requiring Electronics Manufacturers to Pay for E-Waste

old tube-type TV face-down on grass

Migrated Image  / Justin Henry / Flickr

Lawmakers have started taking a stronger stance with electronics manufacturers, requiring them to accept more responsibility for the end-of-life handling of the gadgets they produce. The recent noise in New York between city and state officials and manufacturers helped set the stage for other states to push companies into pulling their weight in the recycling of electronics. The long-term effect of these laws could be products designed to last longer and are easier to recycle since manufacturers will feel the economic pinch of a gadget's final throes.

The latest state to toughen up on manufacturers is Wisconsin, which just passed an e-waste recycling law that moves the burden from local governments to manufacturers. Beginning January 1, 2011, it'll be up to manufacturers to provide collection and recycling for electronics.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the law will require manufacturers to document that at least 80% of what they sell is being recycled. The new program, called E-Cycle Wisconsin, took effect Wednesday, Sept. 1, the rules of which require consumers to bring discarded electronics to one of the state's 300 collection sites, but the law gives the primary responsibility for collection and recycling to the manufacturer.

"Nothing's changed in terms of costs," he said," but with this bill, instead of all these costs falling on the taxpayers, the manufacturer bears the primary financial responsibility. Now we're actually getting paid a few cents a pound."

The law will not only help ensure manufacturers shoulder more of the weight of disposing of their products, but also help divert from landfills waste that can be reused for manufacturing, and on the more dire side, release metals including lead and mercury into the soil and groundwater.

Wisconsin's DNR lists what is covered under the new law, from computers to televisions to gaming devices.

Advocates for electronics manufacturer responsibility have helped move laws like this forward. Twenty-five states have instituted an e-waste law. While it certainly isn't popular among the manufacturers who are being required to foot a larger portion of the bill, as we heard more about during last year's Consumer Electronics Show, we're sure to continue to see the news that more states are adopting law -- and those that have them becoming more strict -- about what happens to electronics at the end of their useful life.