Hawaii lawmakers push electronics recycling rules

6:56 PM, Mar 11, 2014   |    comments
Photo of various smart phones, taken on December 25, 2013. PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images
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HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii lawmakers have proposed that manufacturers of electronics goods must recycle 50 percent of the pounds of products that each company sells in the state.

The bill (SB 2857) was heard in the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee on Tuesday. Its goal is to give residents on neighbor islands more options to recycle their old televisions, cell phones and a myriad of electronic devices.

"Many other states have moved forward with programs to make sure the electronics don't end up in landfills," said Rep. Chris Lee, the committee's chairman. "They all have some sort of recycling target."

There are electronics recycling programs on Oahu, but residents on other islands have fewer options. Many manufacturers have a mail-back program for electronics recycling, but most people don't want to spend $50 to mail in an oversized television for recycling, Lee said.

If it passes, manufacturers would report annually on product sales totals beginning in August, and those totals would be used to determine their mandatory recycling goal. Those that fall short of the goal would have to pay an unspecified fee.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which represents 2,100 companies worldwide, opposed the bill and said it's overly burdensome and costly to business. Having a strict weight requirement wouldn't work for manufacturers, because electronics are getting lighter by the day, making the weight requirement punishing, they said.

The group also opposed part of the bill that would require each manufacturer to provide a recycling facility on every island that has more than 1,000 inhabitants.

"That would require 50 manufacturers to establish 50 centers on every island, which doesn't make sense at all," said Mihoko Ito, who represents the Consumer Electronics Association. "You have to be careful what you do in that respect, because if you push the law too far, manufacturers won't comply."

The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, which represents 1,000 businesses, also opposed the bill. Many computers are sold to government and business entities, which already have electronic recycling programs that could be disrupted by these requirements, the group said.

The bill outlines how often manufacturers would have to conduct collections, and smaller islands would get fewer collection dates.

That would be a step backward for the island of Kauai, said Nadine Nakamura, managing director for the mayor of Kauai County. Kauai already collects electronic waste two days every month, but the bill would reduce the recycling requirement to once per quarter.

"We need to preserve the goal of having statewide access," said Linda Rosen, director of health for the State Health Department.

No vote was taken on the bill, which already passed in the Senate. It will be heard again in the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee on Thursday.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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