March 10, 2007
I will neither confirm nor deny that, from time to time, I’ve been accused of sending out some e-waste to a friend or family member. But we’re not here to discuss what you drop into the recycle bin under this letter (though I do hope it’s not anything of mine).
The term “e-waste” actually refers to discarded computers, monitors and display devices, and other electronic devices. These tend to be laced with chemicals such as mercury and lead, which help our machines run when they’re not threatening our environment.
Texans generate a massive amount of “e-waste” every year – enough to threaten to overwhelm our landfills, let alone poison our air or water. But I believe that if we partner with manufacturers who are increasingly concerned about the issue, we can find a better home for our aging computers and iPods.
SB 1324, which was passed under a companion bill filed in the state House of Representatives, takes its lead from Dell Computers. Dell is an industry leader in e-waste recycling.
The bill requires that consumers have the ability to return an electronic product to a manufacturer at the end of its useful life. These companies have the choice of creating their own collection and recovery programs, entering into partnerships with others, or adopting other innovative solutions. As manufacturers report on their progress, the government will help educate consumers and enforce the law.
This simple approach will promote innovation, foster partnerships, drive efficiencies, and create an effective IT collection and recovery system. I’ve had a little experience with e-waste. It’s nasty stuff, and it doesn’t just go away when you drop it in a trash can or a dumpster.
Furthermore, as we become more technologically advanced and new, sleek products replace older, clunky ones, we’re only going to have more of this new kind of garbage. A cooperative effort with the companies who are selling this to us is a necessary first step in getting people used to e-recycling.
Maybe it isn’t time yet for a microchip-themed recycle bin for the giant iPod I bought my son a few years back. But we have to start somewhere, and this bill starts at the beginning – with the manufacturers.