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Modifications proposed for e-waste

Published (4/29/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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Since the Electronics Recovery Act was enacted in 2007, there’s been no shortage of electronics to recycle. But as people replace their old gadgets with newer models, the law needs to keep pace with the types and sizes of electronics.

HF1471, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), would modify the law by creating a longer list of electronic devices required to be collected at the end of their useful life. For example, desktop computers and printers, DVD players and digital video recorders would also count toward a manufacturer’s recycling obligation. Only televisions, monitors and laptop computers are currently used to determine how much a manufacturer must collect. And the minimum screen size on video display devices required to be recycled would drop from 9 inches to 7 inches.

The bill was approved by the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee April 27 and sent to the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee. Sen. Linda Higgins (DFL-Mpls) sponsors the companion, SF1237, which awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Manufacturers are required to collect and recycle a percentage of the products they sell in Minnesota. The calculation is an estimation of what they expect to sell during the current year based on the previous year’s sales. The proposed modification would require them to recycle based only on the previous sales year and not on their estimated current sales.

There are currently 73 manufacturers registered under the program. The additional devices would add about 20 more, according to Garth Hickle, electronic waste program coordinator for the Pollution Control Agency.

It became illegal to put electronics in the waste stream in 2006. Proponents of the law say this has led to people disposing of devices in ditches and lakes to avoid paying disposal fee. However, some committee members noted the bill doesn’t guarantee free collection for consumers. Some counties charge a fee while others don’t. Rep. John Persell (DFL-Bemidji) said, “That’s between you and your county commissioner. Take it up with your county.”

Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt said the entire cost to counties that collect materials may not be covered. If a fee is charged, it is likely less than it was before the program was in place, she said.

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