In 2008 I am going to work on a blank piece of paper. It would be pompous to say that this solves the "EWaste" problem, but I initially labelled this a solution hoping to attract more attention to the suggestion.
The fees for e-scrap will be on the activity which causes the obsolescence, not the manufacturer of the product which became obsolete. I hope this provokes some others to investigate ideas like the following:
1) Earmark the bandwidth auction
This week the federal government got $19.6 billion dollars from the auction of TV bandwidth to cell phone companies. This was the bandwidth used for 'rabbit ear' TVs, many of which will now need a 'converter box' that will convert crisp HDTV broadcast into old analog pictures (like a 'converter box' which converts color TV into black and white images). Most expect some fallout, even if technically the old TVs can still be made to work. A portion of the $19.6B should be earmarked for recycling.
2) Fee on Operating System sales (Vista, Linux and AppleOS)
This week Microsoft also announced the demise of Windows XP, it will no longer be sold or supported with updates after 2008. That means anything lower than Pentium 900Mhz is headed for the junk pile. MS made more than $4.2B from Vista sales in the 4th quarter alone of 2007. If government collected an environmental fee from every sale of the Vista OS, it would give government a stake in fighting piracy. Microsoft should not only accept an environmental fee, they should actively be promoting it (note to self: be careful how the Linux language is written).
Fees on the bandwidth auction and OS sales would involve relatively few entities handling relatively large transactions. It would address the cause, rather than the effect, of obsolescence.
3) New Mining Land Lease and Royalty fees
Third idea, the General Mining Act of 1872 is FINALLY being revised (at least, it passed the House of Representatives, Heid of Nevada may hold it back in the Senate). The federal lands for 135 years were leased for $5/acre for metal mining, with no royalties for the metals paid for cleanup. It's worse than agriculture subsidies. The new royalties should earmark something for recycling, to clean up the waste lead, copper, etc. from a throwaway society made possible by the old subsidy. In fact, there is today a $900M cleanup fund to mop up old mining sites, that money should be used to avoid new mines by recycling old electronics.
I am getting lots of blank stares. But I am hoping with help to find a legislator willing to look at this seriously.