Vermont E-Waste Bill Signing Today

As many people know, for better or worse, I have been a ball and chain slowing the passage of "E-Waste" product stewardship legislation in Vermont.   My reasons, posted in previous blogs:

1) "Ain't broke."   Before the bill, 84% of Vermont residents already had convenient 6-day per week access to television as well as computer recycling.  The other 26% includes people with 2-day per week access, a couple of places relying on one-day events, and places which refer residents to another county.  This improvement could have been accomplished with a waste ban.

2) "Not visionary."  If Vermont was going to draft a law, I would have liked to have put the fees on operating system software and other media which creates the obsolescence.  The description of "manufacturing" by the bill's proponents is quaint.   Cassette player manufacturers will not know CDs are coming, there is no behavior change apparent from manufacturers as a result of these bills.

3) "Anti-reuse".

The third was a point where Vermont did break with the national trend.  Because of the economy, local aid issues, etc., a bill was going to pass.  However, the Vermont S.77 proponents (Jen Holiday and VPIRG) did compromise on "obsolescence in hindsight" language by agreeing on changes to the bill which freed manufacturers from "anti-trust" laws and which would have penalized repair and reuse.

So this bill S.77, which will be signed today, has improvements and I'd suggest it be looked at by other states if they are set on entering into the 'e-waste' business.  Follow the link for a full redline and strikeout version.

This will allow recyclers of product in Vermont to do whichever the manufacturers demand - destroy working product is still ok, but the manufacturers will have to PAY the cost of destruction if that's what they require.  If the manufacturer allows R2 compliant resale and repair of products with demand and key functions working, then those manufacturers will benefit from the resale value when paying for their equipment to be recycled.

My Vermont company just returned from a weekend e-waste recycling event on Long Island.   People waited in line for an hour, and they told us as we were unloading, "this still works", and "do you know anyone who needs this computer or are you going to destroy it?"

People in all areas know in their guts that destroying working product is not in anyone's interest.  Whether or not they have read Vance Packard's 1960s book, "The Waste Makers", they like the idea that maybe, just maybe, this TV won't get smashed or shredded, but will be used to upgrade some poor person's TV in Mexico.  And the money saved can be used to recycle Mexico's own waste electronics.

Vermont is the first Product Stewardship Bill state to look OEMs in the eye and say "We are not going to require these products be destroyed.  You want them taken off the market?  That's at YOUR expense, not ours."

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