New York City's law, which was approved in February, places the burden for collecting and recycling those used electronics squarely on the manufacturers.
“This was done for environmental reasons and because taxpayers have been paying to haul those things away,” says New York City Councilman Bill de Blasio, who sponsored the bill.
“We think it’s going to change the way business is done.” More importantly, he adds, “We think it’s going to help manufacturers be greener and reutilize components in the manufacturing process going forward.”
The law did not come easily. Manufacturers feared it would add to a patchwork of new state and local laws forcing them to comply with different requirements in different parts of the country.
Additionally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg initially said he would veto the bill when it arrived on his desk and even threatend not to enforce the law if his veto were overruled by the council. That lead to a compromise version.
Manufacturers, meanwhile, remain concerned about the patchwork approach, and continue to puch for a federal law to deal with the problem. "A recycling solution for consumer electronics should be a national solution," says Jason Oxman, senior vp of industry affairs at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). "It's easiest for consumers to understand. It's easiest for manufacturers, retailers and their government partners to implement."
New York's de Blasio is less confident a national recycling solution can be developed in time to make a difference. "For two years we held hearings," he says, "and it's clear there's no federal law on the horizon. I wish there was."
The part of the law everyone agrees on, says de Blasio, is that manufacturers receive the used items and it should be illegal for consumers to put them on the curb for the sanitation department to pick up. The second part, the performance standards, has passed in City Council, but not the Mayor’s office. And de Blasio thinks that part of the law will end up in court.