Sunday, March 13, 2005


Costly Hysteria on 'E-waste': Eco-activists' Gross Distortions Behind State Crusade to Recycle TVs, PCs

Haste maketh waste, and in the fast- paced world of technology, there's a lot of it. In California, home of the technology revolution, 10,000 home computers and TVs are retired daily. While that amounts to a tiny fraction of the state's total waste stream, the issue is creating heaps of hype and hysteria about what to do with the growing amount of electronic waste or "e-waste." This year, California became the first state to hold consumers responsible for their e-mess. Californians buying a TV, home computer, or laptop must now pay $6 to $10 to finance a costly program to collect and recycle all used machines throughout the state. While the fee may seem insignificant, there is little reason to believe it will remain low for long; the cost to recycle a single computer is six times that amount. Advocacy groups such as the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, who have been aggressively lobbying the state and Congress for mandatory recycling laws, already are arguing the fee does not go far enough. They would like to see the fee raised to $60 per product to cover the full costs of recycling. California's new law also requires manufacturers to rethink the way they build computers. By 2007, they must phase out lead—currently used in computers to protect users from the tube's X-rays—mercury, cadmium, and other substances crucial to the operation of PCs. The widespread panic is based on misinformation spread largely by powerful eco-activist groups who believe the growing amount of electronic waste reflects the ills of a "throwaway" society and that recycling e-waste is our moral obligation to achieve "zero waste tolerance." Among the myths bandied about are that e-waste is growing at an uncontrollable, "exponential" rate; and that heavy metals contained in computers are leaking out of the landfills, poisoning our ground soil....

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