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March 31, 2009

Vermont Senate Considers "E-Waste" Legislation

It's been a trashy month for the news media. First the New York Times reported on March 11 that China, the "world's largest" garbage importer, is refusing trash from American and European "waste dealers." Then the New Yorker magazine published "Trash Queen," about a Chinese paper-making tycoon whose fortunes have fallen in recent months because of the global recession.

Vermont newspapers are also weighing in on waste trends. Louis Porter wrote in the March 14 Times Argus that "Vermont is a long way from China, but the economic slide hitting that country's manufacturers is having an impact on Vermont's recycling programs." The Burlington Free Press reported on March 30 that the Chittenden Solid Waste District will soon raise its per-ton solid waste management free from $17.61 to $22.06.

Against this backdrop, the Vermont Senate is considering S.77, a bill that would require manufacturers to "implement and fund a system for the collection and recycling of electronic devices." S.77 is a legislative priority for the newly formed Vermont Product Stewardship Council. The council's coordinator, Jen Holliday, tells me in an email that she hopes the bill will pass on the Senate floor tomorrow.

One of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Virginia "Ginny" Lyons (D-Chittenden), sponsored an "e-waste" bill last year that drew criticism from Chinese officials. WWBSTT? (What will Beijing say this time?)

Incidentally, if you'd like to dispose of your own e-waste, take it to South Burlington High School's parking lot on Saturday, April 18. Small Dog Electronics is sponsoring their 3rd annual e-waste recycling drive. They're accepting old electronics equipment from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. They'll take everything but household appliances. But don't try to bring them your business computers — it's a residential-only collection.

There are good ways and bad ways to legislate electronics. My chief concern is that when Good Point Recycling made a few suggested changes, we were disinvited to participate by VPIRG. Maybe we were wrong anyway. But our Vermont firm is one of the most respected in the country, a consultant to EPA, and a founding member of the "Fair Trade Recycling" organization, WR3A.org.

After collecting the "commercial volumes" involving all-night vigils by our staff at Earth Day 2007 and 2008, Small Dog Electronics refused to pay for staffing, trucking, and even a significant portion of domestic CRT recycling fees. In 2009, when Good Point Recycling asked for coverage of the processing fees (at least) from 2008, Small Dog chose an out of state company charging MORE than Good Point Recycling (but limiting volumes) rather than go through the dispute mediation process we offered. But we still appreciate 7th Generation contributing to the new event, and your entire staff is invited to visit and tour our facility in Middlebury Vermont at any time, with or without notice.

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