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United States The Almighty Buck Hardware

Growth of E-Waste May Lead to National 'E-Fee' 199

Posted by Zonk
from the e-xactly-what-we-e-want dept.
jcatcw writes "A bill in Congress would add a recycling charge to the cost of laptop PCs, computer monitors, televisions and some other electronic devices, according to a story at Computerworld. The effort to control what's called e-waste could lead to a national 'e-fee' that would be paid just like a sales tax. Nationwide the cost could amount to $300 million per year. Already, California, Washington, Maryland and Maine have approved electronics recycling laws, and another 21 states plus Puerto Rico, are considering them."
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Growth of E-Waste May Lead to National 'E-Fee'

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  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:13PM (#18198438) Journal
    If I pay the tax, then drop the stuff in the trahscan to get picked up by the muni wate trucks, does that money vanish? Does it just line the pockets of the contractor that gets the disposal contract? Does it just end up the general fund?
    • I guess it depends on the city.

      There are some cities that hire people to sift through the trash and separate out recyclables.

      Personally, the idea of doing that job seems rubbish to me.
    • by Intron (870560)
      They have a huge room where your $10 is attached with a clothespin to a copy of the receipt for your monitor. Then when it gets recycled they match it up by serial number and pay your $10 to a contractor. If you don't recycle it, eventually they have to build a bigger room.
    • The 5c (or whatever) can recycling "tax" on cans is an excellent example of how this can work. If there is an insentive, then a service will emerge.

      You pay the tax up-front. You can hand the unit in to a recycling centre, they pay you some sort of refund (to say thanx for not dumping it, or -- like cans -- to promote dumpster diving homeless folk to bring them in) and they get paid to reprocess out of the rest of the tax.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by russotto (537200)
      No matter what, the money vanishes. The connection between an "earmarked" tax and the actual program it is supposed to sponsor is typically tenuous to nonexistent. This is just a way to get another tax in while sounding "green".
  • Agreed (Score:3, Funny)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:14PM (#18198448) Journal
    E-waste has been a big problem. I like what Microsoft did, with converting their e-trash bins into e-recycle bins. Thought it would be nice, *cough cough* if they made the "bright idea" lightbulb in MS Word a CFL.

    You gotta think, we just use and use all these 1's and 0's, but no one realizes that their deletion increases the entropy of the universe.
  • 'bout time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Intron (870560) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:14PM (#18198454)
    I'm all in favor of putting the real costs up front. It's almost impossible to enforce a fee at disposal time. People will just find some other way to hide these things in the trash or dump them.

    Overpackaging goods with three layers of boxes and plastic should be taxed, too.
    • by ArsonSmith (13997)
      I'd rather see an eDeposit than an eFee. This would actually encourage people not to dumpster the parts.
    • Overpackaging goods with three layers of boxes and plastic should be taxed, too.

      Here here! I enjoy the visceral experience of pealing layers of plastic of some new Apple product as much as anyone would, but why they don't use corn-starch-based plastics for their super-wrapped bundles-o-joy is beyond me. It isn't like their products seem to sit around in storage long enough to actually need protection from the elements anyway! Also, the sicko that decided to package thumb-drives (which are often in locked

      • I see you know it but many people don't know plastic was originally made from plants. I wonder how many remember or have heard of cellophane plastic wraps for sandwiches and such. The "cello" comes from "cellulose" which comes from trees and other plants. Eastman Kodak, the camera company, has a webpage on this: The Process of Making Trees into Plastic [mindfully.org] . Part of the reason people don't know is because of people and companies like Du Pont, in the 1930s Du Pont was awarded a patent on making plastic fro

  • Why bother? (Score:3, Funny)

    by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:15PM (#18198480)
    When I've got a PC that crashes and burns, I strip out any useful parts and put it by the curb. Some idiot will always take the thing home thinking it might work.
  • by rubmytummy (677080) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:16PM (#18198482)
    To say "Nationwide, that cost would amount to about $300 million per year," is disingenuous at best. The price is already being paid in the long-term destructive consequences of not recycling toxic electronic waste. Something like this fee (assuming it works) doesn't add cost, it makes the cost more visible and more constructive.
    • . . . if you can sweep a problem under a rug -- or, in this case, bury it under some trash bags in a dumpster -- it doesn't show up on the Accounts Payable.

      Or, put another way, externalities are for the next generation to deal with. Or ignore and pass along.
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:16PM (#18198488) Homepage Journal
    As a longtime dumpster-diver/rescuer of unwanted computer parts, I look forward to drawing a salary from the taxpayers.
  • by Spazntwich (208070) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:17PM (#18198498)
    It's well-intentioned and poorly conceived. Now we'll get a new tax for the government to "just increase a little bit" at a time, so we don't notice how our total tax burden increases at absurd intervals every year. Just like wage withholding and social security actually costing you 15% of your paycheck, but only having us ever see 7.5% taken.
    • by Coryoth (254751)
      You need to pay for costs of disposal/recycling somehow, and the logical way is to make the full cost of item (inc;uding the costs of disposing of the item) payable by consumers at purchase time. In practice there are two ways to do this: (1) levy the extra costs as a tax; (2) force companies to pay the costs of disposal of products they manufacture. Both have pros and cons. The difficulty with option (1), as you point out, is that money levied as taxes has a tendency to just get sloshed into the general fu
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And it seems to be working... we've got a pretty good eRecycling program going here.
    http://www3.gov.ab.ca/env/waste/ewaste/faq.html [gov.ab.ca]
    • by saskboy (600063)
      Both Alberta and Saskatchewan have recycling fees collected, and programs in place to collect old printers, monitors (TVs too) and computers. http://www.sweepit.ca/ [sweepit.ca] is one site with more information on the fee, which is paid by consumers, since industry started the program after being approached by the government.

      I think industry should be picking up the tag, and including it in their delivery price, so that consumers still pay, but industry has an incentive to make products with a longer shelf, and durable
  • Windows (Score:5, Insightful)

    by electrosoccertux (874415) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:18PM (#18198526)
    Considering how many of these e-waste PC's are perfectly functional computers with 1+ Ghz speed processors, which can be upgraded to 512MB-1GB of RAM and remain functional for another 5 years for Grandma Internets...yet they are thrown out because they are full of spyware and adware and molassesware, it would be fair to tax the source of the problem: poorly programmed operating systems, like Windows.
    • Re:Windows (Score:5, Funny)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday March 01, 2007 @05:05PM (#18199152)

      it would be fair to tax the source of the problem: poorly programmed operating systems, like Windows.

      If we could put that tax revenue back into alternative fuels, find a way to tap the energy from Apple users' excess smugness, and achieve a 10% reduction in the energy needed to install Linux; we could go carbon neutral in no time!

      -Eric

  • by dyslexicbunny (940925) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:24PM (#18198636)
    donate those machines to public schools and filter them throughout the school system and recycle the oldest machines. Work out a deal with Microsoft (or just use something else) and put whatever software needs to be on the machine for the school to use it properly.

    So when I was in high school, we desperately needed better computers in various locations throughout the school. I imagine that both elementary and middle schools are in the same boat. Businesses are on what, a two or three year hardware upgrade cycle? Wouldn't this kill two birds with one stone?

    Schools get new machines and their old (and likely least environmentally friendly) machines would be recycled. Keep the e-fee so that such a program would be funded but in theory it could work. But perhaps I'm just looking out the window of an ivory tower.
    • There are recycling places that sell and donate old equipment. Check this [mountainrecycling.com] one out.

      I'd say that any recycling place will set aside anything with resale value.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Applekid (993327)
      Actually, that's a big problem for schools and charities. People donate obsolete equipment that either simply cannot be upgraded or would be prohibitively expensive to upgrade.

      "Imagine a Beowulf cluster" aside, then they get stuck with the costs of having to recycle them. Your average joe might be able to get away with just chucking them in a dumpster, but higher profile institutions have to do things by the book.
  • by cianduffy (742890) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:28PM (#18198706)
    Had these fees for around a year in Ireland now - and its great. I dump all my broken shit back on shops telling them I bought the same type of item off them in the previous month. They usually don't ask for a receipt, and even if they do... well, I got rid of three years of broken or just poor quality headphones (I DJ, they wear out...) with one receipt.

    http://www.weeeireland.ie/ [weeeireland.ie] is the manufacturers/sellers grouping that manages it all. On the downside, Amazon no longer sell electronics to Ireland as they're unwilling to collect the fees.
    • That sounds like a good program, but couldn't they come up with a better name than "weeeireland?" That's just plain ugly.
    • On the downside, Amazon no longer sell electronics to Ireland as they're unwilling to collect the fees.

      I suppose it's Amazon's decision, I'm curious how an overseas entity can be expected to handle that. I can understand it if it was collected by customs - that's how taxes are done. It is done this way rather than assuming it's the seller's responsibility to collect taxes for a government entity that has no jurisdiction to do so.
  • Deposit Fee? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Radon360 (951529) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:30PM (#18198732)

    For something like this to have any sliver of a chance of doing any good, they'd need to set it up in some form of deposited cash refund, like soda/pop bottles in some states. For example, a retailer charges $15 up front, must accept hardware for recycling, and gives you $10 back for each computer turned in for recycling.

    Without any incentive to get stuff recycled, most people would simply prefer to hide it in the trash somehow. Yeah, I realize that a deposit fee system would be a royal PITA to administrate, but without it, you'd never even see 10 percent of computers come back for recycling.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      For example, a retailer charges $15 up front, must accept hardware for recycling, and gives you $10 back for each computer turned in for recycling.

      I agree completely, except I'd make it a smaller value. Even $5 for things like car batteries and a couple cents a piece for aluminum cans is more than enough to have the homeless/unemployed going around, collecting them for the money. No doubt somebody could make a good business out of digging them out of landfills, and recycling them as well.

  • Will the revenue stay in the communities where the items are purchased, or go into a larger, federal pool? There are arguments for each.
    And if I'm being taxed a recycling fee up front, then I shouldn't have to pay anyone when it comes time to dump my old hardware, right?
    I think my city's homeowner hazardous waste recycling center already accepts, for free, consumer electronics/computers from individuals, as long as they have proof of residency, anyway.
    • That's actually the idea. We have it here in Alberta, it's provincially run, so it's a little better than federal. The point is to get rid of the fees to dump old hardware. i'm a packrat so i've still got my 14" hercules monitor in my basement, so I really don't know if there's still a fee or not... it's been on for a few years now. It really doesn't add that much to the cost. i mean you're spending $200 whats another 10?
  • Why stop at e fees? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Paulrothrock (685079) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:37PM (#18198814) Homepage Journal

    Why not force manufacturers and service providers to pay for the waste they generate from their items? If McDonald's had to tack on a fee for every napkin or every Big Mac box, you can bet that they'd cut down a lot on waste to keep people from not being able to afford eating there.

    • by schwit1 (797399)
      Manufacturers won't pay, the consumer will. Any costs will get passed on in higher prices.
      • If you follow that logic, higher prices reduce demand which does make the manufacturer pay.
      • Yes, but the consumer would also not have to pay for garbage pickup, as the fee would pay for that.

        Also, it will provide an incentive for companies to limit the amount of disposable parts in their products to lower their costs in order to better compete. If Burger King starts wrapping burgers in rapidly biodegrading materials, or using biodegradable plastics in their ketchup packets, they'll pay a lower disposal fee, which allows them to lower their prices, which gives them a competitive advantage.

        This go

    • by hurfy (735314)
      ROFL, My pet peeve. They have too much $$$ to make it stick, we tried.

      WA state has a litter tax on gross sales for many businesses.....Fast food joints are now exempt! Where the fuck do they think the litter comes from? Well they know but bought off my McD and friends. Obviously .015% of sales would surely bankrupt the poor clown. But we have to pay as a medical supply company. Ensure=nontaxable food=grocery store=tax :/

      No doubt this would turn out the same.

      And where are these laws they mention for WA? Last
  • So, if/when the feds enact their fee, the states will repeal theirs, right?
    No?
    why aren't I surprised?
     
    The answer to everything in the world is not having the federal government charge a fee and create more wasteful programs.
    • These days more regulations and taxes have been established as the answer to all problems, and the automatic first reaction of politicians to any situation regardless of party. It's not only oppressive, it's unimaginative.
  • Proposal (Score:4, Funny)

    by kahrytan (913147) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:40PM (#18198840)
    Or we can just gather up all our trash into giant garbage ball and shoot it into space. Then we let the people in the year 3000 worry about our trash.

  • There's no doubt that the growing amount of ewaste is a huge problem, but if we're going to charge the consumer for the fee, then there should be stiff penalties for companies like Epson and HP that put kill-switches into their printers to cause them to fail prematurely.

    HP killswitch. [consumerist.com]
    Epson killswitch. [google.ca]
  • by Mutatis Mutandis (921530) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:47PM (#18198914)

    We already have this system "over here" in Belgium, and it seems to work. For example, I would pay 60 eurocents at the purchase of a new PC, and 3 euros for the purchase of a new screen. And 18.50 euros for a freezer. On the total pricing, it is not a large contribution. Tariffs can be found on recupel's site [recupel.be].

    In return, any supplier is obliged to accept the return of an old appliance, even if he did not sell it. If you buy a new device, the supplier has to accept the old one, free of charge. As far as I know, you are not even obliged to make a purchase if you just want to drop off your old junk at a store, although I am pretty sure that it will be appreciated if you would bring the gear to a recycling center instead.

    Typical for us Belgians, I presume, is that our 'recupel' is not a tax, strictly speaking, as it is not paid to the government. It is a obligatory contribution to the coffers of a collection of non-profit organizations. These more or less coincide with the professional organization of the major suppliers of consumer electronics, who do have a legal obligation to take back old equipment. Everything is organized by law, but its day-to-day running is not in the hands of the government. Probably this is more efficient, and besides, it encourages the suppliers to design their devices for easy end-of-life processing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dunkelfalke (91624)
      It is an EU-wide regulation called WEEE [wikipedia.org]
      I definitely like it.
  • Just put it all in a dump. WAY cheaper than conventional recycling, and when Plasma Gasification [google.com] gets to be ubiquitous, someone can make a profit turning it all back into its component elements.
  • In California we get charged $8.00 (not applicible to sales tax) for every monitor or laptop we buy here. But it's nice when we go to the dump they just take it.

    Though if you run a retail business they charge you for dumping monitors (This usually means thrit stores may not have those useful $5 Commodore 1702 monitors on the shelf anymore, only some huge 22" PC beheamoth monitor.)
  • I'm sure that discarded computers are pretty low on the list of things filling our dumps. Are there taxes on other things like cars or home appliances to cover the cost of disposing of them?
  • Pffff (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rorschach1 (174480) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @05:06PM (#18199178) Homepage
    REAL geeks don't need e-waste recycling - they just hold on to their stuff until the Computer History Museum offers to haul it away.

    (Ok, so I'd still be holding on to the VAX, but with my girlfriend moving in there just wasn't room for both. It was a tough choice.)
  • by boyfaceddog (788041) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @05:06PM (#18199186) Journal
    It sounds good on the news. Money chages hands. No one can vote against it with being smeared as "anti-environment". And yet it will do absolutly nothing.

    Its the perfect law!

    Just to clear things up, I like the environment and want recycling, but guys, this is just stupid.

  • Just leave your PC's by the curb in a busy urban area, and they WILL be picked up. We used that technique to get rid of two EXTREMELY heavy 286 servers in London. We were about a block from the British Museum, wiped the servers, left them by the curb and ten minutes later, they were gone.
  • What about those of us that dont throw our old hardware out? I still have my first apple II in the garage.. so i get screwed like when i buy a new tire but ask to keep the old one for the spare?
  • So where do I send my used jpgs, gifs and mpgs to for recycling?
  • E waste (Score:2, Funny)

    by KevinColyer (883316)
    My goodness, does this mean I will have to pay for all the E-mail I delete now???????
  • by StikyPad (445176)
    The tax is reportedly supported in Service Pack 1 for Vista.

    "To empty the Recycle Bin, please enter your E-Tax confirmation code: ______ [C]ontinue, [C]ancel"

    "Windows could not determine if your confirmation code is authentic. Operation aborted. [C]ontinue, [C]ancel"

    "Warning, Low Disk Space! You are running very low on disk space on C: To free space on this drive by deleting old or unnecessary files, please click here."
  • Meh. This is a problem; but please, not another tax. How about a deposit instead? Then, instead of old computers being left with "free" stickers on them out on the street, which happens all the time here in DC, they would be returned for the deposit. This will take time to work though. The sweet spot of the curve might be passed. I don't see any compelling reason to replace my current system. It's powerful enough to do just about anything. It seems like there was a lot more turnover as we moved from

  • by roystgnr (4015) <roystgnr&ticam,utexas,edu> on Thursday March 01, 2007 @06:55PM (#18200454) Homepage
    But the real tragic cost of this program would be the resulting mercury-deficiency and lead-deficiency in our ecosystem. Let's face it: stupid people are hilarious. And although the USA has backup plans for creating new generations of stupid people, even "reality shows" on our televisions and "intelligent design" supporters on our schoolboards just can't compete with the degenerative effects of heavy-metal poisoning in our bloodstreams.

    Why, if we ever run out of the national supply of stupid people, future Slashdot readers might never get to enjoy comments like these:

    Creepy Crawler: That would mean that we can just leave them anywhere, right?

    No, it would mean that you can just leave them at any recycling center, knowing that the cost of recycling them has already been paid for.

    Overzeetop: If I pay the tax, then drop the stuff in the trahscan to get picked up by the muni wate trucks, does that money vanish?

    No - like the "trahs" those "wate" trucks will be taking to the landfills, the money would be out of your hands but wouldn't have vanished entirely. Because no recycling center would be able to redeem your old electronics, the money would remain in government hands. Ironically, instead of keeping heavy metals out of US groundwater supplies it might just end up putting heavy metals into Middle Eastern groundwater instead.

    Needs Food Badly: Of all the things that they can and do tax, now they want to put a tax on recycling?

    No, they want to put a tax on buying things that will have to be recycled, then pay that tax back when the recycling actually happens. The goal here is to make it cheaper to reclaim toxic chemicals than to send them to landfills.

    And this is what I get just browsing at Score: 3. I can only shudder to imagine what's getting modded *down*.
  • Nationwide the cost could amount to $300 million per year.

    And, with ~300m people in the nation that works out to a staggering dollar each.

    Even if you're only taxing working adults, that's maybe $3 to $4 a year.

    What do you think the odds are that we'll actually pay that little? What are the odds there'll be a $30/PC tax or $15/household increase in garbage collection rates to cover the staggering burden that's barely a fraction of what they then charge?

    I've no problem with paying what's reasonable. I find it interesting that the real number quoted works out roughl

  • A better system (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sunderland56 (621843) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @08:59PM (#18201852)
    Make the manufacturer of any consumer item responsible for collecting and recycling old equipment.

    Two big advantages:

    • The manufacturer will make their goods easier and cheaper to recycle, since they will be the ones paying for it;
    • It keeps the government out of it.

    Yes, of course, the manufacturer will up their prices a little. But, that makes the fee proportional to the actual cost, instead of a flat government fee.

    Ideally you could apply this to ALL consumer goods - including televisions, monitors, and automobiles.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

Working...