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United States CDA News

National PC Recycling Plan Proposed, Again 323

ThinSkin writes "Two U.S. Representatives have proposed a bill to resuscitate a national recycling program for electronic waste, following the successful launch of two state-run programs. The bill would create the National Computer Recycling Act, and if approved by Congress and signed into law, would tack on a $10 administrative fee to the sale price of computers and monitors to fund recycling efforts."
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National PC Recycling Plan Proposed, Again

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  • What's a computer? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Odo ( 109839 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @12:58AM (#11569609)
    > The proposed NCRA legislation covers both monitors and computer chasses, as well as a "computer with a central processing unit and monitor integrated in a single device," or a laptop.

    Where (and how) do they draw the line? Desktop computer > laptop > palmtop > wristwatch > implant ... maybe it would be better to charge by mass or percentage value (a laptop != a Cray).

    I'm not criticising goal of this law, just curious how an arbitrary line is drawn. Arbitrarily is my guess.

    • by krisp ( 59093 ) * on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:11AM (#11569661) Homepage
      $10 more for a computer or monitor? Come on guys, thats beer money. Are you really going to let big brother raise your taxes to fund earth-friendly programs? As long as there is oil in our nature preserves, who cares!
      • Oil or no, recycling material is a good idea. It makes things cheaper by not having to mine for it. Why dig for silicon if it's already in PCs put out to the curb? As a resident of Earth, I'd like to see some Earth friendly plans just as you would if a nuclear waste company moved next to your house.
        • by Pete LaGrange ( 696064 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:40AM (#11569777)
          Oil or no, recycling material is a good idea. It makes things cheaper by not having to mine for it.

          If it's cheaper let somebody collect it and sell it at a profit.
          Why involve yet another layer of gov't bureaucracy to screw things?
          • by eh2o ( 471262 )
            people already do collect the stuff and sell it at a profit... in china. but they don't deal with the toxic stuff; and that is where recycling gets really expensive. hopefully this will encourage manufacturers even more to use non-toxic materials.
        • Why dig for silicon if it's already in PCs put out to the curb?

          A typical computer probably has many times less silicon than a single beer bottle.

          It's not the silicon itself that is resource intensive; it's the purification, crystal growing and doping processes, which are incredibly energy intensive and involve lots of chemicals for cleaning, masking, etc.

          Recycling the silicon in chips would probably only cover an infinitesimal portion of the total environmentel impact of chip production, since each ch

        • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @03:05AM (#11570056)
          Why dig for silicon if it's already in PCs put out to the curb?

          Silicon isn't a problem, and the few grams of it in the chips of a PC aren't much use to anyone. A handful of sand (or a beer bottle) has much more.

          It's mostly metals, like lead in CRT monitors, and nasty chemicals in various components that are dangerous. Plastics are the next, like the cases of monitors and printers. Steel cases can be melted down easily enough, but that's neither very valuable nor polluting.

          A lot of "recycled" hardware ends up being sent to China. There are villages polluted beyond belief there, where people take components, smash them up, burn off the insulation (creating noxious fumes) to recover copper wire, etc. The poisons are released as smoke or into the ground and rivers.

    • by Fallen Kell ( 165468 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:31AM (#11569741)
      (4) the term `computer' means an electronic, magnetic, optical, electrochemical, or other high speed data processing device performing logical, arithmetic, or storage functions, and may include both a central processing unit and a monitor, but such term does not include an automated typewriter or typesetter, a portable hand held calculator, or other similar device;

      Also note:
      (3) the term `central processing unit' includes a case and all of its contents, such as the primary printed circuit board and its components, additional printed circuit boards, one or more disc drives, a transformer, interior wire, and a power cord;

      (e) ADDITIONAL EXEMPTION- The Administrator may exempt from the requirement of a fee under this section any sale made under a contract or an arrangement that the Administrator determines is likely to result in the maximum reuse of significant components of the computer, monitor, or device, and the disposal of the remaining components--

      (1) in an environmentally sound and responsible manner;

      (2) without violation of any Federal or State law; and

      (3) without reliance on funding from State or local governments,

      when the computer, monitor, or device is no longer of use to the end-user.

      (f) DESIGNATION OF ELECTRONIC DEVICES- The Administrator may designate additional electronic devices to which the fee under subsection (a) shall apply if those electronic devices--

      (1) contain a significant amount of material that, when disposed of, would be hazardous waste; and

      (2) include one or more liquid crystal displays, cathode ray tubes, or circuit boards.

      So, basically right now, only full systems seem to be called "a computer" (i.e. your standard Dell/HP/Gateway, etc., pizza box/tower). But they reserve the right for parts to later be specified, basically anything with a circuit board or LCD.

      • by FuturePastNow ( 836765 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @02:30AM (#11569938)
        I read that too: the term `central processing unit' includes a case and all of its contents

        So, how would this apply to people who build their own computers? If I buy by the part, would I only be taxed on the monitor?
      • So, basically right now, only full systems seem to be called "a computer" (i.e. your standard Dell/HP/Gateway, etc., pizza box/tower). But they reserve the right for parts to later be specified, basically anything with a circuit board or LCD.

        That's not necessarily the way I read the bill. It says that typewriters and handheld calculators are exempted, but the terminology is so archaic there, that just about anything sold today could be deemed to fall outside that exemption! If we got a money-hungry ad

    • by mar1boro ( 189737 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:34AM (#11569755) Homepage
      It would be easy to avoid such arbitrary levies, and to avoid governmental programs altogether. We just need more community driven projects like Portland's Free Geek [].

      The $10 levy is just like every other well-intentioned-sounding tax. It will end up being a money grab, the funds from which will never be used for the program's stated purpose.
      • The $10 levy is just like every other well-intentioned-sounding tax. It will end up being a money grab, the funds from which will never be used for the program's stated purpose.

        Kind of like Social Security contributions?

      • We should certainly reuse whatever we can, but alot of old computers aren't really that usable, and are really only fit for recyling.

        It's one thing to donate your PII-400Mhz machine. It's quite another to dump that stack of 386s that have been rotting in the corporate basement onto some poor nonprofit.

        We have several computer reuse places down here. Anything older then a PII sits there untouched, taking up valuable shelfspace.

        A P-100 can't really run modern programs, the chips are old and unstable, and m
    • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @04:06AM (#11570240) Homepage

      First of all 10$ are barely enough to transport a large monitor to a landfill site. Definitely not enough for recycling it.

      The correct solution is the EU and Japanese one - the companies are made legally obliged to take care of recycling their goods (they sometimes manage to offload it to the reseller, but legally they are responsible for it). As a result if a company makes a product easier and cheaper for recycling it improves its margin.

      With computers it is less evident, as the consumer electronics goods (recycling of) directive is relatively new and few companies have made design decisions based on it. However, it is possible to see where it is going when looking at cars where the legislation has been around for longer. As a result of the similar car legislation recent Japanese cars that are strictly for the European/Japanese market have less then 5% of the car made from non-recyclable materials (IIRC highest are Daihatsu at 98, followed by Toyota and Honda at 97%). Europeans are not far behind.

      Computers are going down a similar path. This in fact is the reason why some companies have gone back to making separate US and EU models. This is also the reason (besides VAT) for the mystic difference between prices for some products in the EU and the US. The Mac mini price in the EU includes VAT and what it will cost Apple to take it back once its lifetime has expired and take care of it.

      There are other aspects to this as well. Introducing such laws causes serious changes to the recycled material market. Recycling has a limited demand and capacity, so filling it with "newer" goods makes recycling old goods economically pointless. You can no longer scrap an old car and get money for it. You have to pay now. The situation with computers is likely to become the same.

  • Yeah... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I guess I'm in support, I don't see $10 as being that bad. It's for a good cause, right? ;-)
    • Re:Yeah... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AvitarX ( 172628 )
      Much better idea.

      Require manufacturers of computers to take back any of their stuff to recycle it (also make sure it doesn't end up in China). They can charge as little or as much for this in the purchase cost.

      As a further incentive treat the "bad" parts like any other hazmat to make sure people do recycle them.

      I am pro big government, but I just don't see them efficiantly using the 10.00 (or even using it for it's intended purpose).

      Also a much better cost/use recycling program would be universal curb
    • No, they shouldn't charge you. This is bullshit. When you buy a coke can, you get a couple cents for recycling. Why should you be punished with a $10 fee when you are the one to care for the environment? If the industry really gives a fuck, they can start building biodegradable motherboards.

      We don't need every chipset to change slot types every year. Do something more creative with engineering. I'd like to see my Pentium I board become Pentium 5 without new boards.

      This is the biggest government scam.
      • Re:Yeah... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by soft_guy ( 534437 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:46AM (#11569806)
        First of all, in many places (such as here in Oregon where I live), we have to pay a deposit to buy soda in cans or bottles. The deposit is in addition to the price of the can/bottle of soda. If you recycle, you often get this as a "refund". Some people game the system by buying cans/bottles in one locale and taking them to another where the deposit is higher (as in the Seinfeld episode where Kramer and Numan try to do this in a mail truck.)

        Second, there are pretty good reasons why your Pentium 1 motherboard cannot be a Pentium 5 motherboard that have nothing to do with the electrical engineer who designed it "not being creative enough" or "the government trying to scam you". The fact is that you would not be happy if the P5 were on the P1 mother board because you would not gain much extra speed from having the P5 on there as the bus would be far too slow. The bus speed is only one of many similar problems you would have with such a scheme.

        Third, electronics companies are in fact moving to more environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques. At my company, we are currently making a transition between normal type electronics and moving to "lead free" electronics for our circuit boards. One of the electrical engineers on my team was pissed recently when he had to redesign a circuit board to be lead free for this initiative. (He wasn't pissed because of the redesign. He was pissed because he originally started to design it as lead free and was told by his boss to design it "leaded" and then after doing all the work over again to create the regular design, had to re-do it again to make it lead free.)

        BTW. Lead free electronics manufacturing requires higher temperatures for the board to be "baked" because it takes more heat to melt lead free solder. Also, I learned recently (I'm a software guy and knew nothing about hardware before I came to this particular company) that newer type circuit boards typically can have circuits at several levels within the board and have parts on both sides of the board. Its pretty interesting.
      • Re:Yeah... (Score:3, Interesting)

        This is the biggest government scam.

        Well, I agree with you in principle that the program is an imposition, there are a lot of other scams that put this one to shame. Example? [] And that's a drop in the ocean.

        The major problem with electronics is the heavy metals that go into their manufacture and disposal, polluting the soil and groundwater for generations. I can foresee a day when people file environmental lawsuits against the electronics manufacturers, in a manner analagous to what they've done, rather

        • Re:Yeah... (Score:2, Insightful)

          by CrazyGringo ( 672487 )
          Dude, there is such a thing as market failure. If there was a market for 'green' electronics, it would already have been exploited. Sometimes, government needs to pass a law to compensate for market failure, which in this case can have disastrous effects for everyone else, even the few who would actually spend extra cash for 'green' electronics.

          It wasn't the market that demanded an end to child labor, after all.
      • Re:Yeah... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Golias ( 176380 )
        This is bullshit.

        A perfect choice of words.

        It just so happens that the Penn & Teller documentary series on Showtime, called "Bullshit!", just released their Season 2 DVD set, and happens to include an episode that lays out in horrifying detail, that most recycling is exactly that. Bullshit.

        Everybody here should see it before commenting further.
  • Already here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pcmanjon ( 735165 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @12:59AM (#11569614)
    My Texas city has a program like this (HEB Hurst Euless Bedford city district) and the stores charge a 30 dollar fee for recycle efforts. I don't see where the extra charge comes in though, as nobody seems to actually -RECYCLE- the computers they buy.

    Where's this extra charge come in?
    • Is the fee charged upfront or when a machine is disposed of? I can see problems either way. If it is charged upfront on new purchases, people will buy over the internet or anywhere else to avoid the fee. If it is charged at the time of disposal, it would be hard to convince many people to pay $30 to drop off something they want to get rid of and see as having no value. I've heard of some cities having free drop off for old computer equipment, which seems to me like the only realistic way to keep it from bei
    • The fee is supopsed to pay for people to pick through the refuse at the dump and pull out computer parts to recycle (like they do with other recyclables).

      Here in CA, we just started charging a mandatory $8 recycling fee for all monitors. I think that goes from something like 8" to 30", no distinction between CRTs and LCD/Plasma.
    • by bs_02_06_02 ( 670476 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @02:44AM (#11570000)
      I'd imagine that most of the local computer stores closed due to lack of business? I know small business owners that buy approximately 10 computers every year. They'd simply drive outside city limits to save $300. It's a no-brainer.

      I don't see how this law is effective.
  • Funny this comes up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suso ( 153703 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:03AM (#11569626) Homepage Journal
    Just today I found a place in Indianapolis called Virtual PC Scavanger or something like that that is doing a hefty job of recycling and reusing old computers. The guy mentioned that they are about to get national sponsorship. Interesting timing.
  • by Dancin_Santa ( 265275 ) <> on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:03AM (#11569627) Journal
    From what I understand of physics, different elements and compounds have different weights per volume. So gold, being heavy, would be heavier than the same volume of hydrogen.

    Archimede's principle dictates that an object will displace its weight in water, which leads to the conclusion that the heavier something is, the lower it will sink in relation to other material surrounding it.

    Computers are made up of meltable parts. By melting the computers down, would it not be possible to skim off various useful elements and compounds at certain depths? This is how they separate kerosene jet fuel from high octane gasoline. It's all together in a vat, but sucked out from different depths.

    Such a system could be set up in someone's back yard (given a large enough back yard). It's well known that some manufacturers use gold to conduct electricity, and silicon is resaleable. So is copper and a host of other really common elements in computers.

    I'm surprised no one's done this yet.
    • I am not exactly a materials engineer, but I believe that many of the plastic components, PCBs, etc., release extremely toxic fumes when burned. Now, maybe they can be melted safely at below burning temperature, and maybe I'm just totally off-base. But most of my little burning experiments as a misguided youth were geared towards less smelly things than electronics.
    • These aren't simple hydrocarbons though. A lot of the stuff won't even melt. Other things will react nastily. Some stuff can burn, i.e.: fiberglass. What would they do with the electrolytes, the ceramic, the fiberglass, etc.?
    • by Odo ( 109839 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:12AM (#11569665)
      > Computers are made up of meltable parts. By melting the computers down, would it not be possible to skim off various useful elements and compounds at certain depths?

      Four problems I can think of off the top of my head:

      1. Computers are not meltable. Circuit boards don't melt (at least not at any reasonable temperature). So there's going to be a lot of debris.
      2. Melting computers would require a lot of energy. Weigh the environmental costs of burning a ton of coal vs burrying a dozen computers.
      3. The resulting pools of liquid wouldn't be very pure. Not if one is relying on gravity to do the separation. To do a better job you'd need to use a centrifuge. Note that many chemicals of different densities like to bond to each other.
      4. Plastics and other low-temperature volatiles would vapourize before one melted steel. So you'd be venting toxic fumes. That means you'd need a big air-purification system.
      Just some thoughts. I'm sure others will think of others. But it's an interesting suggestion.
    • re: I'm surprised no one's done this yet.

      We are. My wife is a safety technician for an industrial recycling plant here in middle Tennessee called Noranda Recycling. They extract precious metals from electronics, and re-process all the HP ink cartidges (you do send those back in the postage-paid envelope, don't you?)

    • Sounds like you want a mineral processing plant with a heavy media separation unit. Grind everything down to 100um (eg: 0.1 mm) and using a range of suitable liquids and slurries separate the material by density.

      At this point you should have separated the raw material into metals, ceramics (including the glass from the fibreglass from the PCBs) and plastics. You need to process these individually as appropriately.

      With the metals you end up with a metalic sludge, suitable application of various industrial c

    • Archimede's principle dictates that an object will displace its weight in water

      I hate to be nitpicky, but not exactly. If an object cannot displace its own weight in water, then it will sink to the bottom. But for floating objects, your statement is correct.

      The rest of your post is well reasoned and yes, there are people doing this (mostly in the second and third world). However, computer parts often contain very toxic substances. Unfortunately, heating these parts to the temperatures needed to melt meta
    • I'm surprised no one's done this yet.

      Might have something to do with environmental laws, don't you think? Causing that much pollution (and it _will_ cause pollution) in a residential area is probably frowned upon.
    • by James_G ( 71902 ) <james AT globalmegacorp DOT org> on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:58AM (#11569838)
      Computers are made up of meltable parts. By melting the computers down, would it not be possible to skim off various useful elements and compounds at certain depths? This is how they separate kerosene jet fuel from high octane gasoline. It's all together in a vat, but sucked out from different depths.

      Close, but no cigar. Oil is seperated into different parts by Fractional distillation [], which evaporates the oil and then condenses it at different temperature levels. In the case of metal, you can't just melt it down and skim off at different levels. It would never settle, due to the heat convection. You'd need to evaporate the metal and condense it, which would take a not insignificant amount of energy.. Nice idea though.

    • You never read the back of Popular Science in the 80s, did you? It was FULL of ads like this -- "MAKE MILLIONS RECYCLING SCRAP ELECTRONICS!!!!"

      It's not even remotely feasible on even a neighbourhood scale. It's like trying to extract gold from a graveyard -- sure, it's there (in the corpses' teeth), but getting it out is going to be a lot more trouble than it's really worth.

      You have to grind up the boards with a giant grinder, then you need either

      1) a good way to separate out most of the metal, or
      2) a re
    • Computers are not mostly metal, but rather fiberglass (PCBs) and plastics (enclosures, chip casings) which burn, rather than melt. Recycling is more complicated that just "melt it all down and extract each imgredient".
  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheUnFounded ( 731123 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:04AM (#11569632)
    What constitutes a "computer"? And do parts count?
  • so this means... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doppler00 ( 534739 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:05AM (#11569636) Homepage Journal
    That the government is going to pocket the $10 per system, while people continue to throw the computers in the trash because it's not worth their time/effort? I know that's not how it's supposed to work, but that's likely what is going to happen here. Leave it to representatives to find more ways to tax us.

    BTW, I have two old monitors that I plan on paying to recycle pretty soon instead of irresponsibly throwing them in the dump. But I don't expect the government to tell me I need to pay a fee upfront to do this.

    And really how toxic are the components that are in printed circuit boards anyway? Yes they use lead in the solder (for the next yew years), but there really isn't that much used all together. Most of the toxic stuff is the chemicals that go into production of these boards.
    • That the government is going to pocket the $10 per system, while people continue to throw the computers in the trash because it's not worth their time/effort?

      This is a good point. Just look at how well it has worked so far with regular recycling. There are thousands of places to take your trash if you want to recycle and help reduce waste, but what percentage of people actually take the extra time to do that? I think it's still fairly small.

      On the other hand this could be a good idea for corporate envi
      • There is one difference I can think of. It is not illegal to throw away paper, glass bottles, or aluminum cans. However, it is illegal to throw away CRTs (and presumably other PC parts) in most (all in the US?) places. So, not wanting to bother is one thing. Becoming a criminal (misdemenor? felony?) is another thing. Second, I throw away cans every day, but how often do I throw away computers/monitors? Once every few years? Also, companies dispose of far more PCs than individuals do and typically companies
        • Re:so this means... (Score:4, Informative)

          by strabo ( 58457 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @02:06AM (#11569862) Homepage
          It is not illegal to throw away paper, glass bottles, or aluminum cans.

          Depends on where you live...

          From here []:

          City of Seattle Ordinance #121372 prohibits the disposal, effective January 1, 2005, of certain recyclables from residential, commercial and self-haul garbage...


          ...Residents are prohibited from putting significant amounts of paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles and jars as well as aluminum and tin cans in their garbage containers as of January 1, 2005. Yard debris has been prohibited from residential garbage since 1989....

    • Re:so this means... (Score:2, Informative)

      by ltmon ( 729486 )
      See here [] for a brief summary of the toxicity of old electronics parts. There is plenty of toxic heavy metals in the components.
    • "That the government is going to pocket the $10 per system,..."

      I was just thinking that the other day. In my city, we already have a recycling center [] run by the city. I feel like I'm being charged for something I'm probably never going to use.

  • Clever Scheme! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The organizations have the right to recycle and/or resell the used PCs, which must be performed in accordance with in accordance with environmental health laws.

    1. Tax 10 bucks on each computer purchase
    2. Use that money to resell old PCs
    3. ??
    4. Profit!
  • Counterproductive (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pan T. Hose ( 707794 )
    If computers are made more expensive it only means that everyone with any given bugdet will have to buy a less efficient one, which in turns means longer computations, ergo more power usage. More power means more oil and its associated problems like the greenhouse effect, wars, polution, poverty, etc. Isn't it just counterproductive to use more oil and produce more toxic waste that escapes to the atmosphere forever in order to solve a problem of a "waste" in the form of self-contained expensive hardware whi
    • by fcrick ( 465682 )
      Slower computers use significantly less power per cycle, so actually buying a slower computer would have a net effect of exactly the opposite of what you suggest. That of course, and (slightly) less computers would be purchased if they were all $10 more expensive.

      While I agree its a tax, all that is needed is to require businesses to recycle their computers, and that will provide plenty of computers that actually get recycled.
    • by wass ( 72082 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:41AM (#11569784)
      More power means more oil and its associated problems like the greenhouse effect, wars, polution, poverty, etc. Isn't it just counterproductive to use more oil and produce more toxic waste that escapes to the atmosphere forever in order to solve a problem of a "waste" in the form of self-contained expensive hardware which can always find a second-hand market in the developing areas?

      Okay, I'll bite. Did you read the article, or are you just knee-jerking?

      You've listed one or two problems with recycling, but haven't identified related problems with NOT recycling, nor have you considered of the appropriate scenarios which approach would have the most beneficial impact on the environment and economy. Sure, recycling uses extra power (hence requiring more oil/coal/gas) and will also release fumes into the air (from the power and the recycling process itself).

      However, not recycling will require more mining and processing to produce more raw materials for new electronic components. Not recycling will result in computers and electronics taking up landfill space. Not recycling will add pollutants to the local ecosystems (eg lead from all solder points and reflow work, PCB's from many plastics, etc).

      Which of these two scenarios is worse I cannot say, but it's not nearly as cut-and-dry as you try to make it.

      Regarding reusing computers, you could still donate/sell your computer to needy people or willing consumers, just as you can do now. It's the dumping of your mobo and other cards into the trash that they're trying to reduce.

      Plus, you say one can "always" find a second-hand market. What about when they're through with the product, maybe a third-hand market. But eventually nobody will want to use your screaming 10 MHz 386 box anymore. Who will recycle it then?

      What exactly is the point of this new legislation if not a new way to add another hidden tax?

      Well, from the article : "According to the bill, the fees would be used to fund government grants to agencies or individuals willing to recycle the used computers. A maximum of ten percent of the fees can be used for administrative costs, the bill says. The organizations have the right to recycle and/or resell the used PCs, which must be performed in accordance with [sic] in accordance with environmental health laws."

      So there you have it, even you (assuming you're eligible under the program) would be able to apply for a government grant, funded by this tax, to establish reselling the used PC's. So if you're really so interested in ensuring used PC's go to second-hand markets then you should be praising this bill, not complaining about it.

    • I agree that this recycling tax concept is a crock to everyone outside of DC... But come on.

      The environmentalist tack with this argument is just plain ... distasteful, without an analysis of the actual power used per cycle of computation, and how many average cycles are being done per time period. To say that computers today can get the same work done faster than those a few years ago is undoubtedly true. However, I see no evidence to support that the computations being done by the majority of the popula
    • Exactly. And consider the environmentalist wackos pushing this apparently don't want our old computers going to developing countries. From the article:

      Simply reselling recycled devices has raised a red flag with environmental groups in the past, who say the problem of recycling the e-waste is simply being exported, along with the PC, to overseas customers.

      We have a saying here: One man's trash is another man's treasure.

      • Re:Counterproductive (Score:3, Informative)

        by cgenman ( 325138 )
        You do realize that most of those are just getting stripped overseas in harsh inhuman chemically-polluting factories, right? I mean, why would someone need a 486 when they don't have electricity? You strip them for heavy metals with workers that dip them by hand into vats of heavy acids, remove anything that solidifies out, and pour the waste into the river, with big piles of melty plastic junk piled up by the side of the road. You then sell the metal for more than you paid for the computer. This is usu
        • Actually, no, I didn't realize that. That's a different matter entirely. I'd certainly send old computers overseas to be actually used as computers, but no way would I support the sort of stripping that you describe.
  • Why the Feds? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bleckywelcky ( 518520 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:09AM (#11569653)
    This should be a state-by-state decision and a state run program. We do not need the federal government adding one more program to the laundry list of programs that they already don't run efficiently. For interstate purchases just settle on a standard where the state of the seller or the state of the buyer collects the fee. Heck, set it up like a deposit system. You pay $10 when you buy the computer and get $5 back when you turn the computer in.

    Smaller goverments run programs better - more efficiency, less impact due to corruption (on a smaller scale corruption is easier to detect), and more people are able to keep watch and keep the program in check. The insight for a program might start on the federal level, but it's insane having 1/2 the programs that we have running at the federal level.
    • That the truth. The last thing this country needs is another Federal fiefdom wasting more money than it will ever collect or save. At the state level it is easier to hold people accountable. If the states communicated with each other the ideas that work would take hold faster, and the bad ones get eliminated.

      Efficiency would be helped if every Govt. Department was put on a hiring freeze until the staf was 30% smaller than today. Don't fire anyone, just let natural attrition (retirement, career change) thin
    • Yes and No, Although I agree with your premise, for this to work, it needs to have some standardization through all states.

      I would go for something fedrally mandated, but locally administered. Some kind of guildlines would need to be established for interstate commerce.
    • Re:Why the Feds? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by soft_guy ( 534437 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:58AM (#11569841)
      The problem I see with enforcing this state by state is when I buy a computer in one state and then transport it to another and try to dispose of it. Also, mail order houses and PC manufacturers like Dell will have to keep track of 50 sets of regulations. This is not efficient and is in fact a pain in the ass for everyone involved I think. It is much easier with a national law.

      And I would not accept at face value that the Federal government is more inept than the state government at running programs. Show some proof on this.
    • Because when assholes like you throw your monitor into the landful then the lead gets into the drinking water of people like me.

    • Tax revenue & political grandstanding! Some might call an agenda to create more government jobs. "Look what I did! I created 1000 government jobs nationwide!"

      Funny, we don't see or hear anything about TVs or microwaves, and I guarantee you that there are more TVs out there, and more TVs getting thrown away than there are computers. Microwaves, same thing. Yet we don't hear a thing from any of these politicians about those...

      I suspect that this is a popular topic simply because it's fashion
  • by BondGamer ( 724662 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:11AM (#11569663) Journal
    Wouldn't it be more efficiant to come up with a nationwide recycling program for as many products as possible? Or at least extend this to all electronics such as TVs, Radios, etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:11AM (#11569664)
    It's $6 recycling fee to buy a computer starting this year in California. I wonder if the US fee will be added to this, or California will just follow US fee.
  • by Datasage ( 214357 ) * <{moc.yergsidlroweht} {ta} {egasataD}> on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:12AM (#11569666) Homepage Journal
    The only reason why i dont recycle much computer parts is that no one will take them without charging you for them. Even then, you dont know if it will get recycled or end up in a dump in china.

    If i paid the recycling fee up front, and was then able to drop off the only stuff at a recycling center at no cost, i would do it much more often. Though without oversight the stuff could still end up in china.

    I guess im still paying the cost reguardless, but I much better about paying when i purchase the item than when I get rid of it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Doesn't everyone know some strange fellow that collects old computers and parts? If you did then you could get money for your old computer instead of paying extra for it. That's how recycling used to work, ie: you collected cans, recycled them, and counted your dimes. But now we have to pay to recycle things...what is this country coming to?
    • In my experiences, these people are getting tougher and tougher to find, though!

      One problem is, as personal computers exist as a "staple item" in our society over the years, the quantity of outdated units keeps increasing.

      10 years ago, lots of people who just liked computers would be happy to take one off your hands if it was free. Didn't matter what it was, really.

      But nowdays, people are getting pickier. "Sure, I'll take your old PC, as long as it's at least a Pentium III system." That sort of thing.
  • by jfisherwa ( 323744 ) <> on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:22AM (#11569709) Homepage
    I wouldn't have a problem with each computer including a $10 "deposit" built into it that you received upon dropping it off at a recycling center, but a fee? Get real.
  • deposit!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mottie ( 807927 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:28AM (#11569726)
    While you're at it, put deposit on recycleable containers (juice, beer, milk) for god's sake.. it pains me to go to a party in washington (and other states), and see case after case of empty beer cans thrown in the garbage. I understand that unintelligent people can't figure out the difference between deposit and another tax, but thems the breaks. ne.htm []
  • This has already taken effect [] here in Alberta, Canada. It started Tues, Feb 1, 2005.


  • More taxes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bullterror ( 412884 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:37AM (#11569763)
    Gas tax, property tax, federal income tax, state income tax, social security tax, sales tax, tarrifs on goods we purchase, capital gains tax, federal telephone fees, vehicle registration (buy a nice car and now I can't even afford the plates on it) and the thousand other taxes that I cannot afford to pay.

    I don't pay enough taxes. 50% of my income just isn't enough. Add it up folks. The government has $150 hammers to buy. Don't try and pawn the blame off on one political party, either. They're both guilty.

    Most people have no clue what they're paying in taxes. The pump thier gas and wonder why it's so expensive but don't even see the 50 cent a gallon tax. They pay their mortgage and don't see the thousands of dollars they're paying in property tax because it's rolled into the payment. Their taxes are deducted right out of thier paycheck. I'm self employed, wait until you have to write out all these checks, it works. Are they going to tax motherboards when I build computers? This will be really good for the struggling IT economy.
  • I just bought a new computer from Dell, and, since I am a California resident, $8 was added to the price for the environmental impact fee. This fee was from just the LCD monitor I bought [], which was $700 or so. That's a 1.1% fee.

    When I buy a coke for 50 cents, I pay a 4 cent environmental fee, or 8%. The difference is that I can get that 4 cents back if I return the bottle--though in reality, it's just easier for me to drop the bottle in my recycle bin each week.

    When customizing a system in which I decid
    • I just bought a new computer from Dell, and, since I am a California resident, $8 was added to the price for the environmental impact fee. This fee was from just the LCD monitor I bought, which was $700 or so. That's a 1.1% fee

      What's really strange is that is for a LCD screen too. Compared to a CRT, a LCD has very little toxic material in it - it's basically a hunk of plastic. And that's not counting all the energy saved during the screen's lifetime vs. a CRT.
  • Who wants to buy a $509 Mini?
  • why not tax Gates and Buffet et al., on their wealth, and use THAT revenue to recycle PCs?

    And let's be honest: they aint gonna use much of any revenue from such a pc recycling tax to actually recycle PCs: they are gonna instead use it for the war machine, or for corporate welfare, or for Congressional pay raises.....
  • by ShamusYoung ( 528944 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @01:56AM (#11569833) Homepage
    I will just build my computers from scratch, and then when I am done with them I can just dump the used machines in some wetlands, or leave it in an empty playground or something.

    Joking aside, this sounds simple, but enforcing this would be more trouble than most people anticipate.

    * $10 a machine is arbitrary. For PC it is so little money that it won't affect behavior. For smaller stuff (like a cellphone or GameBoy) it is a larger portion of the price, and will encourage people to attempt to dodge the fee. (like buying overseas) This is countrproductive, since it's the PC's are much larger and heavier, and are the obviously the targets of this.

    * Not just WHAT is a computer, but WHEN is it a computer? If I buy a barebones system (motherboard and case), is that going to incur the $10? What about when I add a harddrive and memory? CD player? Speakers? What about a monitor? If I build one at home, do I have to fill out a form and tell the gov't I've created one, and mail them $10? What about small-time mom-and-pop computer companies? New paperwork for them too?

    * $10 a person isn't much, but it adds up for schools buying in bulk, particularly if every PC, monitor, printer and router incurs a seperate $10 fee. Think of the children!

    * If I take two broken computers and RECYCLE some of the parts by building one decent computer, how do I get my $10 back? What if I sell this refurbished system? Do I need to add YET ANOTHER $10 onto the price? What forms will I need to fill out to make sure I don't become a criminal when I do this?

    * As with all taxes: collecting it, keeping track of who has paid, tracking down tax evaders, and prosecuting them costs a lot of money. Chump change taxes like this probably cost more than they bring in if you bother to enforce them. What is wrong with all of the hundreds of little nickle-and-dime piranna taxes we already have? Can't you just raise one of them and save us the paperwork?

    * "... tack on a $10 administrative fee to the sale price of computers and monitors to fund recycling efforts" Are you kidding me? Fund recycling efforts? This money will go into the big cannibal pot of cash (like all taxes do), and be spent the same way all the rest of the money is spent, so please don't pretend I'm helping to save the world by giving you $10.

    * Why are we worrying about computers in landfills? Have you SEEN how big and heavy cars are?

    * Dear lawmakers: Not all problems can be solved via the levying of taxes. I know that when you're a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, but don't you have anything better to do?

  • I've never thrown away a computer. I've either given them away or sold them. Somebody, somewhere is eventually going to have to throw one away, but I'm not the one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 04, 2005 @02:19AM (#11569909)
    Here's how it works in Japan, where virtually everyone has a computer, and land dumps are not a viable option.

    First of all, the gov't does NOT pocket $10. Unlike automobiles (which have had an approx. $250 recycle tax tacked onto all new vehicle sales as of this year I believe), computers are still sold at the same cost as before. However, the city will not accept them as garbage. No one (legally) will. You need to call the manufacturer, which has a recycling fee list for each device. On receipt of the call, they'll give you a tracking number, and you pay your fees. Usually about $15 for a computer, $15 for a monitor, and so on so forth. In return, the post office will deliver a special computer transportation box, which you pack your computer in. It is then shipped off to the manufacturer, which is legally required to recycle. Recycle rates are actually pretty impressive.

    This was actually an extension to the household appliances recycle laws that passed a few years ago. TVs, air conditioners, washing machines, dryers and refrigerators all need to be sent back to the manufacturer for recycling. Unlike computers, however, your local electrical appliance shops are required to do the pickup. (They'll come to your house with a truck.)

    In both computer and appliances, if the manufacturer is bankrupt, or you built it yourself in the first place, you call the local municipal gov't which will pick it up (same rough cost) and recycle it for you.

    Some people probably think this will just lead to people taking apart their junk computers, amd trashing them piece by piece to avoid the recycle cost. This doesn't quite work that well though. The case will likely exceed standard garbage size limits (yes, we have such a thing), so you'll still need to pay something like $5 to $15 to have the city dispose your case. That considered, there's not much of a savings associated, and certainly not a clean conscience. Sure, you could dump it in the river, but this doesn't seem to be a big issue with normal citizens, only organized illegal garbage collecting companies which do it large scale.

    All in all, it works quite well. Truth is, now that the laws are in place, with very easy to understand requirements for the manufacturer to take back what they sold, it is much much easier to get things recycled, and the cost is not that big of a deal. And I don't really need to worry about the gov't pocketing the cost.
  • On August 1 2005, a new EU directive will come into force. It will make manufacturers/resellers of consumer electronics responsible for recycling their own product. That is, the customer is entitled to return his product for recycling for free.

    I think this sounds like a better idea than yet another inefficiently run government program, as it gives some incentive to the manufacturer to reduce recycling costs, e.g. by running the recycling center as efficienty as possible but also by designing products that
  • by PsyQ ( 87838 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @02:33AM (#11569948) Homepage
    In Switzerland, the association SWICO [] is charged by the state to deal with electronics recycling of all kinds. When you buy an electronic device (even chainsaws count), a recycling fee is added to the price. Then, when the thing dies, you can take it back to any store in the country that carries similar stock. In reality though, even stores that don't sell any computers or monitors will take them back -- the company that picks up and recycles the stuff is the same anyway. The stores are required by law to cooperate and can't weasel out if you bring them a 15 year old 20" monitor and they only sell LED flashflight keyrings.

    The fees [] are very moderate, I never paid more than 7 francs (5 EUR) for a computer, perhaps 15 francs for a rather big dishwasher. With computing equipment, the fee is calculated by the price of the item. Household machinery goes by weight.

    Many companies, especially IT, still try to make a very small amount of money by selling off their inventory once it gets replaced, so it's not like we all just dump trucks full of laptops at Mom & Dad's Electric Toothbrush Wonderland. But once the thing refuses to boot, it's good to know I can take it back to any store.

    This even covers items sold before 1994 (when recycling became The Law). We've had a few years of experience with this system, and I don't know of anyone who's unhappy with it so far. So: yay for mandatory electronics recycling.
  • WTF? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @02:34AM (#11569956) Homepage Journal
    Why are do-gooders always trying to get their hands in our pockets?

  • freecycle! (Score:5, Informative)

    by lifegonehazy ( 644446 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @02:35AM (#11569961) Homepage
    Freecycling is a great way to get rid of an old computer that you don't want. Check out [] for a group in your area.
  • A lot of times, places will just throw out very usable systems. I know the article said that reselling these systems has raised red flags (bullshit, IMHO), but what about the family that can't afford a computer to help their kid with research projects for school?

    Hardware is just a small part of the problem causing the "digital divide", and nobody seems to really care. Having come from a low-income home, I DO care.

    I tried a while back to get people together to start a non-profit organization to help out th
  • by MatthewNewberg ( 519685 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @04:09AM (#11570250) Homepage
    The Silcon Valley Toxics Coalition []has some very interesting links to articles related to computer and enviroment. I am not worried about the space issue of throwing away the computers, I am worried about the issue of putting all the lead (and other materials) into our eviroment. The World needs to realize just how costly computers are going to be to our eviroment in both creation and disposal. The $10 per computer will not be enough to even think about covering the true cost of getting any computer disposed of safely. I can't say live without computers, but people need to think about buying less of them, and using them longer. Hopefully Linux will have a role in this.
  • by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <> on Friday February 04, 2005 @04:37AM (#11570330)
    Why don't they call this what it's a TAX. They aren't going to recycle your computers. They just want more of OUR money. Writer your congressman. REJECT this bill.
  • Constitutional? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dunkirk ( 238653 ) <> on Friday February 04, 2005 @08:22AM (#11570910) Homepage
    Oh yeah. I forgot about that part in the Constitution that says the government should be involved in recycling PRINTING PRESSES. So, you know, it stands to reason that this should be extended to COMPUTERS. <Sigh.> Congress ought to be disbanded for about 10 or 20 years. We have all the laws we could possibly use right now, thank you very much.

    The gap is already being filled in the private sector, as is always the case. In my small town, there's a United Way agency that takes outdated computers from local businesses (with two Fortune 250 companies, they get some "decent" stuff), refurbishes them, and gives them away to grade-school children. The school system picks up the tab, and they've even partnered with a local ISP for internet access. I've personally given a lot of stuff to the program, and, of course, it's all tax deductable. Everybody wins in this scenario, and there's no need for the government to be involved.
  • by gpinzone ( 531794 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @09:27AM (#11571167) Homepage Journal
    It's bad enough lawmakers are sticking fees and surcharges in everything from cell phone bills to cigarettes. Now they want to add $10 to the cost of computers under the guise of environmentalism? WE DO NOT HAVE A LANDFILL PROBLEM! [] We do NOT need to recycle computers unless that means giving them to the poor.
  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:04AM (#11571962) Homepage Journal
    How about charging end-users $x per gram of toxic materials in a given piece of equipment, with $0 if the end-result product is safely land-fillable.

    A Linux-wristwatch is probably safe to landfill from a toxic-waste standpoint, once the batteries are removed. The batteries themselves though might be subject to such a fee.

    An "low-toxin" PC or monitor should have a lower recycling fee than a less-clean one.

    As for programs to encourage general recycling of non-toxic items, that should be part of our overall tax base, rather than a dedicated user fee.
  • by Bob Uhl ( 30977 ) <> on Friday February 04, 2005 @02:08PM (#11574228) Homepage
    So what's the constitutional justification for levying a $10 sales tax on computers? Or will it be a $10 tax on all computers shipped across state line?

    Congress doesn't have unlimited authority, despite what it believes.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.