NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 10, 2005

In California alone, 10,000 home computers and TVs are thrown away every day, prompting worried lawmakers to implement a costly statewide recycling program. Yet, the hype over "e-waste" is overblown, says policy analyst Dana Joel Gattuso.

California is the first state to charge consumers a $6 to $10 fee on the purchase of any home computer, laptop or television in order to finance recycling of electronics. Environmentalists claim that e-waste in landfills is growing exponentially, and the heavy metals used in electronics pose a threat to humans and the environment.

This claim flies in the face of recent research on the subject, says Gattuso:

  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, e-waste accounts for only 1 percent of total municipal waste.
  • In 2003, a University of Florida study of 11 municipal landfills showed that lead concentrations were far below the EPA's safety standard and less than 1 percent of what the EPA's landfills had predicted.
  • A year-long, peer-reviewed study by the Solid Waste Association of America revealed that heavy metal concentrations in leachate (liquid waste) and landfill gas are far below established safety limits.

In 2001, California's lawmakers banned TVs and computers from landfills, based on misplaced fears, but the cost of recycling electronics is $500 per ton, compared to only $40 per ton for disposal in landfills. Furthermore, some observers estimate the current fee is too low to cover recycling costs and may eventually reach $60 per computer or TV.

As if the recycling program doesn't go far enough, the state will require computer manufacturers to phase out lead, mercury, cadmium and other substances used in production by 2007.

Source: Dana Joel Gattuso, "Costly Hysteria on "E-Waste": Eco-activists' Gross Distortions Behind State Crusade to Recyle TVs, PCs," Orange County Register, March 6, 2005.


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