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Kit makers trash New York e-waste recycling

Door-to-door pickup 'crushing' and 'irrational'

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Can't be bothered to recycle your old television set? Under New York City's new e-waste program, electronics manufacturers will be required to show up on residents' doorsteps and spirit away aged equipment free of charge.

But two major electronics industry groups are fighting the city's new door-to-door recycling mandate before it's set into motion. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) filed a federal lawsuit on Friday, arguing that electronics makers shouldn't be responsible for collecting New York's old kit.

The city's e-waste program, scheduled to take effect July 31, requires electronics manufacturers to collect old televisions, computers, monitors, printers, and other devices greater than 15 pounds directly from residents, free of charge. For electronics under 15 pounds, manufacturers are responsible for establishing drop-off points or creating mail-back recycling programs.

Electronics makers under the banner of the two trade groups argue that the law imposes "crushing costs and excessive burdens" on smaller firms, and call it "arbitrary and irrational." They estimate the law will cost companies more than $200m annually.

The groups also claim that the legislation exceeds New York City's authority to regulate interstate commerce because it covers companies that don't have a presence in the city, and that it will eventually require manufacturers to collect old equipment that was originally sold by others.

They also cite the alleged environmental drawbacks of the law, claiming the hundreds of delivery trucks necessary for the e-waste program will needlessly increase traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, and carbon emission within New York - a city well known for its open streets, quiet ambiance, and pristine skies.

The trade groups say that their members dutifully comply with the 19 state-mandated take-back programs currently in effect in the US, as well as the various e-waste laws throughout the EU and Japan. But the New York City law goes too far, they claim.

"Despite the technology industry's best efforts to negotiate with New York City officials on a reasonable and effective recycling program, the City is proceeding with plans to impose the most costly, burdensome and environmentally harmful electronics recycling program in the world," said ITI chief Dean Garfield in a canned statement.

"At this point," he claims, "we have no option but to file suit to avoid the disastrous environmental and economic consequences of this poorly conceived regulation. There is a better way to achieve the common goal of an effective recycling program."

Proponents of the law, which include environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters, say the measure will save the city money and create incentives for electronics companies to design products that are easier to recycle. They note that much of New York's e-waste is currently sent to the Newark, New Jersey, incinerator, which pollutes the air with heavy metals.

The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, seeks a temporary injunction while the case is considered. A copy of the filing is available here (PDF). ®

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