Compliance with Electronics Takeback Laws Costly, Report Says

Compliance with Electronics Takeback Laws Costly, Report Says

Gearing up to ensure compliance with Europe's electronics takeback directives and re-designing for heavy metal phase outs could initially cost industry about $40 billion in Europe alone, according to a new report.

The report, "Electronics Recycling: What to Expect from Global Mandates," was released this week by Raymond Communications.

"Electronics makers are struggling to phase out lead solder and other heavy metals on a wide range of products -- from toaster ovens to mainframe computers -- to meet a 2006 deadline, even though the European Commission will not settle all the definitions until 2004," says Michele Raymond, editor and publisher of the updated 230-page report.

"Compliance will require some costly coordination throughout the supply chain, yet our research indicates, for example, that Dutch authorities have little clue as to how they might enforce both of these directives at the Port of Rotterdam."

The report includes a survey of environmental reports of 29 major electronics makers. It finds that nine major Japanese electronics firms spent more than $1.5 billion on environmental design and compliance for the 2001-2002 period, with the giant Matsushita spending the most at $413 million.

In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency has halted financial support for the National Electronic Product Stewardship Initiative, though the process will continue with private funds. The group is attempting to work out a national takeback plan for a more limited number of electronic items in the U.S.

But implementation will be a challenge, Raymond says. "Even if industry agreed to fund all collection costs, how can they divvy the money up among 12,000 local governments?" she says.

The updated report covers U.S. state and federal legislation, as well as detailed coverage of 16 countries, including Canada, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

The report's country summaries include collection fees and recycling rates where available. It also includes results of a 50-state survey of electronics recycling policy, including opinions of state recycling managers.

The appendix includes English texts of electronics recycling laws and documents from 10 countries, including Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.