Mandatory Recycling Laws Are Problematic

The widely exaggerated and, in some cases, bogus assumptions concerning the dangers of used computers are creating widespread panic among policy makers who view the issue of e-waste as a desperate and uncontrollable situation. Moreover, these fears are driving perverse and harmful policy objectives in a frantic attempt to solve a nonexistent crisis.

Policy makers, in the mistaken belief that recycling is the answer, increasingly are considering mandatory "take back" and/or recycling laws—that is, shifting the responsibility for waste back to the producer to recycle the waste—accompanied by "green design" mandates. Policy makers assume that requiring manufacturers to take back and recycle used products will create incentives for them to make more "eco-friendly" products.

Efforts in recycling e-waste at the federal, state, and local levels have been made more difficult due to environmental activists and a misinformed media, says the author.

Efforts in recycling e-waste at the federal, state, and local levels have been made more difficult due to environmental activists and a misinformed media, says the author.

This idea is an outgrowth of two concepts pushed by eco-activists: "product stewardship" and "extended producer responsibility." These policies hold that because natural resources are limited, measures must be taken to conserve those resources and that the best method is to hold the manufacturer responsible for the waste he produces. Further, it assumes the producer should be made to "internalize" environmental "external" costs so he will be motivated to minimize pollution, and that a pricing mechanism for the product will emerge that incorporates that universal cost. "Takeback" and mandated recycling laws are the direct result of the "producer responsibility" concept.

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