Washington State Again Leads Nation in Recycling

Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington State has signed into law the electronic waste recycling bill, SB 6428, passed by the Legislature. This puts Washington State into the forefront of dealing with this issue. The New York Times today credited Washington state as “enacting the most far-reaching electronic waste bill to date.”

In her press release Gov. Gregoire notes “This bill puts our market-based economy to work for the environment…. “It’s a responsible step in the best interests of the public, because no matter who owns the equipment at the end of its life, it will be recycled – free of charge.”

In an article in the Seattle PI today byThe Associated Press, Rachel La Corte states that Washington state residents throw out more than a million TV’s and computer monitors each year. This figure comes from a two year study by the Department of Ecology.

Nationally about two million tons or 4,000,000,000 pounds of electronic waste are generated each year according to the U.S. environmental Protection Agency.

The New York Times notes that televisions and computers can contain up to 8 pounds of lead as well as other toxic materials like mercury and cadmium which can leach into and poison drinking water supplies.

The new Washington state law requires that computer and electronic companies establish and set up a program to collect and safely dispose of discarded electronics. Manufactures will pay for the system, rather than consumers paying to dispose of the old products.

We know consumers will still pay for it as part of overall system costs but still the disincentive to recycle when you have to pay for disposal when your TV dies is not there. You will be able to do it for free under the new law.

Hewlett Packard and the Washington Retail Association among others testified in support of the bill.

Locally this legislation was spearheaded by Washington Citizens for Resource Conservation.Further excellent analysis of the bill and their efforts can be found on their website.

The passage of this bill is one of the recent success stories of the environmental community here is Washington state. The e-waste recycling bill was picked as one of the 4 priorities of the environmental community this year under their Priorities for a Healthy Washington Campaign. Three out of their four prime bills were enacted.

The text of this legislation and the history of the Legislature’s actions on this bill can be seen at the official website for the Legislature. The following Washington State Senators were original sponsors of the bill:

Senators Pridemore, Esser, Poulsen, Morton, Schmidt, Fairley, Benson, Berkey, Regala, Kohl-Welles, Weinstein, Prentice, Kastama, Johnson, Thibaudeau, Kline, Eide, Shin, Rockefeller, Jacobsen, Haugen, Doumit, Oke, Franklin, Swecker, Carrell, Rasmussen, Spanel, Fraser, McAuliffe, Keiser, Brown, Finkbeiner, Brandland, Benton were prime sponsors of the original bill. You can send an e-mail to them to thank them for their support by clicking on their name above.

The final vote in the Senate was 38 to 11. In the House it was 69 to 29.

Washington Citizens for Resource Conservation is one of the success stories come out of progressive politics in Washington state. In 1979, I worked with others to put together and run Initiative 61 for deposits on beverage containers. It was an initiative to the Legislature. We secured 43 Legislative sponsors but the Legislature ultimately didn’t act.

I-61 was placed on the November ballot. We faced a record spending blitz at the time of over a million dollars by grocery stores like Safeway and bottling industry distributors for Coke and Pepsi among others.

Initially having over 70% support in the polls we wound up losing 43% to 57%. As a grassroots organization with little funds we couldn’t compete with their million campaign.

After the election the volunteers and campaign people involved in our organization, Citizens for Returnable Beverage Containers, were polled to see what they wanted to do next. Despite our loss they wanted to continue working for increased recycling. We reformed under the banner of Washington Citizens for Recycling and successfully engaged over the years in promoting recycling in Washington State.

A number of years ago the organization changed names to Washington Citizens for Resource Conservation, to broaden its focus but it continues to be an active and successful grassroots organization in this state. A special thanks to all those continuing the good fight.

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