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Texas legislature passes Dell-backed computer recycling bill

June 11, 2007
giantpenArs Technica
Nate Anderson

The Texas House and Senate have both passed an identical version of a bill that would require computer companies doing business in the state to provide free recycling services for those machines. The bill might sounds like bad news for business, but it was actually backed by both Dell and HP.

If signed, the Texas bill would join similar initiatives already passed in more liberal states like Minnesota and California. Robin Schneider, executive director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment, wants Texas to show that a Republican-leaning state can also care about the environment.

“Governor Perry must seize the opportunity to be the first Governor of a so-called ‘red state’ to sign a computer recycling bill that requires producers to provide free and convenient recycling for consumer’s old computers,” she said in a recent statement.

The bill (HB 2714) requires computer manufacturers to provide a “reasonably convenient” recycling plan that requires no additional payments from consumers. Dell and HP provided some model legislation that was used as the basis for the bill, which will only affect computers purchased for personal or home business use, but it could still encourage manufacturers to adopt efficient recycling programs that might then be applied to all machines sold.

The bill would go into effect on September 1, 2008, and would require computer manufacturers to submit their recycling plans to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Companies would also need to file yearly reports on the amount of material recycled.

Assuming that it gains the governor’s signature (it has not yet been signed), the bill looks set to do some good in the computer industry, though it won’t have much effect on corporations like Dell. Dell already has a comprehensive recycling program in place, even offering free recycling of non-Dell machines when users order new Dell computers. To encourage the governor to sign, a dozen environmental activists showed up at the governor’s mansion recently, and they came equipped with the Giant Signing Pen of Shame (not their term for it).

A state analysis showed that the new regulation would cost the state almost nothing to implement, and groups that support the measure believe that it would have a negligible effect on computer prices as well. By requiring every computer company to implement a recycling program and to bear the costs of doing it, the law hopes to use market incentives to stimulate innovative thinking when it comes to recycling the toxic materials found in computer products.

The disposal and recycling are supposed to happen in accordance with state and federal environmental regulations, but Texas has limited power over exports. Hopefully, “innovative thinking” doesn’t mean just shipping the waste to China.


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