Monday, March 10, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

The tug-of-war over the recently passed electronics recycling bill continues, as the mayor hunkers down in his opposition, refusing to implement the law because he feels that it unfairly burdens manufacturers. In today's NY Times, the paper focuses on the general complexity of the issue: "In New York City, finding an appropriate final resting place for aging computers, boom boxes and televisions can be an arduous task. An even more daunting obstacle might be educating their owners."

What the article underscores is that most folks have no idea what to do about their old electronics gadgets-and any law faces a daunting educational task: "Sabrina Brown, for example, has never heard of “e-waste” recycling. Ms. Brown, 20, a student from Richmond Hill, Queens, said she had three cellphones, an old laptop computer, an old television, two old radios and three old cameras sitting in her room. “I don’t know where to take them,” she said."

The Times does point out that there are venues that consumers can utilize to get rid of their stuff, but the methods and easy availability are challenging. Which means that whatever methodology finally get put into place must create a collection process that is efficient as well as economical; and manufacturers must play a key role.

Which leaves us puzzling over the mayor's staunch defense of manufacturers: "Mr. Bloomberg has expressed strong opposition to a bill passed by the City Council last month that would fine New Yorkers $100 for throwing electronics in the garbage and would require manufacturers to take back their products and those made by companies that are no longer in business. Mr. Bloomberg, who says the bill penalizes manufacturers for the behavior of consumers, is expected to veto the measure this week, but the bill may have enough support in Council to pass in an override or a compromise."

And the inconsistency of the City Council also raises some questions, since a recently passed plastic bag recycling measure mandated no role whatsoever for manufacturers; placing the burden instead on the city's retailers. All of which underscores the extent to which city policies ignore the impact on the profitability of local business, something that will no doubt play a role in the next election cycle.