Schools in California would have to pay an extra $10 waste recycling fee for every computer they purchase, under a bill passed by state legislators Aug. 31. The fee would apply to all businesses and consumers in the state, too.

At press time, Gov. Gray Davis was still considering whether to sign the legislation. Supporters say it would make California a leader in addressing a national and international problem that has its roots in the state’s high-tech industries.

But critics—including the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA)—say the problem should be addressed nationally, and that a California-only fee could hurt sales in the nation’s most populous state.

“Imposing an advanced recycling fee, or ‘tech tax,’ on cathode ray tube products … is a mistake that will hurt consumers and California businesses,” said Heather Bowman, EIA’s director of environmental affairs and deputy general counsel, in a statement. “Instead of focusing on a financing scheme, California should turn its attention to increasing consumer recycling opportunities and to effective consumer education and awareness.”

If Davis signs the bill, computer manufacturers and retailers would have to collect the $10 Cathode Ray Tube Recycling Fee with every computer they sell in California, beginning Jan. 1, 2004. The money would be used to fund grants to local governments, nonprofit organizations, and companies that recycle the tubes.

The state estimates more than 6,000 computers and televisions become obsolete in California every day, and more than 6 million outdated televisions and computers already are stuffed away in closets, basements, and garages.

They can’t go into California landfills, where they have been banned because each contains four to eight pounds of lead, as well as other toxic materials.