California Gov. Gray Davis vetoed a bill Sept. 30 that would have set a mandatory $10 recycling fee—the first in the nation—on each of millions of new televisions and computers sold in California.

The recycling fee, which would have begun in 2004, was expected to generate up to $240 million a year for grants to cities, counties, materials handlers, nonprofit groups, and electronics manufacturers to encourage consumers to recycle their products.

Millions of computers and televisions are piling up in California schools, offices, and homes because the state banned them from landfills last year.

Davis said he is troubled by electronic waste, but expressed concern “that this program is not the most efficient or most cost-effective approach for California.” He said the bill would add 64 new state jobs at a time when he is trying to cut 7,000 positions.

“We should compel industry to solve this problem,” he said.

Scott Ribble, policy analyst for Californians Against Waste, the bill’s sponsor and the group that passed the state’s 1986 bottle recycling bill, expressed disappointment in the governor’s choice.

“It would have been a positive step toward establishing a convenient and effective system for [cathode-ray tubes, or CRTs] in California,” Ribble said. But “the electronics industry is one of the more influential in Sacramento, so we were certainly fighting an uphill battle.”

The bill, authored by Sen. Byron Sher, D-Stanford, was considered the nation’s first such strategy to prod large-scale alternate solutions to disposing what is increasingly called “eWaste.” Opponents in a state that pioneered much of the computer industry in Silicon Valley included computer manufacturers, electronics retailers, and other business groups.

All argued the state should wait for national action.

But California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control says CRTs, which convert electronic signals into visual images in computers, televisions, and other electronic devices, contain an average of five to seven pounds of lead each and threaten the environment.

Since the ban on hauling electronics devices to landfills, the California Integrated Waste Management Board estimates that Californians have stockpiled more than 6 million computers and televisions because they don’t know what else to do with them. Another 10,000 become obsolete every day, the agency reports.

A companion bill, also vetoed by the governor, would have established “incentive grants” to spur more recycling. The money would help cities, nonprofits, and manufacturers run recycling and disposal drives for CRTs. Since the landfill ban, many cities have had to subsidize recycling drives themselves, and numerous nonprofit collectors have stopped taking computers and televisions.

Some of the money also would have funded a public education campaign to encourage recycling.

Californians are already familiar with such extra costs for products, paying special fees on new tires to dispose of them when they wear out.

Links:

California Governor’s Office
http://www.governor.ca.gov/state/govsite/gov_homepage.jsp

Californians Against Waste
http://www.cawrecycles.org