MANHATTAN (CN) – An electronics industry trade group is fighting a New York City law that would make them collect and recycle computers, televisions and other equipment at no cost to the consumers who are throwing them away. The trade group says the “arbitrary, capricious, illegal, and unconstitutional” law would “impose crushing costs and excessive burdens” in it members.
The Consumer Electronics Association, and the Information Technology Industry Council – which claim to represent more than 2,200 U.S. companies – say the city’s new electronic waste law is “a logistical nightmare” and would cost more than $200 million a year to implement.
New York City joined 19 U.S. states and the European Union in creating an e-waste management plan; it is the first U.S. city to do so. The plans try to keep household electronics, which contain lead, mercury and cadmium, from ending up in landfills where the chemicals can seep into groundwater.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 2.6 million tons of electronic waste were dumped in landfills in 2007, the most recent year for which data is available. New York City residents buy nearly 90,000 tons of electronics each year, and throw away 25,000 tons of it, the EPA estimates.
California’s subsidizes its e-waste plan by charging consumers a small fee when they buy new devices. Maine estimates that its program costs 33 cents a pound, according to the complaint.
The electronics manufacturers say New York City’s plan is 10 times more expensive than California’s and Maine’s e-waste programs together.
Before the e-waste laws, residents could bring electronics to voluntary recycling collection centers or leave them out for curbside pickup from the Sanitation Department.
The new program would have manufacturers create 59 dropoff locations and pick up any device weighing more than 15 pounds at the person’s home. The trade groups say local manufacturers would have an advantage in picking up devices, and out-of-state manufacturers will have to increase product costs to compete.
To retrieve 3,000 electronics devices a day from households across the city, the electronics companies say they would have to put hundreds of trucks onto congested city streets. They say the city never studied the effects of the added pollution and traffic through an environmental impact report.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed part of the law, which he called “totally illegal” and said “violates a whole bunch of federal laws on interstate commerce.”
The City Council overrode the veto to pass the e-waste laws in April 2009, setting fines and mandatory performance standards.
Electronics manufacturers must submit a comprehensive plan by July 31, detailing how they will collect e-waste. For every day the plan is overdue, they will be fined $1,000.
There is a $50,000 penalty for each percentage point that a manufacturer falls below volume-collection standards, and a $2,000 penalty for failing to retrieve a piece of equipment even if the company had no role in its production or sale.
The electronics companies say the Sanitation Department ducked its own responsibility when it adopted the rules, even though that department has an extensive waste-collection infrastructure already in place and has curbside pickup for heavy appliances such refrigerators, which contain toxic chlorofluorocarbons.
Besides refrigerators, residents can still discard certain equipment that contains the same worrisome chemicals, including microwaves, video game systems and digital video recorders.
ITAC Systems, a company with seven employees and $1.5 million in annual sales, is a co-plaintiff. It says the city should have exempted small companies like it from the considerable burdens of the plan.
The plaintiffs seek injunctive relief, saying the e-waste laws violate due process and the commerce, equal protection, contracts and takings clauses of the Constitution. They are represented in Federal Court by Michael Murphy with Beveridge & Diamond.
They sued the city, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the Department of Sanitation, Sanitation Department Commissioner John Doherty and the department’s waste prevention, reuse and recycling director, Robert Lange.