U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   07/26/2005
Statement of Honorable James Talent
United States Senator from the State of Missouri
An Oversight Hearing on Electronics Waste

I would like to thank Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Boxer for holding this important hearing on electronic waste, the first of its kind in the Senate.

There are roughly 50 million computers and 20 million televisions disposed of every year, some are illegally dumped, some are recycled, and others are just thrown away with the garbage. Computer monitors and televisions are a potential threat to our environment since they contain four to eight pounds of lead as well as other harmful materials. Because it’s not always convenient to recycle computers, TVs and their parts, a lot of people store them in their basements, attics and backyards or just throw them away. According to the EPA, U.S. households have an average of two to three computers and televisions that they are not using in storage. That’s about 70 million computers and televisions nationwide sitting around, collecting dust and potentially harming the environment.

One of the largest illegal computer dumps was located in Rolla, Missouri. Someone was running an illegal computer recycling business out of a rented building on the property. Instead of properly disposing of the computers, the man collected over 15,000 monitors and dumped them. Cleaning up this illegal dump cost Missouri taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

To avoid these types of hazardous and costly situations, Senator Wyden and I have introduced legislation that creates the first-ever nationwide infrastructure to deal with e-waste. The “Electronic Waste Recycling Promotion and Consumer Protection Act” (S. 510) gives tax credits to consumers as well as to manufacturers, and retailers for recycling old or unwanted computers and TVs. Importantly, this tax credit is completely voluntary. If folks don’t want to recycle their old TVs and computers, they don’t have to and there will be no penalty, which is where the law is now.

Here’s how the legislation works: There is a $15 credit, which is a one-time deal for people like you and me that may have a computer or TV in our basements. To get the credit, you must submit with your tax return proof that the recycling was done by a qualified recycler.

There is also a small business credit, which operates like this: An $8 credit is available to anyone who collects no less than 5,000 TVs or computers in a given year and proves that they are recycled by qualified recyclers. They just have to submit with their tax returns a record of who recycled the computer or TV and where it ended up.

We want to encourage people to do the right thing and recycle by developing a national solution, which is most desirable in the long run to avoid manufacturers and retailers from dealing with a patchwork of 50 different state laws. This legislation will also help domestic manufacturing as companies will use the tons of recycled materials to make new computers and other electrical and industrial products.

Further, it is pro-consumer since folks will have an incentive to recycle an old computer or TV and take the tax credit or use the money toward the purchase of new technology. Presently, consumers are actually discouraged from recycling e-waste since the garbage collector doesn’t always collect it, folks don’t know how to otherwise dispose of it, or manufacturers charge fees to recycle the technology. This bill helps move us in the right direction by providing people with incentives, rather than disincentives, to be environmentally responsible.

I am pleased that we are working with a broad business and environmental coalition support this common sense, pro-business, pro-technology and pro-environment solution to e-waste. In particular, I want to thank the Missouri Recycling Association and its 163 individual and business members for endorsing this first-ever federal electronics recycling bill.

Thank you for letting me join you today to discuss this pro-job, pro-technology and pro-environment legislation.