PC disposal bill introduced in Congress

WASHINGTON -- In an effort to find a way to safely dispose of high-tech waste, federal legislation was introduced this week that would impose a $10 fee on PCs, monitors and laptops to pay for recycling centers.

The fee would be collected on equipment sales to consumers and businesses, according to legislation sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.).

PCs contain lead, mercury and PVC plastics, which are all hazardous materials. According to figures cited by Thompson, some 41 million PCs will need to be disposed of this year.

The fee would be used to create a federal grant program for building computer recycling centers.

Private-sector businesses are already offering disposal services, including vendors such as Dell Computer Corp. One company engaged in that kind of work is PCdisposal.com LLC in Olathe, Kan.

Kory Bostwick, the company's president, said PCdisposal primarily contracts with businesses, which pay $35 to dispose of a PC, a price that includes shipping.

In many cases, the PC can be reused and PCdisposal resells it, primarily to overseas markets. If the PC is resold, a business can recoup part of its fee or even make money on the old equipment, said Bostwick. "If the equipment still works, let's get it in the hands of someone who could still use it," he said. The company processes about 10,000 PCs and monitors a month.

With time rapidly running out in this session of Congress, action on the bill this year is unlikely. But its sponsors hope to have at least a hearing before the adjournment, a congressional source said.

The Electronic Industries Alliance, in a recent statement, said pending state legislation in California that would impose a similar "advance recovery fee" on monitors and televisions, would likely hurt consumer spending. The Arlington, Va.-based group made that assertion based on the results of an online poll.

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