Thursday, February 21, 2008

You did it, now clean it up

When your teenager's bedroom becomes a safety hazard with 5-month-old used socks and rain-soaked tennis shoes polluting the hallways, do you clean it up for them? If you're the parents I've always wished for then maybe yes, but I'm guessing that you hollered your child's name and said, "JOHN JACOB JINGLEHEIMER SMITH, you made this mess, now get over here and clean it up!"

That's what a measure creating a state program to monitor and recycle used e-waste such as TVs and computers (HB2509) shouted to Hawaii lawmakers yesterday in a Finance Committee hearing.

Unfortunately convincing a teenager to clean his/her room with a "you did it, now clean it up" logic doesn't work so easily when asking the legislature for increased funding and staffing of the Department of Health, the agency that would administer the program and monitor the manufacturers, and implementing high-cost fees to local businesses.

The committee deferred the bill.

Don't want to read through all the testimony? Check out the highlights:

  • Tax Foundation of Hawaii opposed the bill because of the high costs to business (Annual registration fee = $5,000). Prices of goods will most likely rise and/or manufacturers just won't do business in Hawaii.

  • DOH opposed the bill because of lack of funds and difficult implementation schedule.

  • The City & County of Honolulu Dept. of Environmental Services supports the bill because when local stations begin transmitting digital signals in High Definition next year, the need for recycling will take off as many households are expected to dump old televisions and buy new digital television.

What do testifiers want changed?

  • The Honolulu Power Plant does not want to be held liable if wasted products get into waste stream because they can't sift through trucks of waste for electronics. "Monitoring is not something that they really do," said Chris Pablo, a representative of H-Power. (The Senate has already amended their version of the bill to reflect H-Power's concerns.)

  • There needs to be a bifurcated approach to recycling TV and computer products because they are different in so many ways: households may have a television for 20 years, while consumers upgrade their computers more frequently to keep up with increased technology. Computer parts have a higher resale value than television parts.

  • Because of the disparity between television and computer products, the program can only work fairly if manufacturers are held accountable at the beginning of the process, not the end.

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