WASHINGTON-A California legislator has introduced what is believed to be the strictest mobile-phone recycling bill in the nation, a move that comes as state regulators consider adoption of a telecom consumer bill of rights that could serve as a model for other states.
The measure, co-authored by California State Assembly members Fran Pavley (D) and Christine Kehoe (D), would require mobile-phone retailers to put in place recycling programs. Phone manufacturers would have to report to the California Integrated Waste Management Board on the hazardous materials contained in their products and on plans for phasing them out. Moreover, wireless firms would need to inform consumers on where and how to recycle their products.
“Almost 45,000 cell phones are thrown away every day in California-either into a drawer somewhere or worse, into the trash,” said Pavley. “Their circuit boards contain myriad toxins such as arsenic, lead and mercury, many of which are Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxins, and have the potential to be released into the air and groundwater when burned in incinerators or disposed of in landfills. That’s a serious threat to human health and our environment and we need to provide a real alternative.”
The mobile-phone industry has pursued recycling, but environmentalists claim those efforts-no matter how well intentioned-are failing to put a dent in the problem. Last November, Inform, a national environmental research group, said phone collection programs recover less than 1 percent of used handsets. The majority of handsets, according to Inform, end up in landfills and incinerators.
“Wireless carriers have already implemented pro-active recycling programs across the nation, which include in-store collection points for phones and Web-based information for consumers,” said Travis Larson, a spokesman for the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. “These programs benefit the environment and raise funds for community organizations. A mandatory collection program would only increase costs for California’s wireless consumers and siphon money away from these charitable organizations.”