|To the Members of the California State Senate:
I am returning Senate Bill 1523 without my signature. However, I am willing to sign legislation that challenges industry to assume greater responsibility for the recycling and disposal of electronic waste.
I am very troubled by an increasing electronic waste pollution problem in California, as well as across our nation. Local governments report increasing costs to handle, transport and recycle discarded electronic equipment. The amassing stockpile of obsolete and broken computer monitors and televisions grows daily. I am equally disturbed that this dangerous cargo is being sent to underdeveloped nations exposing children to hazardous waste materials. I applaud the author’s effort to address these problems.
However, I am concerned that this program is not the most efficient or cost effective approach for California. This bill requires the state to hire 64 new people, at a time when the Legislature has directed the Administration to cut 7,000 positions. Moreover, I believe that building a state bureaucracy to address this problem is not the best solution for managing electronic waste. We should compel industry to solve this problem.
California has always been a global leader in the electronics industry. I challenge the industry to lead the way and devise an innovative solution for the source reduction, recycling, and safe disposal of electronic waste. Industry already has initiated several successful incentive programs that create a partnership between the consumer and the manufacturer. I believe this would be a better model for California and would foster the concept of an environmentally sustainable electronic and technology industry and provides incentives to design products that are less toxic and more recyclable. Moreover, we simply must demonstrate our leadership and compassion by making sure that California’s electronic waste is not irresponsibly sent to underdeveloped nations.
The European Union is working on a program to assure that manufacturers maintain responsibility for the safe recycling of the products they produce. I am encouraged by the product stewardship approach and believe this model, tailored to fit California’s recycling and disposal infrastructure is worth pursuing. California needs a comprehensive and innovative state law that partners with product manufacturers, establishes recycling targets, and provides for the safe recycling and disposal of electronic waste. Setting environmental standards and providing manufacturers flexibility to meet them is the cornerstone of California’s air quality laws and has generated a new generation of car emission reduction technologies and improved air quality for the public. I am convinced we can do the same for electronic waste.
I strongly urge industry and other interested parties to rapidly devise a solution, in keeping with the goals I’ve articulated in this message. There is no time to waste. I believe California should have a new law next year.
I am asking my Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency to take a leadership role in working with the Legislature, government, industry, and stakeholders to create a successful California electronic waste program. I am directing the Department of General Services to take steps to assure that the state purchases electronic products that minimize environmental impacts and that state electronic equipment is recycled using best available practices.