The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

July 29, 2010
Recycling: Who's responsible?

Last week, the city of Roseville became the 100th California entity to adopt a resolution ewaste photo.jpgcalling on manufacturers to take responsibility for recycling the products they sell; this week, the Placer County Board of Supervisors became the 101st.

Historically, the job of recycling has been largely left to government, meaning consumers and taxpayers pay the bill. Heidi Sanborn, executive director of the California Product Stewardship Council, wants to change that.

"Government's role in recycling should be limited to goal setting, establishing transparency, oversight and enforcement," said Sanborn, who is calling for the passage of statewide "product stewardship" laws for a range of hard-to-recycle items, from batteries to carpet - and for reform of the state's pioneering, five-year-old e-waste recycling program.

Earlier this month, The Bee reported that the California's e-waste program is plagued by faulty and fraudulent claims and ineffective law enforcement. Since its launch, none of the other 22 states that have followed California have tackled e-waste recycling with a government program; instead they have made manufacturers responsible.

Sanborn plans to convene a workshop later this year in Berkeley to chart possible changes to California's government-run e-waste program. "Everybody else is going producer responsibility," she said. "We are now the outlier."

"This needs to be a very public discussion of the role of government versus the role of the private sector," she said. "We need the primary responsibility to be back on the manufacturers. Right now, they have literally no skin in the game. They just privatize the profit and socialize the cost."

More information about the California Product Stewardship Council can be found at its website at:

Bee photo by Tom Knudson.

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