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Lawmaker recycles e-waste bill

A U.S. congressman takes a second shot at introducing legislation to assess a fee of up to $10 on all retail sales of desktop PCs, notebooks and monitors to help fund recycling programs.

A congressman from California on Thursday introduced legislation aiming to promote a national infrastructure for computer recycling.

The bill, H.R. 1165, would assess a fee of up to $10 on all retail sales of desktop PCs, notebooks and monitors. It is also intended to provide incentives for computer makers to take back their machines for recycling and reuse.

The National Computer Recycling Act also would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to administer a grant program to help private organizations and state and local governments establish computer-recycling programs in the United States.

This is the second such effort by Rep. , a Democrat whose district covers Napa Valley and the north coast of California, home state to computing heavyweights such as Hewlett-Packard and Intel. His earlier bill, introduced last summer, did not progress far in the House of Representatives.

"There is a real urgency to build an infrastructure to handle the e-waste that our companies and citizens are generating," said Laura Dossa, a spokeswoman for Thompson. "The congressman wants this bill to keep the industry and public engaged and educated about the importance of getting to a national solution."

Cast-off electronics have become a topic of concern for governments in recent years, given the volumes of computers, monitors, television sets, and other gadgets now being thrown away. Those devices contain a range of metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury that critics say pose a health risk if improperly disposed of.

According to the EPA, electronic goods, including PCs and TVs, account for 2 million tons of trash annually in the United States. Residents of California alone have stockpiled more than 6 million obsolete monitors and TV sets in their homes, according to the state's Integrated Waste Management Board.

Computer makers including HP, Dell Computer and IBM, and retailers such as Best Buy and Staples, now offer a range of voluntary recycling options for consumers, in addition to separate programs for businesses. Most of the consumer initiatives include fees that apply only when a device is turned in. Returns of outdated systems by consumers, however, have been modest, according to the companies and to watchdog groups.