Showdown in Court over New York City's E-Waste Law

Date: January 5, 2010

Source: News Room

The battle in New York City over the constitutionality of its sweeping electronics recycling (e-waste) law is heating up; the outcome is likely to affect many states with similar so-called "take-back" laws. Later this month, a federal judge in a Lower Manhattan will hear arguments about whether the City's law requiring manufacturers to collect and recycle electronic goods sold within the city limits is valid. It had been slated to begin last June, but was challenged by two industry groups, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), who have argued the law is an attempt to regulate commerce beyond the City's borders. The Natural Resources Defense Council, which helped draft the law, and the Electronics Takeback Coalition disagree by saying that the law is essentially no different than those of 19 other states with similar "producer responsibility laws."

The CEA and ITIC say the City's law differs by putting the entire burden of collecting and processing electronic waste on manufacturers without any help from consumers, retailers or government agencies. And, even though the law in principal allows manufacturers to deploy their own plans, as written they leave few options. Curbside collection is banned and mail-in programs are restricted to items less than 15 pounds. That leaves door-to-door collection which CEA estimates would cost the industry $200 million a year. Moreover, plaintiff's attorneys argue the law violates provisions of the commerce clause of the US Constitution because it attempts to regulate commerce that is not necessarily initiated within the city nor under any control by the manufacturers themselves.

Sign up to receive our free Weekly News Bulletin