Building E-Waste Volume & Efficiency
For David Thompson, director of Panasonic North America’s corporate environmental department, it’s recycling déjà vu all over again.
In the 1990s, Thompson took a leave of absence from Panasonic to help start the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), a non-profit formed in 1994 in response to multiple states requiring manufacturers and retailers to collect rechargeable batteries. The success of the RBRC’s national battery recycling program, which featured actor Richard Karn (“Al Borland” of TV’s Home Improvement) as its spokesperson, was able to prevent an “increasingly difficult patchwork of state laws” regarding battery recycling from emerging, Thompson said.
Now Thompson is heading up the Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Company (MRM), a joint venture formed by Panasonic Corporation of North America, Sharp Electronics Corporation and Toshiba America Consumer Products to manage collection and recycling programs in the United States. “This is really following a very similar path” as did RBRC, he said.
With MRM, the goal is an environmentally sound, economically sustainable electronics recycling program that addresses an already complex patchwork of state obligations for CE manufacturers, and in some cases, retailers.
Nine states have already enacted CE recycling mandates (see sidebar), and each state’s e-waste law varies in terms of products covered, responsible parties (which could include manufacturers, brand-owners and retailers), reporting/registration requirements and financial/operational requirements.
For example, Thompson said that in Maryland, a manufacturer must register with the state, pay a registration fee “and you’re done.” In comparison, he said, in Maine, recyclers sort and weigh products by brand and then bill the manufacturers who made those products.
Manufacturers, and some retailers, are facing a problem of complexity and cost-efficiency as they seek to abide by the state recycling laws.
“No one company is going to solve this problem,” said Thomson.
MRM will “offer the manufacturer hopefully a simpler and hopefully a more cost-efficient way to comply with laws, make sure products are recycled environmentally soundly and eventually offer their customers a recycling program in the U.S.,” he said.