New York Newsday  [Printer-friendly version]
December 2, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: Precautionary action doesn't always come
wrapped in a "precautionary" label. The concept of "extended producer
responsibility" requires manufacturers to "own" their products
forever, which gives them a big incentive to make products as
harmless as possible.]

By Dan Janison

[RPR introduction: "Extended producer responsibility" (EPR) says
manufacturers have a long-term responsibility for their products --
which gives them a big incentive to create products that are as
harmless as possible. To learn more about this, and other innovative
product-policy ideas, check in with the Product Policy Institute in
Athens, Georgia. -- RPR Editors]

Tossing rechargeable cell phone batteries in the trash will be barred
in New York City under a new law that also says stores selling the
batteries must take them back for recycling.

Citing health hazards posed by the cadmium, lead and mercury contained
in the batteries, on Thursday Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the
measure, which was sponsored by City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell (D-

The measure, effective July 1, 2007, applies only to the kind of
batteries used in cell phones. First-time violators would face a fine
of up to $200 and third-time offenses can draw up to a year in jail.

Koppell said he at first sought to require that other batteries be
recycled, but he was convinced that the latest disposable batteries of
the kind used in radios are no longer the hazard they once were.

As a state assemblyman in the 1970s and 1980s, Koppell sponsored the
law requiring recycling of bottles and cans.

"In contrast to the passage of the bottle bill, which was a huge
brouhaha in Albany 25 years ago, the industry was extremely
cooperative in the passage of this legislation," Koppell said.

"They started with a national voluntary program, which is in effect in
New York City, in several hundred stores, of taking back these
batteries. So we have a template; we know it can work," he said.

Verizon Wireless retail stores, Home Depot and Radio Shack currently
accept the batteries for recycling, the bill's supporters note.

Under the new law, for which there's no equivalent in the state,
retailers "must accept used batteries back from consumers even if they
purchased their batteries elsewhere," Bloomberg added.

The concern is that when buried in landfills, the heavy metals in
rechargeable batteries can poison groundwater. When they're
incinerated, the toxins show up in emissions and ash residue.


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