New York Newsday, 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- Bronx).

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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