Recycling Police on Aisle Nine

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The Oregon legislature is about to create a new entitlement program for consumers. HB 2626, which passed out of the House Environment Committee this week, will mandate recycling centers for televisions, computers, monitors, and other electronic products. The program will be free to consumers and the service must be convenient to people in every county in Oregon. If it is not, manufacturers of those products may be required to provide door-to-door pick-up of used products to ensure that they are recycled.

In the lingo of environmental regulation, this is known as the “producer-responsibility” approach to recycling. Those who embrace the philosophy believe that consumers can’t be trusted to use products appropriately, so manufacturers must be forced to take products back when consumers are done with them, even though that may be decades in the future and the company may no longer even exist.

Of course, this “free” service will quickly become very expensive, as we know from experience. Our “free” government education system costs us about $10,000 per student in Oregon, and Medicare has a $30 trillion unfunded liability. The recycling mandate of HB 2626 will raise the cost of electronic goods in Oregon far beyond what would be the case in a voluntary, market-driven system of re-use and recycling.

The people who are responsible for the safe disposal of consumer products are consumers. Let’s keep it that way.

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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