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Electronics-recycling bill retooled

But some say the legislation isn’t needed at all

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Utah lawmakers have a lot of opinions on electronic trash, but when it comes to requiring the state to develop a recycling program to educate Utahns — that legislation got thrown in the dumper.

HB67 moved to the House floor Wednesday, but only after the House Public Utilities and Technology Standing Committee tore it apart.

Hoping to head off a flood of potentially toxic electronic junk that makes its way into the landfill, Rep. Ralph Becker, D-Salt Lake, is sponsoring legislation that would establish an educational program on where to dispose of old computer screens, TV sets, cell phones and the like.

"I envision a Web site set up at no cost to government," Becker said.

Environmental regulators like the idea. Since the Department of Environmental Quality already maintains a Web site, information on where to dispose of old electronics would be added to that by coordinating with what other counties in the state are doing.

"We believe it's an appropriate first step," said Brent Bradford, deputy director of DEQ. "It's a matter of public awareness."

But after some debate, Becker's bill was sent to the House with modifications.

For instance, HB67 no longer requires the Solid and Hazardous Waste Control Board to establish the educational initiative, just simply "encourages" it. And there is no longer a need for the board to report its progress to a legislative interim committee.

Some states ban the disposal of computer screens, TV sets and other glass picture tubes in landfills and incinerators because the cathode ray tubes — the screens used in television and computer monitors — contain hazardous waste that can seep into the groundwater under landfills or, if the tube is incinerated, get into the air.

Other states impose a small fee on the purchase of such equipment to pay for disposal programs.

Becker figured those types of requirements wouldn't fly with the Utah Legislature, which has resisted mandatory recycling measures in the past.

"I wasn't interested in pursuing anything quite that harsh," he said. He also didn't want to put a financial burden on the state or local governments.

But Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, wasn't buying the free price.

"I can see this thing blossoming," he said. "I'm concerned with rural Utah. They don't have the means to dispose of these things."

Rep. Chad Bennion, R-Murray, wanted to scrap the whole legislation because he didn't think a law was needed.

"I think we are headed down the wrong road," he said. "I think it's great to educate and inform (about electronics recycling) but we shouldn't need a law to do that."

E-mail: donna@desnews.com