The problem of electronics disposal is significant (see Chart 2). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that over three million tons of waste each year can be attributed to electronics, much of which can contain poten-tially toxic materials. CRT televisions and monitors can contain four pounds of lead on average, as well as chromium, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, zinc and bromiated fire retardants. Mobile phones, which forecasters predict will rise to 130 million discarded units per year, contain lead and bromiated fire retardants.
Alone, hazardous materials require special handling, but when built into electronics, they can be forgotten, introducing toxins into the environment. In January 2003, the EPA issued a challenge to both the consumer electronics industry and consumers with its "Plug-In to eCycling" campaign. The promotion started out as a partnership between Best Buy, AT&T Wireless, Sony, Panasonic, Dell, Sharp, Recycle America, Envirocycle and nxtcycle, a national recycler of televisions, PCs and other electronics which works with local municipalities. The list has been growing, and has resulted in recycling events and, in some cases, permanent recycling programs. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has become an active participant as well, supporting a number of initiatives. But the group does have reservations about the new California law. "We are concerned about California's ability to implement the recently signed legislation fairly, and hold strong reservations about the product design mandates for manufacturers that are inconsistent with international regulations," wrote Michael Petricone, vice president of technology policy, CEA.