Wisconsin Passes Producer Responsibility Bill

There’s good news in the world of sustainable consumption and production! Last week Wisconsin’s Governor Jim Doyle signed into law a new producer responsibility bill for electronics. That makes Wisconsin state the twentieth with such a statewide e-waste law. This bill was sponsored by Senator Mark Miller (D-WI), who was one of the first state legislators to introduce such a bill in the US, nearly eight years ago.

This law that Governor Doyle passed is modeled on the Minnesota producer responsibility law, which calls on manufacturers of computers, TVs and printers to meet collection goals tied to what they are selling. It also includes a ban on use of prison labor and it includes a disposal ban.

This is a significant victory in a lot of ways. While only two states such passed laws this year (Indiana is the other), Wisconsin’s new law is actually a very strong one. According to Barbara Kyle, the National Coordinator at the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, “We’d rather pass fewer laws with teeth, than see states pass weak bills that don’t really mean much. This has collection goals tied to sales, for computer, TV and printer manufacturers. Adding printers into the mix is an important development for meaningful laws.”

This bill also continues a strong show of support for producer responsibility laws. Wisconsin is the fourth state in the Midwest (along with Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana) that have recently passed such laws, which goes a long way in showing that regional momentum definitely helps in getting bills passed.

Additionally, and not surprisingly, Wisconsin’s bill was opposed by manufacturers, who clearly lobbied against it (mostly via their industry associations). A strong coalition of recyclers, local governments, NGOs, schools, and some other businesses were able to overcome these lobbying efforts to get this bill passed. It shouldn’t be understated the amount of time and energy that goes into passing a bill over the objections of a regulated industry.

Let’s hope this momentum from the Midwest carries into other regions. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have effective producer responsibility laws in every state. For a full list of laws by state, be sure to check out this great resource.