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Electronics Recycling Laws in Oregon Legislature

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A story in today’s Oregonian, “Proposed state electronics law targets landfills,” reminded me of a virtual reference request I had some time ago (very early in this current Oregon legislative session). I’m not sure you want to plow through my answer (a bit longer than my average blog posting), but if you are so inclined, here it is. (And you’ll also get to see how tricky virtual reference (VR) is, when you don’t have a person in front of you. (VR can make it a lot harder on both the librarian and on the person asking the question. The risk is great that they can get a lot more or a lot less of what they really want and need.)

This VR library patron asked if there was an Oregon equivalent to European RoHS laws:

“A quick search in the Oregon statutes doesn’t reveal one, but deeper research is needed before determining if the answer is yes or no. In real life, the answer to a specific legal question is often “it depends” or “sort of” or variations on those. There may also be legislation in the pipeline (see e.g. 2007 House Bill 2395, in the Oregon Legislature). Would this be of use to you?

But, before proceeding much further, let’s make sure we are talking about the same legislation.

If you are talking about EU Directive 2002/95/EC On the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (and on EU Directive 2002/96/EC), notice that it is a Directive, not a law. Directives under European Union law have a different purpose and effect than regulations. That said, it is a Directive on a matter that has worldwide impact. In fact, it appears that California has adopted regulations that bear some resemblance to this EU Directive and other U.S. states may have as well. The U.S. Congress and the EPA may also be considering such legislation. And, although it is possible that even if Oregon doesn’t have its own laws on RoHS, Oregon businesses may still want to (an in some cases have to if they do business in Europe) comply with the RoHS directive in place in any of the EU countries that have adopted it. (http://www.buyusa.gov/oregon/weeerohs.html).

Comparing different country’s laws, and trying to find equivalents, can be frustrating at best. Differences in terminology, legal references, legislative history, and government structure, not to mention differences in language and spelling, make it very difficult to find similar laws. This is not to say one cannot find similar laws, but you may need to learn more about how statutory language differs from country to country. You might find it helpful to look at the California regulation just promulgated in December to find language that is being used in the United States for this type of legislation: (http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/EWaste/index.cfm).

As for whether or not Oregon has a law or a regulation that serves a similar purpose, if you are not in a rush and are willing to delve into the intricacies of state environmental and hazardous waste statutes and regulations, you may find an answer (which may very well be no) yourself. However, as a researcher myself, I recommend that you both research the subject yourself in the Oregon Revised Statutes (http://www.leg.state.or.us/) and in the Oregon Administrative Code (http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/banners/rules.htm) AND contact those state regulatory agencies that could assist you. I recommend you contact those government agencies that regulate hazardous substances or international trade. I would start with these:

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (http://www.oregon.gov/DEQ/)
Western Regional Hazardous Substances Research Center (http://wrhsrc.oregonstate.edu/)
Oregon Economic and Community Development Department (http://econ.oregon.gov/)

You might also want to contact your elected state for federal Representatives and Senators to find out if any legislation is being considered this legislative session in Oregon or in the U.S. Congress. You can find contact information for both your state and federal elected representatives here: http://www.leg.state.or.us/ . It appears as if there may have been one proposed in 2005 (http://www.leg.state.or.us/05reg/measures/sb0700.dir/sb0740.intro.html) but you would need to check to find out one has been proposed this legislative session.”

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