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Legislative Memo

BILL:

A.10051 (DiNapoli)

Support

SUBJECT:

Mercury Product Labeling

 

DATE:

March 22, 2004

 

The Business Council opposes this bill that would require the labeling of all products sold in New York to which mercury has been added during the manufacturing process, and prohibit the disposal of such products in the municipal waste stream.

First, we question its need and its cost-effectiveness. Products in the municipal waste stream make up a small and declining source of mercury emissions (around two tons per year nationwide from waste-to-energy facilities, and 0.1 TPY from municipal landfills, according to current EPA estimates). The combined impact of reduced mercury usage by manufacturers (90 percent reduction since 1980), the increase in mercury recycling efforts, and more strict environmental standards for mercury emissions from incinerators have already resulted in a significant reduction in mercury emissions from the solid waste stream. Further, the disposal ban would impose a significant unfunded mandate on municipalities, which would be required to implement new source separation, collection and transportation systems for these materials.

Second, the scope of this bill is overly broad. Even thought the bill targets "mercury-added consumer products," as written it would apply to a wide range of industrial, medical and commercial devices that would hardly qualify as "consumer products." It would also apply to products that contained a mercury-added products, such as a computer that contains a mercury-containing lamp or a watch, hearing aid or other product that contains a button battery. As such, the bill is far broader than the Vermont statute on which it is based. That state's law applies only to six specified product categories, and the program provides alternative compliance options for some products subject to its labeling requirements.

Finally, the bill contains conflicting provisions with regard to the management of mercury-added products. In one place, it states that disposal of mercury-containing products is banned "except by separated delivery thereof to a permitted solid waste management facility or hazardous waste facility," which suggests that source-separated products can be disposed of either in solid or hazardous waste facilities. Elsewhere, it says that any disposal of these products is prohibited, unless mercury first is removed – suggesting that disposal in not allowed even in a hazardous waste facility. While we suspect that the intent is to ban the disposal of mercury-containing products in the municipal waste stream, the bill fails to establish clear statutory requirements. As discussed above, we question the environmental benefit of a ban of such disposal options.

For these reasons, The Business Council strongly recommends against approval of A.10051.