Recycling fee could hurt sales of new computers

Computer manufacturers will likely see their already slumping sales deteriorate further after a recycling fee on computers purchased for use in the home is imposed in April.

Although the fee, which will be collected at the time of purchase to cover the costs of recycling when the computer is discarded, may create a temporary upswing in sales as consumers rush to buy new models ahead of its implementation, it remains unpopular among manufacturers.

Last year, a subcommittee of the Industrial Structure Council, an advisory panel to the minister of economy, trade and industry, debated what to do about recycling computers already in homes, but no consensus could be reached and the matter was postponed.

Manufacturers wanted fees collected at the time of disposal, but experts and consumer groups said doing so would trigger a rise in illegal dumping.

This year, manufacturers accepted what they saw as the second-best solution, which is to collect the fees at the time of purchase. However, what exactly will become of the money that is collected has yet to be worked out.

Manufacturers want to see consumers pay a separate fee when purchasing new machines that would be added to a computer’s price.

They would then, they say, use these fees to dispose of the new machines when they are eventually tossed out.

A separate system would be set up to collect fees for computers that are already in the hands of consumers, while the new computers would bear a seal indicating fees had been paid.

The Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association has pointed out possible problems with the plan to collect fees at the time of purchase. The first objection is that if fees are included in the price, they would be subject to corporate income tax. Secondly, some stores might not collect the fees in an attempt to boost sales. And finally, it isn’t clear who would take charge of fees collected by a manufacturer that goes bankrupt.

This year, computer shipments are expected to drop 12 percent on year as prices continue to fall. Locked in a perpetual price war, manufacturers may try to reassure consumers by advertising that their prices include the recycling fee when the system is implemented.

Since April, manufacturers have been required to collect discarded business-use computers for recycling. They charge 3,000 yen to 5,000 yen for the service, but complain that those fees aren’t high enough to make the system profitable.

Now that they will be required to recycle home-use computers as well, manufacturers are bracing themselves for a further hit.

An executive at a computer maker acknowledged that demand for computers would likely rise shortly ahead of the introduction of the recycling fee. But, he said, this would only be a short-term upturn within a larger downward trend. In his view, the introduction of the fee should be postponed.

The ministry will again take up the issue of what to do about recycling computers already in people’s homes at a subcommittee meeting in January, 2002.

Recycling; reciclagem; resíduos eletrônicos; electronic waste; residuos eletrónicos

Ano da Publicação: 2001
Fonte: The Asahi Shimbun, 21/12/2001
Autor: J. H. Penido
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