Starting Wednesday, new legislation takes effect that compels personal computer manufacturers to collect used PCs from households and recycle their parts, with consumers footing the bill. The following are basic facts about the recycling process:

Q. Why was the system introduced?

A. The new legislation is a response to the growing number of personal computers being discarded in recent years. Businesses have been required to recycle their PCs since 2001.

According to the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association, fiscal 2001 saw roughly 24 million home personal computers in use, or 50.1 percent of Japan’s households.

But during the same time, the association estimates, some 9,000 tons of home-use computers were scrapped — the equivalent of 460,000 units.

Although government officials say these figures are not high compared with other waste, experts say the volume of discarded PCs is expected to double or even triple in the next few years.

Up to now, municipalities had been handling the disposal of home computers, most of which were simply taken to landfills. However, the drive to promote a recycling-based society has been expanded to home-use computers.

Q. How does the recycling system work?

A. Computer manufacturers will be liable for the collection and recycling of their products under the principle of extended producer responsibility.

Consumers will be charged recycling fees ranging from 3,000 yen to 4,000 yen, depending on what kind of computer is being discarded.

To ensure the system is effective, 36 major PC manufacturers have agreed to set up a joint collection system under JEITA, which will utilize the nationwide network of some 20,000 post offices under Japan Post.

Electronics makers taking part in the endeavor include Toshiba Ltd., NEC Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd., IBM Japan Ltd., Sony Corp., Apple Computer Inc. and Dell Computer Corp. These 36 manufacturers cover nearly 98 percent of total domestic PC shipments.

Consumers can drop off used PCs at post offices or arrange to have postal officials pick them up. Japan Post will then deliver the discards to their respective makers for recycling.

Q. Does the system also cover peripherals or other components, such as printers, PDAs and word processors?

A. No. It will accept PC attachments, including mouse, keyboard and cables, only when they are collected at the same time as the computer itself.

Attachments that are disposed of separately from the main PC unit will be scrapped through regular municipal waste disposal channels.

Q. What steps do consumers need to take when disposing of computers?

A. Procedures vary depending on manufacturer, but in general, applications for recycling a PC can either be made by calling the maker’s recycling section, faxing the firm or accessing its Web site.

Users can choose whether to have their computers collected by Japan Post or take them to a post office. There is no difference in fees.

Recycling fees should be paid at the time of disposal if the computer was purchased before Wednesday, but new computers sold starting on Wednesday will have the fees included in their sales price. This fee is nonrefundable, even if the computer is not thrown away in Japan.

New PCs manufactured by companies involved in the joint collection program carry a special logo to show that users have already paid the recycling cost upon purchase.

Users will have to pay the fee when disposing of computers purchased before Wednesday.

Q. What about computers made by manufacturers not party to the recycling accord, such as off-brand imports or those made by now-defunct producers?

A. If the manufacturer does not have any representative office in Japan, users of such computers will have to ask municipalities to collect them.

However, the Tokyo Metropolitan and the Sendai Municipal governments no longer collect any PCs. Tokyo residents must contact JEITA to ask the industry body to collect their computers, while people in Sendai must contact the recycling firm contracted by the city.

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