Electronics Take Back Laws Experiencing Growing Pains
New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania implemented electronics take back laws in January 2011, April 2011, and January 2012 respectively. Each law requires original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who sell specific electronic devices in that state to establish a convenient collection and recycling program for consumers. While these states have created related programs, that is where the similarities of the laws end. As the definition of “convenient” and “consumer” vary in each state, as do the types of devices covered, relevant landfill restrictions, and registration and reporting requirements for stakeholders involved in law implementation. Within the first three months of 2014 all three states hosted meetings with stakeholders to discuss some isolated as well as wide spread challenges different stakeholders were facing with law implementation. Sims Recycling Solutions attended each meeting and a synopsis of issues and possible next steps are detailed below.
New York 2014 E-Waste Summit
Sims Recycling Solutions attended the New York E-Waste Summit hosted by the New York Product Stewardship Council in Albany on January 23 where both issues of concern and future performance of the state’s Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act were discussed by the more than 70 stakeholders present. The meeting was facilitated by Scott Cassel of the Product Stewardship Institute with the end result being the formation of an E-Waste Committee to determine how the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) can better administer or monitor implementation of the state’s law. Please find the following summary of key issues and milestones brought up by each group of stakeholders (NYSDEC, collectors, recyclers, and OEMs) affected by the law.
The NYSDEC opened up the meeting with an overview of their activities, a summary of related performance goals and progress, and issues of concern. The NYSDEC is currently in the process of crafting a report on results of law implementation due to the governor in April 2014. In addition, they are in the midst of developing an electronic reporting system to enable better management and tracking of data collected from the 1,300+ sources (collectors, recyclers, consolidators, OEMs) currently required to report annually to the state. The NYSDEC is also in the process of planning workshops with stakeholders for this summer to aid in the development of formal law regulations.
Performance in 2011-2012:
- 69 OEMs met recycling goal
- 11 OEMs received recycling surcharges for shortfalls
- $786,530.30 were the total invoiced surcharges for the under-collection of 1,579,728 pounds
- 10 of 11 OEMs paid surcharges
- One OEM is in continued discussions with the NYSDEC
- Going forward, the NYSDEC anticipates increased compliance
Issues of Concern:
The NYSDEC had many observations and concerns about how the law is currently being implemented and hindrances they faced in administering the law. Top issues mentioned included the agency’s difficulty in verifying and managing data received by collectors, recyclers, consolidators, and OEMs. They are moving from a manual to an online data management system but information they receive from stakeholders through registration forms and annual reports is often conflicting and/or not submitted when required (if at all) causing the agency to regularly delay the annual announcement of OEM obligations. Compounding the data management issue was the agency’s lack of internal resources to adequately oversee administration of the program. Registration and shortfall fees collected by NYSDEC are not utilized for NYSDEC operations, but redirected to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund to support other state funded programs.
Other issues mentioned included OEMs either setting up mail-back programs to meet state mandated convenient collection requirements or buying collected weight from existing collection programs, versus setting up new collection sites or infrastructures across the state. Convenient collection standards require OEMs to have one collection option in any county or municipality with a population of 10,000 or more people.
Concern about the landfill ban going into effect in January 2015 and how it will impact different parts of the state was also brought up. The per capita collection rate for the majority of the state currently varies from 3-10 pounds, but New York City’s rate is less than one pound per capita. New York City’s population of 8.3 million makes up 40 percent of the state’s population.
Collector Perspectives – Counties and Municipalities:
The New York Product Stewardship Council conducted an informal survey of 40 municipal or county run programs across the state. Most participants surveyed expressed similar thoughts involving the need for stability and development of a cost-neutral solution for collection points. The majority of participants: 1) felt the burden to make the law work was being placed on counties and municipalities versus OEMs; 2) did not want to or could not incur charges for acting as a collection point; and 3) thought the state’s OEM obligation, numbers were too low as many were left collecting more material than recyclers or OEMs were willing to pay for in 2013. In 2013, competition in the recycling market caused some regional recyclers to either stop collecting or incur fees for CRT devices half way through the year. Some collection sites also received notice late in the year that their recycler could no longer offer their services because an affiliated OEM had met their obligation for the year.
Recycler and Consolidator Perspectives:
Multiple New York based recyclers and a representative of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) spoke on behalf of recyclers and consolidators. As a group, they unanimously expressed that payment for CRT collection by OEMs was not commensurate with collection and transportation costs required on their behalf. Transparency on the part of the NYSDEC regarding OEM obligations, plans, and recyclers was also something desired by many. A request for the NYSDEC to announce annual OEM obligations earlier than April 1 (three months into the new program year) was another request as the delay makes it difficult for recyclers to plan for the year and enter into good faith agreements at the beginning of the program year. Since the law’s inception, the NYSDEC has been a month or two late in announcing OEM obligations. In 2013, over-collection occurred with many recyclers and a request was made that NYSDEC look into utilizing OEM shortfall fees to help pay for processing of over-collected material.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) largely spoke on behalf of OEMs affected by the state’s law and they, like other stakeholders, had a host of issues with the law and its requirements. In general, the CEA stated that:
- Statutory prescriptives have been a part of why New York’s law is one of the most expensive and difficult
- Reporting requirements need to be streamlined and expanded to include out-of-state recyclers
- Determination of annual OEM weight obligation assignments should offer more transparency
- Goals for OEMs are published well into the program year, making OEM budgetary and planning more difficult
- Convenient collection standards are onerous and could be met with one OEM program providing collection service to a jurisdiction versus all (except in densely populated areas)
- The management of compliance vendors has been difficult due to uncertainty and stress in the CRT markets
An E-Waste Committee was formed to determine how to address some of the concerns brought up at the January 23 meeting. The first discussion was held on February 12 and actionable items discussed included:
- Manufacturer Initiatives – The CEA offered to lead a working group to come up with an alternative to the current collection convenience requirements that would provide greater flexibility and year-long collection of all covered devices. Sims Recycling Solutions volunteered to be involved in the working group.
- NYSDEC Regulatory Initiatives – the NYSDEC discussed the establishment of a schedule for rule making and the formation of a working group to determine how to address reporting and timely establishment of performance goals.
- Immediate CRT Challenges – The NYSDEC said they would look into issues of over-collection or possible stockpiles of CRT-containing devices and determine if there were state funds that could be utilized to support the processing of such material from 2013. ISRI said they would assist the NYSDEC in working with local recyclers and collectors to determine:
- the estimated total quantity of “unpaid” 2013 CRT inventory and
- a methodology to estimate anticipated 2014 CRT quantities.
For presentations and/or more information about both meetings, visit the New York Product Stewardship Council website.
Pennsylvania Covered Device Recycling Act Update Meeting
On February 19 the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center (RMC) hosted a meeting in Harrisburg for stakeholders affected by the Pennsylvania Covered Device Recycling Act (CDRA). This meeting was held to receive feedback on 2013 collection results, uncover issues encountered by local collectors in 2013, gather insight on the expected 2014 OEM obligation increases, and learn the expectations of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP).
The CDRA requires OEMs selling computers, computer monitors, and televisions in Pennsylvania to provide free and convenient collection and recycling services for those devices and peripherals (covered devices or CDs) to in-state consumers (residents and small businesses).
The law went into effect in January 2012 and a landfill ban was enacted in January 2013. Halfway through 2013 many county and municipal collection sites collecting CDs – through recyclers working on behalf of OEMs – received notices from their recyclers stating they could no longer accept televisions or monitors at no cost because the OEM they were working with had met their annual collection requirements. Larry Holley of the PADEP, stated that of the 61 OEMs required to meet collection and recycling goals under the CDRA, 10 had not met their obligation and eight had not sent in an annual report for 2013 yet (due January 30).
In an effort to address some of the issues identified above, Holley made the following clarifications regarding the PADEP’s expectations and interpretations regarding the law:
- 2014 OEM obligations will be for 100 percent of an OEMs market share in weight (raised from 50 percent in 2013)
- After feedback from the audience, Holley acknowledged that although new products being sold are weighing less and this goal might be difficult to attain over time, it was apparent that the goal had to be raised to cover the amount being collected in the state now
- Shortfall fees for OEMs who don’t meet their obligations will be $2 per pound until all backlogs of stored 2013 material are processed
- The deadline to submit 2014 OEM collection plans has been extended from January 30 to May 1
- OEMs must cover 100 percent of CDs collected at collection sites listed in in an OEM collection plan and changes to collection plans must be approved by the PADEP
- The law recognizes both broken and bare CRT (cathode ray tubes) as covered devices if generated by a Pennsylvania consumer
- Charging a county or municipal collection site for service is in essence the same as charging a consumer for collection as the cost will be passed onto the consumer via local taxes. The PADEP did not approve such charges
Representatives from local recycling companies and OEMs had an opportunity to make short presentations about their experience with the law over the past two years. The majority of regional recyclers claimed that OEMs, or their brokers, were not providing enough compensation to cover the local collection and/or recycling costs and explained that they were the backbone to making the local collection infrastructure work. A handful of OEMs talked about their local and national efforts to establish well running recycling programs. Walter Alcorn of the CEA, representing the OEM industry, agreed with some of Holley’s comments and took exception to others, ie:
- The CEA agreed with the proposal for year-round collection for collection sites cited in OEM plans, but questioned whether OEMs should be responsible for collectors or recyclers collecting CDs without a connection to any OEM plan
- The CEA proposed that OEM obligations increase to 70 percent market share in 2014 and that it might be difficult for OEMs to collect 100 percent market share. The CEA will be looking to a more long-term legislative solution to address this issue
- The CEA questioned the backlog mentioned by the PADEP for 2013 and the validity of where it was generated including factors such as what it is, how it is being quantified and where it is from
New Jersey Stakeholder Meeting
On March 4 the Association of New Jersey Recyclers (ANJR) hosted a stakeholder meeting to discuss how some county and municipal electronics collection points have either had their service dropped or been asked to go from a cost-neutral scenario to being charged by recyclers working on behalf of OEMs affected by the state’s Electronic Waste Management Act (EWMA). Representatives from several counties and municipalities from across the state, local and regional recyclers, and a handful of OEM representatives were at the meeting.
The EWMA requires that OEMs selling covered electronic devices (CEDs or computers, laptops, computer monitors, and televisions) in New Jersey provide a free and convenient recycling opportunity for consumers (state residents and small businesses). A large number of New Jersey’s counties and municipalities were offering collection and recycling programs to residents prior to the law going into effect and chose to continue with their programs in 2011 as it was now a cost-neutral option. According to ANJR, these sites represent more than 50 percent of New Jersey’s electronics collection infrastructure and many at the meeting expressed that the intent of the law was not to dismantle the state’s collection infrastructure but to enhance it. Many stated that they did not budget for such expenses in the current fiscal year and could not incur costs moving forward or they would have to shut down their sites.
Wayne DeFeo, an environmental consultant and ANJR board member, moderated the meeting and detailed how changes in the recycling commodity markets and competition in the local recycling marketplace are contributing to the cost structure change collection points are now facing. Walter Alcorn from the CEA stated that OEMs wanted to see the law work, and work with ANJR to resolve some of the issues discussed. Alcorn made three statements addressing the issues:
- Recyclers ending service mid-year – The CEA felt that if a collection site is listed in an OEM annual collection plan submitted to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) than an OEM should support that site year round
- Stockpiles – Alcorn suggested that ANJR determine and notify CEA if there are any stockpiles of CEDs generated by county or municipal collection sites waiting to be processed
- Charges to Local Government Entities – The CEA felt that government entities should be at zero external cost if acting as a collection point, and perhaps the CEA and OEMs could develop a system where OEMs interact directly with collection points to set up a relationship with a recycler chosen by the OEM
The meeting concluded with no immediate solutions, but it started a dialogue with ANJR, the CEA, and other stakeholders, and ANJR has created an e-waste task force and will be working to develop recommendations to keep the e-waste recycling programs viable.