Hawaii’s Electronics Take Back Laws: A Need for Change
Hawaii, the United States’ 50th state passed their first of two electronics take back laws in 2008 the year that eight other states also passed take back laws. The political realities at the time meant that IT devices (PCs, notebooks, monitors, and printers) were covered under the law, and a study group to address television devices was established. A separate television law was subsequently enacted as an unrelated law.
While the majority of U.S. state electronics take back laws only require collection and recycling of specific electronic items generated by households by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Hawaii was the first state to also include electronic items generated by both large and small businesses, schools and governments. The IT law obligated OEMs to take back their branded products, while the television law set goals for television OEMs based on collection levels from the first year of collection. Both laws have major flaws that must be addressed in order to create a take back system that is fair to all manufacturers and meets the needs of the Hawaiian citizens. The IT law simply states that the OEM must provide recycling service for their brand of covered device.
This minimal requirement, allowing mail back service to meet the obligation, resulted in very uneven responses from OEMs. The results from the first three years of the program saw one manufacturer collecting a majority of the IT devices reported. This same OEM also collected millions of pounds of televisions that could not count toward the IT program or the television program since they are separate. Many large OEMs have reported collecting little or no weight during this same period, yet they are in compliance with the law.
The television law has established annual goals for each OEM based on items collected during the first year of the law’s implementation. However, the results of the first year’s collection activities by television OEMs were not reflective of the actual collection volumes. One IT OEM, in the course of their normal collection activities, collected about 50 percent of what the TV OEMs reported, yet this weight was not included in the goal-setting process since this weight was collected by an IT OEM. The result is an artificially low annual goal for the television OEMs that does not meet the true demand Hawaiian citizens have for television recycling. Commensurate with the low goals was the practice of some OEMs halting collection service once their goals were met.
Another flaw in both laws is the lack of a convenience standard. Initially most collection activities occurred on the island of Oahu with very little action on the neighboring islands of Maui, Kauai and Hawaii however this has shown improvement over time. Sims Recycling Solutions has held collection events on the four major islands in the state and currently is contracted with the County of Hawaii for their on-going collection opportunities. Overall, the citizens of Hawaii were receiving inconsistent and inconvenient recycling services because some OEMs were living up to the spirit of the law while others only followed the letter of the law, creating an un-level playing field in the marketplace.
The citizens of Hawaii were not silent in their displeasure of the status quo and the legislature heard their discontent. For the past three legislative sessions, bills have been introduced to make changes to the two laws. Sims applauds the efforts of the Hawaii Department of Health – the state agency tasked with administering both laws – for addressing the flaws of the current laws. Unfortunately, their proposed solutions would have created even more problems than it would solve. Instead of simply addressing the flaws, the Department tried to pass a law that would completely change how the system worked. The first year, the Department’s idea was to establish an advanced recycling fee (ARF) on covered products. Of the 25 states with take back laws only California, the first state to pass a law, uses an ARF to finance their take back system. No other state has followed suit after watching the realities in California with their ARF.
The state legislature wisely did not pass this bill and instead directed the Department to hold a series of stakeholder meetings to come up with an alternative solution. Sims attended these meetings and if one thing was clear from these discussions between the local governments, OEMs, recyclers and other interested parties, it was that the current system is broken and needs fixing.
The following session found the Department’s bill covering virtually any device you could plug in. This brought OEMs into discussions that have never been covered by take back laws and assured the bill would not succeed.
This past session the Department reduced the scope of covered products and the bill was acceptable to Sims with only minor amendments.
Unfortunately, while the House listened to the concerns of those testifying and made changes that Sims supported, the Senate went in a completely opposite direction and made the bill unacceptable to many stakeholders thus failing to pass.
In short, Hawaii needs a bill that addresses the flaws in the existing laws by:
- Combining the two current separate laws so that an IT manufacturer and the Department can count televisions collected by an IT manufacturer and vice versa;
- Setting reasonable goals for all of the OEMs;
- Setting a convenience standard that works with the individual islands; and
- Limiting the scope of products to IT and television related products.
Sims commends the continued efforts of the Legislature to resolve problems resulting from the separate laws, but recommends first fixing the existing law to the benefit of all stakeholders before bringing in other industries in an attempt to cover every product ever made.
For more information on Sims Recycling Solutions’ involvement in Hawaii stakeholder meetings or legislative activity in other states contact us at email@example.com.