United States: Legislative Updates
A new year brings a new set of successes and challenges to U.S. states with electronics take-back laws in place. The following outlines current legislative activity in Wisconsin, Michigan, Hawaii and Illinois. For information about legislative activity anywhere in the world, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
E-Cycle Wisconsin Challenges
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is holding a stakeholder meeting on May 19. This meeting will address challenges the E-Cycle Wisconsin program is facing due to industry trends and changes in the electronics and commodity markets. Since 2010 more than 160 million pounds of electronic equipment has been collected and recycled through partnerships with program collectors, recyclers and OEMs.
In Program Year 5 (July 2013 – June 2014) 37.2 million pounds of equipment were collected from Wisconsin households and K-12 public schools. At roughly 6.5 pounds per person, Wisconsin holds one of the top five collection rates of the 25 states that currently have electronics take back laws in the U.S.
While the DNR deems the program’s overall collection rates and availability of statewide collection options a success, challenges they hope to address in 2015 include:
- Alignment of targeted volumes vs. actual volumes – OEM weight-based collection and recycling targets have declined since Program Year 3 but the total weight of equipment collected through the program has remained steady. The largest disparity between targets and collection reached 7.5 million pounds in Program Year 5. OEM annual weight targets are based on market share and weight of products sold in the state two years prior to a program year’s start. The problem is largely due to design improvements and consumer preferences driving the production of smaller and lighter products while older and heavier electronic equipment is what is largely being collected for recycling.
- Lack of support for increased recycler costs – Costs are increasing for recyclers largely due to limited markets for cathode ray tubes (CRTs) and fluctuations in commodity markets. The DNR estimates 28.9 million pounds or 78 percent of all equipment collected in Program Year 5 were CRT televisions or monitors. While some OEMs understand this fluctuation others have not shown their support.
- Fewer collections sites and increased costs – Recyclers have minimized collections sites and events and are charging collectors higher fees for service, especially in rural areas.
In addition, the DNR is contemplating the following potential changes to the E-Cycle Program.
- Adjusting program year dates – Dates will be adjusted to a calendar year instead of the state’s fiscal year to allow for easier budgeting and contracting for all stakeholders.
- Redefining terms – DNR may update the definition of a covered entity to include all K-12 schools (public and private) in addition to Wisconsin households. Also, covered devices may include more products. For example, cell phones and video game consoles may fall under consumer computer equipment and a portable DVD player under the definition of video display device.
- Altering annual registration fees – Fees altered would be for OEMs selling small quantities into the state.
- Increasing OEM annual weight targets – OEM targets could increase from 80 percent to 100 percent market share.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is holding a series of stakeholder meetings to determine how to improve implementation and reporting under the state’s Electronic Waste Take Back Law. After attending meetings in February and March we anticipate more meetings will be need before any proposed legislative changes are introduced to the legislature.
Established in 2008, Michigan’s law requires covered computer and covered video display device (VDD) OEMs to establish free and convenient take back programs for households and small businesses. Covered computer OEMs have no annual weight-based collection target but are required to collect their product. VDD OEMs are required to collect 60 percent of their market share based on weight of the previous year’s product sales and must accept all brands of VDDs. Per the law, the VDD goal is voluntary. As of Feb. 28, 2015, 76 OEMs registered for Program Year 2015 (Oct. 1, 2014 – Sept. 30, 2015). Those who registered have reported collecting and recycling a total of 25.8 million pounds in program year 2014, a 14 percent weight decrease from the prior program year. In summary, all affected OEMs reported the following:
- 35 reported recycling “0” pounds
- 43 reported recycling less than 1,000 pounds
- 51 reported recycling less than 10,000 pounds
- 8 reported recycling over 1 million pounds each (totaling 22.7 million pounds or 86 percent of all material reported by OEMs)
- 16 of the 31 VDD OEMs registered met the voluntary 60 percent collection and recycling goal
Overall, registered recyclers reported collecting and recycling 39 million pounds of covered computer and video display devices (71 percent CRT-containing) in Program Year 2014. This was a dramatic difference when compared to the weight reported by registered OEMs.
Senate Bill 1049 Prohibits Exclusive Use of Mail Back Programs
In an effort to increase convenient and consistent collection and recycling opportunities for Hawaiian citizens, Senator Mike Gabbard introduced Senate Bill 1049 in January 2015. This bill will amend the state’s Electronic Waste and Television Recycling and Recovery Law and prohibit covered electronic device (CED) OEMs from exclusively using mail back programs to meet their planning and collection requirements. The amendment allows OEMs of strictly portable CEDs to use a retail collection network in their annual collection plan if at least 50 voluntary retail locations are listed.
In Hawaii, CED OEMs do not have a collection and recycling weight target and are only required to collect their brand. This has resulted in some OEMs with a variety of collection mechanisms receiving large quantities of material and others only offering mail back services, collecting very little.
The bill passed the Senate with amendments on March 5 and was sent to the House for review on March 12. After being passed by the House Committee for Energy and Environmental on March 17, the bill now sits with the House Committee of Finance. If the bill passes, the amendment will go into effect January 2016.
Legislature Introduces Bills to “Fix” Illinois’ Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act
In 2014 several Illinois county and municipal electronics collectors experienced difficulty maintaining year-round and/or no-cost collection and recycling services from OEMs or their recycler representatives. Many claim the state’s Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act is not working as originally intended and in essence has created an unfunded recycling mandate. This mandate, paid in part or full by government entities in some instances, not OEMs, covers collection and recycling services of equipment banned from disposal under the law. In consultation with the Illinois Product Stewardship Council, identical bills, House Bill 1455 and Senate Bill 797, were respectively introduced into the Illinois legislature in February. These bills were presented by House Representative Emily McAsey and Senator Linda Holmes to amend the Act and address government entity concerns. The proposed bills would:
- Raise annual weight targets – OEMs affected by the law would have an increase in required target weights from 50 to 80 percent market share.
- Prohibit recyclers from charging government for services – Recyclers would no longer be allowed to charge local government units for collection and recycling services if working on behalf of an OEM affected by the law.
- Enable OEM shortfall fees for not meeting 100 percent of weight target – The state would be allowed to charge OEMs shortfall fees for not meeting 100 percent of their annual weight target. Currently an OEM can meet 70 percent of its weight target and not be charged a fee.
- Allow all CRT weight to count towards targets – bare CRTs or scavenged CRT devices would be able to count towards an OEMs collection target.
- Permit alternate CRT disposal methods – This would allow the state to approve the use of alternative daily cover or a landfill storage cell for treated CRT devices covered under the Act. Weight for such devices treated this way would count towards an OEM’s obligation.