Sunday, March 20, 2016

Testimony Paints A Picture Of A Crisis In PA’s Electronics Recycling Program

Written testimony set to be presented at a House-Senate hearing Monday outlines the collapse of Pennsylvania’s electronics waste recycling program created in 2010 by the Covered Device Recycling Law and a dramatic increase in illegal dumping of TVs and other electronics across the state.
The Joint House-Senate Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing March 21 starting at 9:00 a.m.
A tentative agenda for the hearing includes comments from (click on Testimony for available written testimony)--
-- Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester) the prime sponsor of the 2010 Covered Device Recycling Act;
-- Ken Reisinger, DEP Deputy Secretary for Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation;
-- Walter Alcorn, Consumer Electronics Association (manufacturers:; Testimony. Attachment: Customer Survey. Attachment: CRT Capacity;
-- Ned Eldridge, CEO of eLoop LLC, an electronics recycler from Western PA: Testimony;
-- Shannon Reiter, President,  Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful: Testimony; and
-- Bob Bylone, President & CEO, and Michele Nestor, President, Nestor Resources Inc, Board Chair, PA Recycling Markets Center: Testimony.
A summary of the available written testimony follows.
Keep PA Beautiful
“The lack of access to convenient and affordable disposal and recycling is causing a crisis in Pennsylvania,” said Shannon Reiter, President of Keep PA Beautiful. “ This lack of access is best illustrated by the fact that we are seeing so many standalone, isolated electronics dumped across the state- in urban, suburban and rural communities, in state parks, game lands, and forests.
“We are finding piles of stripped televisions- carcasses of broken plastic and shards of leaded glass scattered in open fields and on dead-end streets. People have resorted to dumping TVs and other electronic devices illegally on vacant lots, in wooded areas, and over riverbanks,” said Reiter.  “Others are sneaking them into nearby dumpsters or abandoning them at recycling drop-offs — even when clearly posted that these materials are not accepted.  All of this is costing our communities valuable resources and is polluting our environment.
“Public works crews are spending time and money routinely picking up abandoned televisions. The City of Lancaster has shared that they are cleaning up 10 to 20 televisions a week. The City of Allentown reported 40 a month,” added Reiter.
“From Erie to Philadelphia, and Washington to Scranton, and everywhere in between our communities and our volunteers are left to clean up these materials,” said Reiter.  “We need your help. We urge you to fix the Covered Device Recycling Act.”
[Note: Just 2 weeks ago, Keep PA Beautiful launched a new electronics waste recycling website to give consumers more information on the issue and where they can recycle TVs.]
York County
“The Authority’s efforts to provide affordable e-waste recycling to York County have likewise been complicated by DEP’s interpretation of the CDRA. Safe-to-say the CDRA has been a challenge for DEP as well,” said David Vollero, Executive Director of the York Solid Waste and Refuse Authority.
“For example, the Department maintains the position that the CDRA prohibits collectors (e.g. the Authority) from charging customers who deliver covered devices to a recycling program, when that program is also subsidized by an equipment manufacturer,” said Vollero. “The Authority, based on the advice of counsel, disagrees with this interpretation and, in fact, many local government sponsored e-waste collection programs are subsidized in some fashion by both the agency (e.g. labor, administrative support, and provision of facilities) and equipment manufacturers.
“In 2015 the Authority spent approximately $50K of local funds to support our program that collected more than 3,000,000 pounds of e-waste. The program was also subsidized by equipment manufacturers,” explained Vollero.  “We estimate it would have cost the Authority approximately $1 million to offer our residents that same program without manufacturer support. Thus confusion around allowable program funding, and other aspects of the CDRA, bring more uncertainty and instability to the Commonwealth’s e-waste recycling infrastructure.
“From the Authority’s perspective, the Commonwealth’s e-waste management framework is fundamentally flawed and the CDRA should be modified,” said Vollero. “Most importantly, if the General Assembly’s policy objective is comprehensive producer responsibility for e-waste, the equipment manufacturers’ combined recycling obligation absolutely must match the type and quantity of material delivered for recycling.
“If comprehensive producer responsibility is not the policy objective, then the disposal ban [now in the CDRA] should be lifted. Responsible e-waste recycling is relatively expensive, but even without the disposal ban, in times of high commodity prices most e-waste would be recycled,” said Vollero. “However, in lean times like we see now, residents could dispose of unwanted e-waste safely and affordably if there were no disposal ban.”
Elk County
“For residents seeking to recycle their electronic devices at no charge - as the act intended - Elk County is the only outlet within the 5279 square miles that includes Elk, McKean, Clearfield, Warren, Cameron, Jefferson and Forest counties,” said Bekki Titchner, Recycling Coordinator for Elk County.
“That doesn’t mean there is no cost to Elk County. In fact, due to elements of the Covered Device Recycling Act, our costs for managing electronic scrap have continued to escalate,” said Titchner. “We were expecting relief from managing these devices on our own – considering the law calls for manufacturer responsibility – but what we got instead has amounted to an unfunded mandate.
“In our first nine years of operation, we recycled 1.5 million pounds of electronics and we did it with three full-time staff and a group of volunteers one Saturday a month. We relied on DEP Act 190 monies to help offset charges from our contractor, businesses contributed, and residents donated,” explained Titchner. “When the CDRA took effect we rejoiced. Not only would we not have to pay the contractor, we were told that the manufacturers would pay us for our labor and handling! Our joy was short-lived.
“We underestimated how much was being thrown away in the landfill or over the hillside. We underestimated how many more people would seek us out once they had no other choice. We underestimated how vast our service area would be come,” said Titchner.  “We overestimated as well. We overestimated the rebates we were to receive and we certainly overestimated how many other programs would be available to people in our region.
“Nearly 70 percent of the half million pounds of electronics we’ve recycled in the past two years have been televisions. We ask people where they are from and many times we will be questioned back, “If I’m not from Elk County will you still take my TV?”
“People – and entire municipalities - come from Cameron and McKean counties on a regular basis. Often they bring truckloads of devices,” said Titchner. “We have accepted electronics from folks in Jefferson County and we’ve also gotten calls from residents of Warren and Forest counties who inquire about using our program.
“Earlier this month a municipality in Warren County called and said, “We hear you take TVs.” Last month we accepted electronics from Coraopolis, because even the City of Pittsburgh no longer has access to a program where manufacturers cover the cost,” add Titchner.
“There is no doubt the legislature truly wanted to do something good when it created this law. It wanted to keep these items out of our landfills and properly recycled. But we are all here because that law, though well intended, isn’t working,” said Titchner.
“If 100 percent of the population is banned from throwing away a TV, then 100 percent of the population needs to be provided with free, convenient access to recycling [not 85 percent as it says in the CDRA],” said Titchner.  “And processors need to be paid enough by the manufacturers to cover their costs, particularly the costs specific to recycling old leaded glass TVs and monitors. These orphan devices aren’t going away anytime soon, and putting a cap on market share combined with a disposal ban is working against everything the law intends.
“The amount of electronics generated by the residents of Pennsylvania in a given year should be recycled, regardless of what that number might be,” recommended Titchner. “If that is not a possibility, then perhaps there should be thought given to lifting the disposal ban on CRT glass – at the very least - or give consideration to other environmentally acceptable and permitted options.”
PA Recycling Markets Center
“There is mounting fear that without some near term fixes the e-waste infrastructure in broad geographic areas could implode. We are presently living out this near disaster in Pennsylvania,” warned Robert Bylone, Executive Director of the PA Recycling Markets Center. “If left unattended, could another tire pile crisis be brewing?
Bylone explained Pennsylvania’s e-waste recycling law requires manufacturers to fund recycling programs to meet the weight of e-waste sold in the state the prior year, rather than pay for their share of e-waste actually collected in recycling programs.  Manufacturers are not responsible for paying for any electronics collected above their annual cap by law.
As a result, Bylone said, “(M)anufacturers begin to see long before the end of the year when they will exceed the capped market share weights. Collections programs have then been terminated mid-year. The processor is often left with unpaid inventory and unable to fulfill commitments, leaving our citizens denied access to convenient recycling their rights intended by the law, and municipalities faced with a backlog of unwanted devices.”
Bylone made a series of 14 recommendations for amending the CDRA.
E-Waste Recycler
“From 2010 to 2012 the economics were favorable to the recycler in several ways. We maintained the relationship with the collectors at the source of the scrap, and provided them with a level of service that kept them from getting backed up with loads of TV’s,” said Ned Eldridge, CEO of eLoop LLC, an electronics recycling from Western PA.
“By January 24, 2013 the disposal ban went into effect and from that moment on the volume of TV’s at collection points grew faster that anyone could imagine and an obvious struggle became apparent between the manufacturers and the PA DEP,” said Eldridge. “ The DEP expected the manufacturers to receive pounds at the collection sites named in their approved plan for the entire year, while the manufacturers were determined to meet their market share requirements, but not sustain collection sites once their goal was met.
“Unfortunately, eLoop was caught between the DEP requesting the sites stay open and the manufacturer’s decision to stop paying for lbs beyond fulfilling their requirement for pounds,” said Eldridge.
“For the remainder of 2013 we sustained our service to our collectors based on the contracts we had in place with them. It was done at our expense, we didn’t want our problem to become their problem,” explained Eldridge.  “In late October we did receive some manufacturer support from Apple that kept us from ending the year overwhelmed with CRT glass.
“In 2015 the number of collection sites in our network decreased by 5 locations that could no longer sustain their programs, but eLoop was able to attract and fulfill contracts for 2 manufacturer plan administrators,” said Eldridge.  
“In the fall of 2015 planning for the 2016 began and there was concern that the plan administrators that I had worked with in past years did not get a renewal from a large manufacturer,” said Eldridge. “I just never got the call!
“The net result is that all the lbs allocated to service counties in the central part of Pennsylvania were retained by that plan administrator, but the remaining pounds required to service 8 counties and 12 collection sites were not available in western PA. Those locations were closed at the end of 2015 and they are no longer collecting lbs with eLoop.
“Today eLoop services 15 collection sites in 14 counties,” said Eldridge.  eLoop had operated 26 collection sites in 17 counties.
“As we gather today at this public hearing at least 30 of 67 counties in Pennsylvania are underserved counties and do not have access to “no cost” TV recycling,” said Eldridge. [Note: The PA Resources Council believes only 25 percent of counties have access to free TV recycling.]
“In western Pennsylvania we have seen an increase in illegal dumping of TV’s in rural areas, off road ways, and in our state and county parks and eLoop can’t help them,” said Eldridge.  “We also have local environmental groups that want to conduct events that charge residents for TV recycling, but we can’t help them.
“It is not that we don’t have the capacity or the certifications to do the work. We can’t participate and stop this environmental problem from escalating because of a DEP interpretation of Section 504 of the law,” said Eldridge. “The interpretation basically states that if eLoop participates and accepts money from a manufacturer’s plan in State College PA then eLoop can’t charge for the collection, transportation, or processing of TV’s in Pittsburgh PA.
“If I was fortunate enough to retain the lbs that serviced this area in the past it would not be an issue, but since I did not get allocated lbs I can’t participate in remediating these problems in western PA based on the current interpretation of the law,” said Eldridge.
“One of the major problems is that 100 percent of the residents in Pennsylvania are impacted by the disposal ban yet 100 percent of the residents don’t have access to no cost recycling of TV’s. There should not be a ban without a plan,” said Eldridge.
“While not all counties are created equal if adequately compensated they would serve as collectors and educators of their constituents like they are for Act 101 materials,” said Eldridge. “If they needed grant money for equipment or buildings there should be a way for them to apply. If we agree that the residents are the customers and the counties the service providers then the ability for the county to solicit an RFP for service should not be ruled out as a possibility.
“If the county picks the bidder with oversight from the DEP at the state or regional level the county will work out payment arrangements with the DEP or another responsible part of the state government,” said Eldridge. “The state can bill the manufacturers and receive payment. The state then pays the county who pays the recycler and transporter.
“I don’t see the benefit in a detailed plan from the manufacturer since whatever is collected by the county will be compensated by the manufacturer based on their market share,” said Eldridge. “It places the responsibility for serving the customer / resident directly on the county administration and the DEP and takes the recycler out of the middle to perform the work in an economically and environmentally compliant manner.”
Electronics Manufacturers
“CTA has been monitoring implementation of the CDRA as commodity prices and recycling markets for electronics have tanked not only in Pennsylvania but around the world,” said Walter Alcorn, Consumer Electronics Association.  CTA is very aware of the end of the glass-to-glass recycling era for cathode ray tube (CRT) glass where multiple processors – and manufacturers of CRT glass used in older television sets – used to call Pennsylvania home.
“Instead of creating a new state-run system (still paid for by manufacturers) for “surplus” covered devices collected by counties, CTA suggests amending the law to authorize a manufacturer-financed and manufacturer-run Surplus Covered Device Clearinghouse.”
Alcorn made a series of four recommendations on changing the e-waste program in Pennsylvania.
“Similar to the state procurement system called for in House Bill 1900 [Rep. Ross’s draft of legislation which has yet to be finalized and introduced], this Clearinghouse would provide a means for all counties in Pennsylvania who have been unable to obtain a no-cost contract with a recycler to have their collected covered devices safely recycled by covered device manufacturers,” recommended Alcorn.
Under the CTA recommendation, consumers, however,  would still be charged a “small fee” to cover collection costs as a way of sharing responsibility for the electronics recycling program.
Testimony from Ken Reisinger, DEP Deputy Secretary for Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation and comments by Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester) the original sponsor of the electronics waste recycling law were not yet available.
The PA Resources Council has reported only 25 percent of state residents have access to free TV recycling, down from 63 percent just a short time ago, and that coverage continues to shrink.  In the last 2 years PRC said--
-- Goodwill announced it will no longer accept TVs for recycling;
-- Five counties around Philadelphia report they were forced to suspend electronics programs because no recyclers were willing to support them;
-- Construction Junction in Pittsburgh closed its doors to accepting electronics;
-- eLoop, a Pittsburgh-based recycler, announces it will no longer offer CDRA-supported recycling in western PA; and
-- Best Buy issues a news release announcing it will no longer accept TVs for recycling at its 37 PA stores.
The lack of recycling opportunities and the ban on landfill disposal means more Pennsylvanians may resort to illegal dumping.
Keep PA Beautiful wrote to every House and Senate member earlier in February warning 2016 could be a “record-breaking year for abandoned and dumped electronics” if Pennsylvania’s electronics recycling law isn’t fixed.
In January the Electronics Recycling Association of PA, representing e-waste recyclers,  called for action to fix the state’s recycling law saying without fundamental changes recycling opportunities will continue to disappear.
Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester), the original sponsor of the e-waste recycling law, is planning to introduce changes to the law to try to get it back on track.
Click Here for the PRC action flyer on e-waste recycling.
The Committee hearing will be in Room 8E-A East Wing of the Capitol starting at 9:00.  Click Here the day of the hearing for a link to the live webcast of the hearing.
Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) serves as Chair of the Joint Committee.  To sign up for a monthly update from the Joint Committee, send an email to:
For more information on e-waste recycling, visit DEP’s Covered Device Recycling Act webpage.

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