In a March 30 letter, the Department of Environmental Protection announced a change in policy that will allow local electronics waste recycling programs to charge consumers for e-waste they bring in for recycling, if the collection event is not part of an electronics manufacturers’ recycling program funded under the state’s Covered Device Recycling Act.
Previously, DEP maintained no recycler who participated in an electronics manufacturer- funded recycling program under the CDRA could also participate in other e-waste recycling events that charged consumers to recycle TVs, computers, monitors and other electronic devices; the so-called “all-in or all-out” rule.
These recycling fees essentially charge consumers twice for recycling, according to testimony at a March 21 Joint Conservation Committee hearing.
Consumers pay the first time when they buy a product because the cost of recycling is built into the electronic devices we buy and now a second time if consumers bring their devices to recycling events that impose a fee.
The change in policy was in response to a letter to DEP Secretary John Quigley by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre), Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver).
DEP’s response said in part, “Collectors and recyclers may charge fees to consumers when the electronic devices collected are not or will not be sold to or used by a manufacturer to satisfy its recycling goal obligation under the CDRA.
“Collectors and recyclers which are not able to get into a manufacturer’s [recycling] Plan may [also] charge fees.
“Finally, collectors and recyclers that have satisfied the contractual obligations of all the manufacturers that they supply prior to the end of the contract period or periods would be able to charge fees.”
DEP Secretary Quigley was clear, however, in saying fees are not the solution to the collapse of the e-waste recycling program that is leaving two-thirds of Pennsylvania counties without access to electronics recycling.
“DEP would like to add that it does not believe fees are the answer to this issue,” said Quigley. “Fees could cause people to hold onto device until a no-cost option is available. Fees may also result in more illegal dumping and mishandling of this material.
Keep PA Beautiful testified before the March 21 Joint Conservation Committee hearing on the issue that e-waste dumping is already “rampant” across Pennsylvania because of the lack of to free and convenient CRT TV and electronics recycling across the state.
“The primary problem is the imbalance between the large amount of covered devices that need to be recycled and the inadequate manufacturer recycling mandates set forth in the [Covered Device Recycling] Act,” explained Quigley. “The long-term remedy to this supply and demand problem is to amend the Act so that it will accomplish the legislative goal of providing citizens with readily available opportunities for recycling their unwanted electronic devices.”
As many as 9 million CRT TVs and monitors are left to recycle across Pennsylvania, in addition to other electronic waste, according to the PA Recycling Markets Center.
The solution suggested by several witnesses at the March 21 Joint Conservation Committee hearing was to require electronics manufacturers to pay for recycling all the electronics waste collected in local recycling programs.
Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester), the original sponsor of the 2010 CDRA, has been working on comprehensive amendments to the law which he is expected to introduce in the near future.
A copy of Senate letter and DEP’s March 30 response is available online.
Visit Keep PA Beautiful’s new Electronics Waste website to learn more about the issue and recycling opportunities near you.
For more information on e-waste recycling, visit DEP’s Covered Device Recycling Act webpage.
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