Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Renewing Recycling Fee, Illegal Dumping, Fixing E-Waste Recycling Law Key Issues At Hearing On Act 101

Presenters told the Joint Senate/House Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee Tuesday it is critical the General Assembly authorize the $2 recycling fee which supports waste and recycling programs, fix the broken electronics recycling law and engage stakeholders in a more comprehensive review of updates needed to the 1988 Act 101 recycling and municipal waste law.
Also noted as important is to get a better picture of the state’s waste stream and how it has changed which will no doubt result in changes to the Act 101.
In his introduction to the hearing, Committee Chair Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) said the Joint Conservation Committee has had a major role in shaping recycling in Pennsylvania through hearings and studies of the issue in the past and said Act 101 and recycling has been a real success story.
George Hartenstein, Acting DEP Deputy For Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation, first thanked the members for their support for legislation to extend or eliminate the January 1, 2020 sunset date-- Senate Bill 646 (Killion-R-Delaware)-- which is critical to the success of the program.
He did note, with inflation, the current $2 recycling fee is actually worth about 97 cents today.
Hartenstein said in 1988 recycling and waste disposal was much different than it is today.  Pennsylvania had 1,500 local “dumps,”  and no one was responsible for planning for safe and adequate waste disposal capacity.
The amount of Pennsylvania municipal waste disposed in landfills increased by over 1.9 million tons from 1988 to 2004, but since 2013 the waste disposed has leveled off at approximately 14 million tons.
Today, about 90 percent of the state’s population has access to recycling and 10.3 million tons of materials were recycled in 2015.  There is now a whole generation who did not know a time when recycling was not done in Pennsylvania.
He said the recycling industry employs directly and indirectly more than 170,000 people in Pennsylvania and contributes more than $1.7 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Hartenstein said, however, illegal dumping continues to be an issue as well as adequate rural recycling and waste disposal opportunities.
He outlined these general recommendations--
-- Updated waste composition study is needed to identify the characteristics of today’s waste stream.  A study would provide information on whether the state should change the way progress is measured from by weight to volume;
-- Expand recycling requirements to include more materials as options;
-- County waste plans should better reflect integrated waste management principles;
-- Expand the use of county recycling coordinators to better develop local recycling;
-- Expand opportunities for rural recycling by establishing drop off convenience centers;
-- Provide incentives for manufacturing and commercial entities to implement their own recycling programs;
-- Provide incentives in designing recyclable containers and products; and
-- Renew focus on waste reduction programs.
Barbara Baker, Professional Recyclers of PA, first outlined the professional certification, education and other services of her organization.
Baker said Senate Bill 646 (Killion-R-Delaware), removing the current sunset fee on the $2 recycling fee, is critical to the survival and functioning the Pennsylvania’s recycling program since it generates about $38 million to pay for for local recycling grants, waste planning grants, county recycling coordinators, funding for the PA Recycling Markets Center and more.
If the fee is not reauthorized, said Baker, where would the funding come from to support local programs?
In response to a question about electronics was recycling, Baker noted that is covered under a separate law-- the Covered Device Recycling Act.  She said there are significant issues with the availability of electronics waste recycling services and that is being worked on in the General Assembly.
Asked by Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, about encouraging more glass recycling, like a recent change in Ohio’s glass recycling program, Baker said the waste stream has a lot less glass in now and more plastic than it did in 1988.  She said she would look at the Ohio effort.
Tim O’Donnell, PA Waste Industries Association, said the private waste haulers handles 87 percent of the municipal waste disposed in Pennsylvania.
He noted in the 1980s the state was facing a crisis in waste disposal capacity.  To deal with that crisis, Act 101 fixed authority with the counties to plan for waste disposal capacity, linked new permits to the waste plans and encouraged partnerships with the private waste disposal industry for disposal and hauling services.
O’Donnell noted private industry has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in recycling facilities throughout the state.
Changes recommended by the Association include--
-- Eliminate mandate to conduct planning for future waste disposal capacity by counties for facilities they do not own or operate and limited planning to county-owned facilities;
-- Require all waste haulers to provide curbside recycling in all communities, since it has evolved into a standard service and eliminate the current population threshold of 5,000 and above in Act 101;
-- Encourage the use of single stream recycling for more recyclable materials and require the disposal of leaf waste in facilities to generate electricity and eliminate the provision in Act 101 limiting the processing of leaf waste only by composting; and
-- Fully supports reauthorization of the $2 recycling fee which should be used for recycling planning and for household hazardous waste collection.
O’Donnell also recommended steps to deal with the electronics waste recycling by allowing private waste industry to charge for the recycling of leaded glass CRTs, TVs and electronics waste.  He said there is significant illegal dumping going on now with e-waste around the state.
Richard Bapst, PA Independent Waste Haulers, which represents the “little guys” in the waste hauling business, made these recommendations in changing Act 101--
-- Prohibit competition with the private waste companies by municipalities and authorities.  He used the Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority as an example because, he said, it regularly bids against private industry for waste hauling and charges higher fees for the disposal of waste by private haulers;
-- Eliminate incentives and interpretations of Act 101 that promote municipalities to contract with a single hauler for their waste services;
-- Eliminate county and other fees for recycling other than the fees specifically authorized by Act 101;
-- Companies collecting and disposing of electronics waste should be allowed to charge for those services to prevent the illegal dumping and temporarily lift the current ban on disposal of e-waste in landfills.  He noted he saw several TVs along the road coming to the hearing this morning; and
-- Stricter guidelines on the spending of grants given to municipalities for recycling.
Elam Herr, PA Association of Township Supervisors, noted local recycling have been a success and more communities not mandated to recycle are recycling and they now exceed the number of communities required to recycle under Act 101.  
He said he would not have bet on that outcome nearly 30 years ago when Act 101 was passed.
He noted, however, local recycling programs have not been financially sustainable and also supported reauthorizing the $2 recycling fee without a sunset to support these programs. He added recycling funds should not be taken away to fund other programs, like has happened in recent years.
Herr said a particular problem is the recycling of electronics wastes, saying some of his members have trailers full of e-waste that cannot be recycled.
He encouraged working with all stakeholders that deal with Act 101 to come up with changes to the law.
Lisa Schaefer, County Commissioners Association, agreed with other presenters that Act 101 has been a success and noted counties have often taken on the more difficult challenge of recycling and disposing of items like waste tires and household hazardous waste.
Schaefer said they do think county authority should continue in waste planning, but also agreed a comprehensive review of Act 101 by stakeholders is needed.  
She said continued funding, through the $2 recycling fee, is critical and they support Senate Bill 646.
While noting counties have expanded recycling with supplemental services, a court decision eliminated waste administration fees many counties adopted to fund these services as well as mandated waste planning and recycling.
Schaefer said the issue of electronics waste recycling should be addressed by the General Assembly because many counties have stopped offering e-waste recycling services.
Bob Bylone, PA Recycling Markets Center, noted the waste stream dealt with now in recycling and waste disposal programs is much different than in 1988, citing the significant drop of newsprint, replacing tuna cans with tuna pouches and more plastics.
These changes in the waste stream mean changes are needed in collection, processing, marketing and disposal operations and methods.
Bylone illustrated some case studies of how the Center has encouraged the recycling of glass, materials used by the Marcellus Shale drilling industry, paper and other materials.
He said one step that could be taken to encourage more recycled content products is to adopt tax credit incentives to purchase these products.
Bylone said Act 101 is critical to assure recyclers that materials will be collected for feedstock for their processes.  One improvement to the Act 101 programs, particularly in more rural areas, is to establish convenience centers to fill the gaps now in recycling and waste programs.
Bylone noted Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin) is now working on legislation to try and fix the electronics waste recycling program.
Shannon Reiter, President of Keep PA Beautiful and Michele Nestor, President of Nestor Resources, Inc. and a board chairman of the PA Recycling Markets Center submitted written testimony to the Committee.
Committee Accepting Comments
The  Committee is accepting comments on Act 101 and Pennsylvania’s recycling program for the next 90 days.  Comments should be sent to Tony Guerriei, Executive Director of the Committee, by email to: tguerrieri@jcc.legis.state.pa.us.
For more background on Act 101, visit DEP’s Recycling In Pennsylvania webpage.
Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) serves as Chair of the Joint Conservation Committee.
For more information, visit the Joint Conservation Committee website, Like them on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the Committee.
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