Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Senate Hearing: E-Waste Recycling Law Broken, 5.1 Million CRTs, TVs Waiting To Be Recycled In PA

EwasteDumping.jpg Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Tuesday held a hearing on Senate Bill 800 (Alloway-R- Franklin) to create a new Waste Electronic Equipment Recovery Act to replace the 2010 Covered Device Recycling Act that provides for the collection and recycling of electronics waste.
While everyone offering comments on the legislation agreed the current e-waste recycling law is broken, there were differences on the degree of change needed.
The size of the e-waste challenge in Pennsylvania was defined by the PA Recycling Markets Center-- there are an estimated 5.1 million CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors and TVs alone waiting to be recycled in the state at a time when there are only 5 full service recycling locations statewide with policies that do not restrict accepting them and other e-waste to be recycled.
In March, DEP ordered Nulife to remove 17 million pounds of CRTs from 5 warehouses in Erie and Mercer counties the company collected, but did not recycle, under the state’s e-waste recycling law.
The Center said its surveys show there are about 932 million pounds of electronic devices in consumer homes in the state-- 49.5 million devices: CRT monitors and TVs, flat panel monitors and TVs, desktop and laptop computers, tablet and pads and printers.
Because the current law is broken, the illegal dumping of CRTs, TVs and other electronics is increasing, according to Keep PA Beautiful and the PA Township Supervisors Association.
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing and for written testimony.  Click Here for a summary of Senate Bill 800.
George Hartenstein, Deputy Secretary for Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation for the Department of Environmental Protection, told the Committee there are deficiencies with the existing law and referred to testimony DEP previously gave to the Joint Legislative Conservation Committee saying he did not want to repeat those points here.  
He said the decline in opportunities for consumers to recycle electronics waste was a particular problem with the current law.  At the same time, he noted the e-waste program has collected and recycled 263 million pounds of devices since the original law was passed in 2010
Hartenstein offered several specific recommendations--
-- Collection Centers: DEP supports the convenience collection center network established in the legislation and the additional funding authorized to support those centers.  He did suggest instead of having DEP bid for collection and recycling services at these centers, the bill should be changed to allow local bidding because that would be more efficient.  He noted DEP does not have the staff available to contract and run the state default plan as outlined in the bill.
-- Recycling Plans: Instead of having three different recycling plans, the bill should be significantly simplified to allow only what is essentially the state default plan.  This would reduce the agency’s overhead by eliminating the requirement to review and approve individual recycling plans.  DEP also supports take-back programs by manufacturers.
-- Retrievable Cells For CRTs: The option of allowing CRTs to be held in so-called retrievable cells for later recycling represents disposal, not recycling, he said.  Hartenstein said it is unlikely the leaded glass in those CRTs would ever be recycled once put in those cells.
-- Recycle Everything Collected: DEP favors moving away from the weight-based goals to a system that pays for recycling all e-waste collected.
-- Transition To A New Law: DEP recommended more of a transition between the old law and any new program to allow more time to get the new program up and running.
-- Enforcement: The enforcement provisions should be clarified to make sure DEP has the tools it needs to enforce the act.
In response to a question on the existing ban on landfilling electronics waste, Hartenstein said DEP supports keeping e-waste out of disposal facilities, but it is ultimately a policy call.
Electronics Manufacturers/Retailers
Walter Alcorn, Vice President for Environmental Affairs & Industrial Sustainability, Consumer Technology Association told the Committee members in written testimony the Association strongly opposes Senate Bill 800.
He said the existing electronics waste recycling law resulted in recycling 62.3 million pounds of electronic devices in 2015 at a cost to manufacturers of more than $10 million.
Senate Bill 800, he said, is likely to double that cost, although the amount of electronic devices needing recycling will continue to drop during the next 10 years, according to Alcorn.
He said Senate Bill 800 sends a signal that Pennsylvania favors government-run state programs over private initiative-- all at the expense of electronics manufacturers and retailers.
Alcorn said the Association had made a number of recommendations for changing the legislation that were included in his testimony. Among the changes proposed were--
-- Authorization to charge individuals a fee when they bring e-waste for recycling to support the collection programs; and
-- Improved reporting by manufacturers.
Brian A. Rider, President & CEO, PA Retailers Association, said his group supports the modest changes to the existing e-waste recycling law the Consumer Technology Association has proposed.
He pointed out in Pennsylvania residents have recycled more than 32 million pounds of electronics at Best Buy stores since 2012-- free of charge.  [They stopped accepting TVs and CRTs in 2016 in Pennsylvania.]  Product lifecycle management is one of the pillars of Best Buy’s sustainability commitment, he said.
The Association opposes the point of sale fees included in Senate Bill 800 because they disproportionately impact retailers and disadvantage brick-and-mortar stores over online or out-of-state sellers, he explained.
Rider said electronic waste collection is a service and the law should support the full spectrum of consumer collection opportunities to encourage participation by the public.
Producers, retailers, recyclers, government, and consumers must share responsibility in driving the success of electronics recycling and support economically sustainable solutions.
Francis Valluzo, Consultant, Valluzzo Government Strategies (Dell Computers), said since the original electronics waste recycling law was passed, Dell has established a partnership with Goodwill at 146 locations in 47 counties around the state recycling more than 13 million pounds of used electronics.  [They stopped accepting TVs and CRTs in 2013.]
Valluzo expressed a concern Senate Bill 800 would severely restrict manufacturer-funded programs when flexibility is required to establish collection networks.
Requiring manufacturers to fund collection sites to collect all waste electronic equipment puts an unfair financial and logistical burden on manufacturers.  In addition, many of the Goodwill recycling locations are not equipped to handle televisions, which could jeopardize worker safety.
The proposed credit for up to 10 percent of the total collections in the legislation is nowhere near incentive enough to offset the high cost to finance the collection program envisioned in the bill and would result in winding down the Goodwill collection network Dell supports in Pennsylvania.
He said Dell supports the Consumer Technology Association’s recommended changes to the bill.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, disagreed with the manufacturers’ contention the existing program is working pretty well.  
He pointed to his home county-- Lycoming-- that will stop accepting electronics waste at the end of the year and there are many areas of the state in the same position.
Sen. Yaw said another Senator told him old TVs are sprouting on street corners like flower pots because they cannot be recycled.
E-Waste Recyclers/Recycling Markets Center
Bob Bylone, President & Executive Director PA Recycling Markets Center, said over the last 5 years the Center has offered 28 e-waste industry-driven programs attracting over 2,000 attendees and provides other services to e-waste processors and to the public and private e-waste sectors.
These experiences contributed to the development of Senate Bill 800.
Through third-party verified citizen surveys in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the Center found--
-- Consumers want to recycle their electronics: In the 2017 survey over 46 percent said they are willing to travel up to 10 miles to recycle, 32.5 percent said they are willing to travel up to 20 miles;
-- Fewer Know Where To Recycle: The number of Pennsylvanians who knew where to recycle their electronics has dropped from 61.5 percent in 2015 to 52.8 percent in 2017; and
-- 5.1 Million CRTs, TVs Waiting To Be Recycled: There are an estimated 5.1 million CRT monitors and tube televisions still waiting to be recycled in Pennsylvania.
Using the survey data, in 2017 the Center estimates there are 932 million pounds of electronic equipment in consumer homes in Pennsylvania-- over 49.5 million CRT monitors and TVs, flat panel monitors and TVs, desktop and laptop computers, tablet and pads and printers.
Bylone said the goal of the original e-waste recycling law was that recycling services were to be offered at no charge to any Pennsylvanian.
He said using Center information, in 2015 there were 133 non-restricted sites, which accepted all CDRA covered devices at no charge to any Pennsylvanian.
In 2017, out of a total verification of 432 sites, the RMC has confirmed 5 locations statewide that have no restrictions, leaving 427 sites with some kind of restriction in collection.
Restrictions include quantity limits, type of item, size limits, residency requirements, and charge to recycle locations.
“This grave decline is not only because of changes in commodity values of the sorted recycled items/parts and less outlets internationally for CRTs and tube televisions,” explained Bylone.  “It is also because of the structure of CDRA which has unfortunately provided minimal, if any cost recovery to both the e-waste recycling processor and the collection program, especially as weight-based goals of CDRA plateau each year.
“By contrast, in Senate Bill 800, the program is based upon a shared responsibility model whereby there is not a specific cap, rather all materials inbound are recycled, in a declining portion of the waste stream,” said Bylone.
Michele Nestor, President, Nestor Resources, Inc. and Chair of the PA Recycling Markets Center Board, said “it’s time to acknowledge an unfortunate truth,” from the start Pennsylvania’s existing electronics waste recycling law has been “problematic.”
She said Senate Bill 800 was developed in conjunction with those actively engaged in collecting, transporting and recycling waste electronic equipment, including local governments.
“The [existing e-waste] collection network has progressively eroded, and now bears little resemblance to the level of extended producer responsibility envisioned by CDRA’s [the e-waste recycling law’s] original supporters.
“Consequently, today consumers, like those in Northeastern Pennsylvania, must pay as much as $1.50 per pound to discard an old television ($93 for an average tube television), while others, like those in Northwestern Pennsylvania, have but one spot in a seven-county area willing to accept all devices without charges, as the law intended.
“Beginning in 2018, the few remaining full-service programs are now considering dramatic alterations to their practices. These will not be consumer-friendly changes.
“We keep focusing on manipulating artificial quotas, contingency collections, and modifications of disposal bans, believing that a different formula, last minute recovery, or a temporary return to disposing of our vintage TV’s will end all problems.
“Meanwhile, we ignore the reality that waste electronic equipment continues to grow, if not by weight, certainly by types, units, and volume. The industry already recognizes that newer flat panel screens, now entering the waste stream, are posing their own challenges.
“We need to think beyond today and design a system capable of handling consumer demands throughout future decades. While we are at it, we could build a collection infrastructure prepared to address future, equally difficult to manage products, all paid for by the consumers it will serve.”
Ned D. Eldridge, President & CEO, eLoop, LLC, said he started his company in 2008 and at its peak had 35 full service collection sites in 26 counties.  By the end of 2016, Eldridge said, only 3 Pennsylvania recyclers remain engaged in the e-waste recycling program.
He said in 2013 the Department of Environmental Protection changed the program to help sustain collection sites throughout the year, but “the manufacturers were not willing to follow those rules, which resulted in an abrupt closing of collection sites during the calendar year around the State.
“While this was difficult to manage, ambiguity in the law and its interpretation left room for the manufacturers to make decisions that were conflicting with the PA DEP,” Eldridge said.
For his company that meant employment dropped from 100 down to 40 employees.
Eldridge said it has been a “race to the bottom” in terms of negotiating contracts with the manufacturers for pounds of material to be recycled under the existing structure of the law, because it does not take into account transportation and other costs.  At the same time, he noted, the true cost of recycling continues to increase.
He said the problem is there are not enough full service collection sites, especially to handle CRTs and TVs as well as flat panel displays.
“Pennsylvania needs a legislative change that maintains its focus on environmentally sound management and will create a sustainable program for the residents to handle the issues of today as well as the problems that future electronic devices will create,” said Eldridge.  “A sustainable collection, transportation, and processing system will create jobs for the Commonwealth like it has for the solid waste industry.”
He concluded by saying Senate Bill 800 “was created and nurtured by industry professionals that understand the demands of the industry and are willing to take responsibility for making this system work in Pennsylvania.”
Townships/Counties/Keep PA Beautiful
Elam Herr, Assistant Executive Director, PA Association of Township Supervisors, said townships across the state have seen a significant increase in the illegal disposal of electronic devices and municipalities are struggling to find any provider willing to recycle these devices.  
“We are starting to see the kind of problems with illegal dumps we’ve saw pre-1988 and the Act 101 Recycling law,” said Herr.
It has also led to municipalities and the public storing these devices while waiting for a vendor to recycle them. As an example, he pointed to one township that has 5 semi-trailers full of e-waste waiting to be recycled.
Herr said the “solutions proposed by this legislation will address the concerns and work to alleviate the pressures of illegal dumping.”
He noted his Association is seeking further information on several provisions in the legislation.
Lisa Schaefer, Director of Government Relations, County Commissioners Association of PA, said a “perfect storm” of a court decision against counties charging a waste fee and a decline in Act 101 Recycling Act funding for household hazardous waste, e-waste recycling, recycling tires and recycling drop-off centers have led many counties to curtail, if not outright eliminate, some of these programs for their residents.
She told the Committee the funding mechanisms under the existing e-waste recycling law “are not coming close to covering costs, and many counties that had offered collection opportunities are simply no longer able to do so.”
“At the same time, retailers like Best Buy announced in 2016 they would no longer accept televisions or computer monitors in Pennsylvania for recycling, and Goodwill stopped taking televisions and CRT computer monitors in 2013,” Schaefer said.
“This legislation generally meets the principles outlined in the Pennsylvania County Platform related to electronics recycling, in particular providing multiple entities with the ability to establish collection sites, including those counties that are willing and able to do so,” she said.
There are several clarifications the Association is seeking in the bill.
Shannon Reiter, President, Keep PA Beautiful, said Senate Bill 800 takes “a significant step towards providing convenient and affordable access for electronics recycling which is what Pennsylvanians so desperately need.”
She noted a 2014 study by KPB called Illegal Dumping In Pennsylvania: A Decade of Discovery found there is less illegal dumping in areas where there is universal access to waste and recycling collection services.
If residents cannot dispose of bulky items at the curb or a convenient drop-off center, these items are more likely to be dumped along roads and over hillsides, Reiter said.
The cost of cleaning up these sites, KPB has found, averages about $614/ton with the average community cleanup costing $2,947.
While KPB does not have quantitative data on electronics dumping, “we have seen an exponential increase in electronics dumping and that is not slowing down,” said Reiter.
“We continue to find piles of stripped televisions- carcasses of broken plastic and shards of leaded glass scattered in open fields, on dead-end streets, along intersections and over riverbanks. Individuals and businesses are abandoning them into nearby dumpsters or at recycling drop-offs-- even when it is clearly posted that these materials are not accepted.
“All of this is costing our communities valuable resources. While the dumping continues, over the years, communities have become more responsive,” explained Reiter.
“Local and county governments across the state are doing their best to address the electronics dumping issue and are often left with tens to hundreds of illegally dumped televisions piled up in warehouses and alleyways. Communities are then forced to absorb the costs of recycling and disposing of these materials,” she said.
She outline examples of the illegal dumping problems in Dauphin, Venango, Washington and Westmoreland counties and their attempts to deal with them.
“In our opinion, the best way to address the dumping of these materials is to be proactive and provide convenient and affordable access to everyone in Pennsylvania,” said Reiter.  “Senate Bill 800 does this through the State default plan which guarantees access to counties not covered under an approved individual alternative plan or joint alternative plan.
“The State default plan establishes an infrastructure of convenience centers that ensures that in each of the 67 counties, there is a place that offers residents convenient access to proper disposal and recycling of their electronics,” she added.
Reiter concluded by saying consumer education is critical when a law like electronics waste recycling is enacted because it requires consumers to change their behavior.
“Consumers need to be informed on what, where and when the material can be recycled. We believe that while Senate Bill 800 provides for communication standards to ensure residents are aware of their options, in our experience it is never enough,” said Reiter.  “We stress the importance of ongoing consumer education at the state, county and local level to ensure maximum return and participation.
“Making it hard for consumers to recycle only defeats the intent of the law,” said Reiter.
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing and for written testimony.  Click Here for a summary of Senate Bill 800.
“As we hear of more and more [e-waste] facilities closing down, this is getting to be a crisis situation today,” said Sen. Yaw.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: gyaw@pasen.gov.   Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to: yudichak@pasenate.com.
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