Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Jersey DEP to release e-waste recycling rules

[This post has been updated to correct the first date in the timeline at the bottom. Thank you, Jason Springer of BlueJersey, for bringing it to our attention it. ]

A significant milestone in New Jersey's drive to require the recycling of worn out televisions, computers and computer monitors is expected to be reached in May when the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) rolls out proposed regulations for the program.

New Jersey is one of more than a dozen states that now requires manufacturers of televisions and computers to provide for the recycling of these products when they are no longer useful and might otherwise end up in landfills or waste incinerators (electronic waste).

The state's Electronic Waste Recycling Act (Chapter 130, 2008) requires every manufacturer of covered electronic products to submit plans to the DEP detailing how they plan to recycle their share of the devices.

The law gives manufacturers latitude in how they will reach their targets. Each manufacturer can establish its own collection centers and processing facilities (something no one company is likely to do because of cost) or join with other manufacturers in a combined recycling program.

Panasonic, Toshiba and Sharp is pursuing the latter option in several other states under an LLC named MRM (Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Company) which has picked up 21 additional manufacturers since it launched in October of 2008.

Manufacturers also could rely on established municipal and county recycling programs to collect the material, utilize existing commercial recycling companies in the state, or partner with nonprofits like Goodwill, which has established e-recycling operations in Texas and New Jersey.

DEP's Assistant Commissioner Nancy Wittenberg and Recycling Bureau Chief Guy Watson invited manufacturers, commercial recyclers and county recycling officials to an informal meeting on Monday at DEP headquarters in Trenton. During the session, they provided a few broad hints as to what the regulations will contain, reviewed compliance deadlines for the program's first year and took the pulse of the regulated community.

Representatives of several county recycling programs expressed concerns that the manufacturers might shut down their programs once they have recycled tonnages equivalent to their market shares. At that point, they say, public programs would end up shouldering the burden and the cost of electronic recycling.

When pressed for a response as to how they might utilize existing public recycling programs in New Jersey, the manufacturer reps played their cards close to the vest. A representative from Sharp said that his company has partnered with Goodwill and other community and retailer groups in other states that require e-recycling.

MRM President David Thompson said "It depends on what services the collectors are offering and whether we can establish a business relationship with them." He added: "There are very few companies that can properly handle CRTs" (cathode ray tubes).

Watson noted that the DEP would require manufacturer plans to explain how the material would be handled at every stage of the recycling chain to assure that material does not flow to undeveloped countries where lead and other dangerous materials in the products could cause environmental and health problems without adequate safety and processing requirements.

He also warned that no manufacturer would be permitted to sell their TVs or computers in New Jersey after Oct 1, 2010 if the plans they submit are not "administratively complete." He said that every plan would be required to offer at least one convenient collection point per county.

The Department provided the following:

Timeline for the e-recycling program's first year

January 1, 2010
- TV manufacturers must register with DEP and pay an annual $5,000 fee

January 1, 2010
- Manufacturers and retailers may no longer sell covered electronic devices (TVs, computers and computer monitors) unless the device is labeled with the manufacturer's brand and the label is permanently affixed and readily visible.

February 1, 2010
- Computer and computer monitor manufacturers must register with the DEP and pay a $5,000 annual fee.

April 2, 2010
- DEP provides return share data, in weight, to manufacturers.

June 1, 2010
- Registered TV manufacturers must submit plans based on market share
- Registered computer and computer-monitor manufacturers must submit plans based on
return share

January 1, 2011
- Collection and recycling programs begin.
- Disposal ban takes effect on all covered electronic devices

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