Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hearing exposes turmoil in electronics recycling in NJ

Worn out televisions and computers constitute e-waste
Members of the New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee on Monday heard from a half dozen witnesses who testified on problems that have caused several municipal and county recycling programs to abandon the collection of worn- out televisions and computers.

John Purves, an attorney representing a group of South Jersey private recyclers who process electronic waste for TV and computer makers, said there were several reasons why the state's
five-year-old Electronic Waste Recycling Act was no longer working as well as it did when it was launched.

He laid the primary blame on product manufacturers who, he said, are no longer paying recyclers adequate rates to keep the system viable.

Starting in 2013, manufacturers. who are obligated to pay for the recycling of the electronic products they sell in the state, began to pay less, Purves said. Within a year, they also were collecting less and material began to pile up.

"Now we have a situation in New Jersey where the facilities have notified county and municipal governments that they can no longer take back the material in the manner that the law intended--free and convenient," he said.  "It was the intent of the law that the cost of the recycling would be borne by the manufacturers."


Purves's contentions were supported in letters and testimony from members of the NJ Association of Counties, the Association of New Jersey Recyclers and the Association of New Jersey Household Hazardous Waste Coordinators.

Monica Gismondi told the committee that Gloucester County had been providing free e-waste recycling for years via municipal drop-off sites and at the county landfill. In 2014, the recycler who took the county and municipal material began collecting a fee of more than $12,000 for the service.

Monica Gismondi of Gloucester County testifies on e-waste
Atlantic County dropped its program when the fees kicked in and left neighbors to fend for themselves, she said. "Counties are all now scraping to find the money to continue their programs."

Gismondi laid some of the blame at the feet of the state Department of Environmental Protection which, she said, established quotas for each manufacturer which were too low.

In September of 2013, the manufacturers said 'we've reached our quota' and I'm not collecting any more until January 1," she testified. This resulted in the stockpiling of electronic waste. The same thing happened in 2014, she said.

Walter Alcorn of the Consumer Electronics Association, representing a number of manufacturers, including NJ-based Panasonic, Samsung and Sharp, said several of his manufacturers spend $10 million a year in New Jersey alone supporting electronics recycling. He noted that the problem of payments had been complicated by the collapse of the recycling market for leaded, television Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT's) in 2013. Alcorn said that there basically is no market for CRT's so recyclers now must pay to handle them.

David Thomson of Panasonic said that DEP had raised the quota for manufacturers to meet this year and recommended that no legislative change be enacted until the result of that adjustment is know.

While no legislation has been introduced to address the problem, Senator Smith is believed to be contemplating a bill.

This was his response at the close of the hearing when we asked for his assessment.

Disclosure: Our sister company, Brill Public Affairs, provides legislative advice to the 

Association of New Jersey Recyclers.
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New York's Electronic Waste Ban Begins In 2015 - WAMC
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