Testimony: New York State Assembly E-Waste Hearing

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NYSAR3 Testimony
New York State Assembly E-Waste Hearing
February 24, 2016
Jim Gilbert, President, NYSAR3

 

Thank you for the opportunity for NYSAR3 to testify at this hearing.

NYSAR3 is the New York State Association for Reduction Reuse and Recycling. We are the premier organization representing the state's recycling professionals. Our membership currently consists of 120 people who are primarily local government recycling coordinators and representatives of the companies that provide their recycling services.

NYSAR3 members and their employers across the state provided initial support for the Electronic Recycling and Reuse law in order to provide collection service to residents while reducing costs for their employers. Now recycling programs are faced with tough choices and responsibilities that, by law, were supposed to be assigned to the manufacturers.

Problem: Recycling Programs are facing unexpected costs

Because of the E-Waste law, many local governments re-designed their existing E-waste recycling programs, or in some cases began new ones, with certain expectations about how implementation was supposed to work. At first, the costs of running these programs were covered by manufacturers as was provided in the law. Collection volumes were higher than calculated. As the law shifted into the third and fourth years of implementation, local governments that have e-waste recycling programs have faced unexpected rising costs. This is due to manufacturer funding responsibility, as designated by the acceptance standard, being treated by the manufacturers as a cap. This amount was reached very quickly due to high collection volumes.

The law’s intent was to shift costs away from local governments altogether and on to manufacturers. However the acceptance standard calculations, which at the time they were conceived were thought to be sufficient, turned out to be seriously underestimated. As a result manufacturers have capped their costs regardless of the volume being collected and the cost of the excess flow is being turned back to local governments and other consumers.

The problem of local governments facing unexpected costs is compounded by low commodity markets and program budget cuts. Electronics recycling, along with most forms of recycling, is facing increased costs due to dramatically lowered commodities markets prices – markets are down over 40% since 2010. Many commodity prices are at an all-time low. In addition, many local government recycling programs are facing budget cuts as governments attempt to stabilize local tax rates. 

Problem: Recycling Programs providing Public Education/Outreach

Many local government recycling programs are providing the bulk of public education on how to properly recycle electronics – another responsibility that the law assigns to manufacturers – and receiving no financial reimbursement for taking on this task.

A public education program to inform consumers about the manufacturer's electronic waste acceptance program was required in the law, including at a minimum:

  • An internet website and a toll-free telephone number and written information included in the product manual for, or at the time of sale of, covered electronic equipment that provides sufficient information to allow a consumer of covered electronic equipment to learn how to return the covered equipment for recycling or reuse, and in the case of manufacturers of computers, hard drives and other covered electronic equipment that have internal memory on which personal or other confidential data can be stored, such website shall provide instructions for how consumers can destroy such data before surrendering the products for recycling or reuse;
  • Advertisements and press releases if any; and (d) any other information as required by the department in accordance with regulations promulgated pursuant to this article.

We have, however, found that the manufacturers’ toll-free phone numbers are not useful, and the web based information is often outdated and not useful. The toll-free phone numbers and manufacturer websites can be found here: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/82084.html.

This is a time/labor cost put onto recycling programs that should be funded by manufacturers.

Solution to local government costs: NYSAR3 requests a determination

NYSAR3 requests either the DEC or the legislature to evaluate section 27-2605(8), to formally determine whether local government collectors are included in the definition of “consumer.” Since fees cannot be charged to the consumer, but taxpayer money pays the fees local governments are paying, essentially the “consumer” is being charged. This determination may solve the issue with manufacturers not fully funding the system.

The above two items indicate what we consider to be the most significant challenges. There are many other challenges to the E-Waste law, such as the impracticality of the mailback option which we recommend eliminating.

Again, thank you for this opportunity to testify. If you need further clarification, please contact me.

Sincerely,

James Gilbert
President
New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling
(585) 734-9708
jgilbjr [at] gmail.com