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Pa. legislator pitches increased electronics recycling for manufacturers, retailers

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The York County Solid Waste Authority launched a Residential Electronics Recycling Program on April 5 at the authority's Yard Waste Compost Site in Manchester Township.
The York County Solid Waste Authority launched a Residential Electronics Recycling Program on April 5 at the authority's Yard Waste Compost Site in Manchester Township. - (Photo / )

A state lawmaker from Scranton has proposed legislation that would require manufacturers recycle more electronic devices, helping reduce some of the financial burden on counties and municipalities.

The lawmaker, Rep. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna County, is seeking a remedy to some of the unintended consequences of the state's Act 108, the Covered Device Recycling Act, which took effect in 2013.

"In recent years, community-based electronic recycling programs have become increasingly cost-prohibitive and, in many cases, have stopped accepting covered devices or now charge a fee based on the total weight of an item," Flynn said.

Under Act 108, televisions, desktop and laptop computers, computer monitors and computer peripherals are prohibited in waste disposal facilities, and must be taken to designated recycling programs.

Act 108 also requires registered manufacturers of newly covered devices to recycle a specific amount of old covered devices based on the total weight (in pounds) of covered devices they produced during a year, multiplied by the manufacturer’s market share during the previous year.

Local struggles

Marty Flynn

But that's where things get difficult. As Flynn points out, new devices — particularly televisions and computer monitors — weigh much less than older models. So based on the formula in Act 108, a greater number of covered devices are entering the consumer market than are being recycled on a yearly basis.

And that has only exacerbated another problem, namely the difficulty of counties and local governments to maintain recycling programs in the face of rising costs and falling prices for scrap metal components, which has driven some contractors out of the field.

York County, for example, resumed its program this spring after having to suspend it last year for lack of a contractor.

Dauphin County, meanwhile, restricted the county's free electronics recycling program to Dauphin residents and businesses, in order to prevent a glut of outside returns from driving up costs.

Making matters more complicated still, Minnesota-based retailer Best Buy in February announced it would no longer accept TVs for recycling in Pennsylvania and Illinois, citing state laws that prohibit the chain from collecting fees to run electronics recycling programs.

Residents in areas and counties without programs have been taking matters into their own hands, creating another problem Flynn wants to see stopped.

"This has led to an increase of illegal dumping, most often along rural roadways," he said.

"As a device degrades and is exposed to weather conditions, toxic substances sometimes leak out, contaminating the soil, surface waters and groundwater," Flynn added.

Proposed legislation

Flynn’s legislation, H.B. 2309, would provide a graduated scale to require that manufacturers recycle more of their covered devices, starting next year:

•  In calendar years 2017-18, it would be a quantity equal to three times the manufacturer’s market share.

• In calendar years 2019-20, it would be to a quantity equal to two times the manufacturer’s market share; and

• In calendar year 2021 and every year thereafter, it would be a quantity equal to the manufacturer’s market share.

The bill has been referred to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

"It is imperative that we assist local communities by further requiring manufactures to bear a portion of the financial burden associated with recycling covered devices," Flynn said.

"Manufacturers of covered devices should have a social responsibility to assist in recycling their products that pose a potential risk to the environment as well as to the health and welfare of Pennsylvania residents."

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Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @rogerdupuis2.

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