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Questions for Developing Ohio’s E-Waste Law

Ohio Environmental Council, November 26, 2012

Who should pay for the costs of e-waste recycling?

There are two main approaches that states have taken: consumers pay or the manufacturers pay. The most common involves the individual manufacturers paying for the cost of recycling their percentage of product in the market place. Costs to the manufacturer include the actual recycling, as well as, transportation and collection.

Under this system, most states allow the cost to be completely free to the consumers, although some charge consumers a nominal fee when they drop off their electronics. States using this system may charge a one-time registration fee and/or an additional annual fee to the manufacturers.

Recycling operations will then pass a bill onto the manufacturers for the number of their units that were actually recycled. States with this system include: Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Maine, and Washington. Advantages to this type of system include: manufacturers having a greater responsibility for their product, encouraging a longer life span for the products, and making the products easier to recycle.

California is the main state in which costs are allocated to the consumer. This is done through an additional charge to electronic products at the time of purchase. Consumers do not have to pay a fee at the time of collection. The downside to this system could be that it chills the encouragement of manufacturers producing more environmentally friendly products.

Jobs rates might be lowered as consumers buy their products elsewhere at a lower cost. The government is then responsible for the management of the recycling system. There has been a problem with recycling companies in California reporting fraudulent bills to the government.

Since consumers are paying an extra fee at the time of purchase, the recyclers present their bills to the government for payment rather than the manufacturers. Recyclers have been over reporting the number of units processed in order to make a larger profit off the government. The government may also be covering the cost of electronics that were bought outside the state but are still being recycled within the state (“orphan devices”).

What electronics should be included in the program?

The electronics to be included in the program are commonly referred to as “Covered Electronic Devices” (CEDs). Most state regulations include televisions, desktop and portable computers, and monitors at the very lease.

A few states limit their CEDs to products with Cathode Ray Tube (CRTs). Massachusetts has one of the most restrictive regulations only including CRTs (computer monitors and TV screens). The majority of states allow electronics with a screen size of 4 inches diagonally to be included. Few states allow accessories like keyboards and mice to be recycled under the program but more will be adding them into the program in the future (Oregon). New York and Illinois have two of the most inclusive list of CEDs.

How should retailers contribute to the program?

A common thread among state bans on e-waste is the requirement that retailers advertise recycling options at the time of purchase. Also, retailers are not allowed to sell electronics from manufacturers not approved by the state.

Manufacturers may not be approved for sale in the state when they do not pay their registration fee or meet other requirements. States, such as those with recycling goals, may require retailers to keep track of the number of products sold for each manufacturer.

Should manufacturers be required to meet recycling goals?

Some states, in addition to making the manufacturers pay the cost of recycling, mandate that manufacturers meet certain recycling goals for the year. This not only places the cost on manufacturers, but the burden of setting up collection sites for consumers.

States with this program include Illinois, Minnesota, and New York. States set these goals by having retailers or the manufacturers report how many of each manufacturers’ products were sold in the state the previous year.

Illinois, for example, required manufacturers in the first year of the program to recycle 40% of the weight of items sold in the state during a previous year. There were criticisms of Illinois for setting lower goals than other states and yet manufacturers were still not meeting their goals.

If manufacturers do not meet the goals set, fines are assessed. Illinois set different fines depending on the percentage of the goal met.

Several states give credits to manufacturers that exceed their yearly recycling goals. These credits may then be reserved for the future or sold to other manufacturers.

What entities should be allowed to participate in the program?

Electronic device consumers include individuals buying for the household, businesses (large or small), schools and the government, among others. Regulations must establish who may take advantage of the, often free, collection facilities or events.

At a minimum, all the states with e-waste laws cover household e-waste. Others may allow small business to use the collections sites but limit the number of employees the business may have and still use the program (New Jersey, Maine).

Washington provides e-waste recycling for free to residents, businesses, schools and government offices. If certain entities are not included in the e-waste recycling program, they are regulated under hazardous and solid waste laws in most instances.

How should manufacturers establish recycling programs?

If the entire burden is to be placed on the manufacturers, including plans for recycling, states have set different limits on how manufacturers may handle their programs. North Carolina sets out three different recycling plans the manufacturers have to choose from but they must follow one of the plans.

Several states give manufacturers the option to either implement their own recycling plans that must meet state standards or pay to participate in another plan (either set-up by the state or a separate entity). New York allows the manufacturers to group together to form collective recycling programs.

How should orphan devices be taken into account?

Orphan devices are electronic devices not accounted for by a manufacturer selling within the state at the time. This may include devices from manufacturers that are no longer in business or not allowed to be sold in the state.

The common practice when costs are to be allocated to manufacturers is to spread the cost of recycling to the manufacturers based on their overall market share (Connecticut).

Should there be an immediate ban on the electronics in the waste stream?

Not all of the states with e-waste laws started their programs with a complete ban of the products in the municipal waste stream. Illinois, for example, set the ban to start several years after enactment.

Oregon places a burden on the waste disposal facilities from knowingly accepting the devices.

Issues/points to consider:

  • There are currently 25 states with some form of e-waste legislation.
  • Manufacturers’ frustration with varying state laws to comply with
  • Limitation on export of e-waste to other countries
  • Some statutes specifically banned the use of prison labor for the recycling of e-waste within the state (The cost of this is so low that it prohibits competition in the market which could prevent job creation but it can compete with the prices found by exporting to other countries).
  • Ohio must also regulate the recycling facilities and collectors.
  • Job loss vs. Job gain: requiring manufacturers to pay the fees may impact jobs in the state as manufacturers will want to relocate elsewhere. It also restricts the manufacturers that can sell in the state when they do not comply. However, e-waste recycling facilities are a growing business and might create jobs. The competition among these companies causes more recycling events in order to process a greater number of electronics for a profit.

Statutes & Regulations from other E-Waste States

California

  • Statute: Electronic Waste Recycling Act
  • System: This is the main state for the consumers pay principle. Consumers are charged an additional fee at the time of purchase. The burden for waste management lies with the government. There is no cost to consumers at the time of recycling. The fee attached to the device is based upon the size of the viewable screen and charges may change from year-to-year. The money from the fees goes into a recycling fund to reimburse recyclers and collectors.
  • Ban: The disposal ban has been in effect since 2002.
  • Products included: Cathode ray tube containing devices (CRT devices), Cathode ray tubes (CRTs), Computer monitors containing cathode ray tubes, Laptop computers with liquid crystal display (LCD), LCD containing desktop monitors, Televisions containing cathode ray tubes, Televisions containing liquid crystal display (LCD) screens, Plasma televisions, Portable DVD players with LCD screens.
  • Problems: Recycling companies are fraudulently billing the government for non-existent devices

Connecticut

  • Statute
  • System: Manufacturers finance the transportation and recycling of e-waste. They must pay an annual fee established by the percentage of the market product they sold. Recycling operations will sort the devices and give the manufacturers a bill for their products.
  • Entities included: Free to residents (non-residential sources are regulated under federal and state hazardous waste and solid waste laws).
  • Ban: Yes, as of January 1, 2011
  • Products included: Televisions, desktop and portable computers, computer monitors, and printers. Also, certain tablets, e-readers, and phones with a video display greater than 4 inches are covered.
  • Recycling programs: municipalities must submit a plan for collection of devices from the people in the area. Manufacturers may also participate in a private recycling program
  • Orphan devices: Determined by market share of current manufacturers

Illinois

  • Statute: Illinois Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act (415 ILCS 150/1)
  • System: Manufacturers must register with EPA and meet annual recycling goals. Recycling goals are based on retail sales by weight. They must also submit quarterly audit reports.
  • Entities included: Only electronics from residences.
  • Ban: There was no initial ban but starting January 1, 2012 there is a ban from mixing electronic waste and municipal waste. This ban says that no person may knowingly cause or allow the mixing of the CEDs with municipal waste. Fines exist for the violation of this law.
  • Products covered: Televisions, Monitors, Printers, Computers ( laptop, notebook, netbook, tablet, desktop ), Electronic Keyboards, Facsimile Machines, Videocassette Recorders, Portable Digital, Music Players, Digital Video Disc Players, Video Game Consoles, Small Scale Servers, Scanners, Electronic Mice, Digital Converter Boxes, Cable Receivers, Satellite Receivers, Digital Video Disc Recorders
  • Recycling programs: The manufacturers must either accept the old electronics themselves or partner with a recycler. Manufacturers are prohibited from charging consumer fees.
  • Recyclers: Must also register with the EPA and meet certain environmental and health standards.

Maine

  • Statute: Maine Revised Statutes §1610
  • System: Manufacturers pay the cost of recycling but local governments are in charge of collecting the waste. Manufacturers are invoiced for their actual product in the waste stream.
  • Entities included: It was originally limited to residents but extended to schools and small businesses with less than 100 employees in 2011.
  • Products included: Televisions (all sizes), Monitors, Printers (and ink cartridges), Laptops, Game systems, Digital picture frames
  • Recycling programs: local governments are in charge of collecting the waste.
  • Orphan devices: Manufacturers must pay and this is determined by DEP

Massachusetts

  • System: Seems as though municipalities are the ones paying, state DEP also provides grants to some towns.
  • Ban: Computer monitors and TV screens
  • Products included: Limited to CRT’s

Minnesota

  • Statute: 115A.1310 https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=115A&view=chapter#stat.115A.1310
  • System: Manufacturers have to register and pay an annual fee, they must also collect and recycle the covered devices. Also, create a report at the end of the year. Manufacturers must meet recycling goals. Fees are assessed if they do not meet their recycling goals and this is determined by the difference between the goal and what they actually recycled. Credits can be earned if they surpass their goal which they can then sell to other manufacturers. Retailers must report what they sold within the state to keep manufacturers on track.
  • Entities included: Households
  • Products included: “Video display devices”- CRTs (manufacturers can choose to collect others)
  • Recycling programs: Manufacturers must set up recycling programs.

New Jersey

  • Statute
  • System: Manufacturers must register and pay a fee. Manufacturers that are not in compliance (financial or otherwise) will be prohibited from selling the devices in the state. Recycling extra can get the manufacturers credit which they can sell to other manufacturers.
  • Entities included: Individual consumers and small businesses can recycle for free.
  • Products included: All computers, monitors, laptops, portable computers and televisions
  • Recycling programs: Manufacturers also have to collect, transport, and recycle market share of their products.

New York

  • Statute
  • System: This is one of the most progressive statutes. It sets statewide recycling goals set for manufacturers. They have to establish a system for collection, handling and recycling. There is a charge if the standards are not met and a credit if they are exceeded. Additionally, there are reporting requirements for the manufacturers. Manufacturers must still register and pay a one-time fee before being able to sell products in the state, but they also pay an annual fee for reporting.
  • Ban: New York has phases for the ban of electronics in the waste stream starting with manufacturers, then individuals or households by 2015
  • Products included: Very broad, http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycwasteless/html/stuff/takeback_electronicsCEE.shtml
  • Recycling programs: The burden is on the manufacturers but it allows manufacturers to group together to form collective electronic waste acceptance programs. Programs must be at no cost to consumers (except certain organizations over a certain number of employees, then they may charge).
  • Report after the first year of program: http://www.productstewardship.us/associations/6596/files/Report_NYS_Producer_Responsibility_Law_for_Electronics.pdf
  • Problems: They are putting the revenue from manufacturer registration etc. into a general state fund rather than one specific for the program (money could be reserved for enforcement and education etc.).

North Carolina

  • Statute: NC General Statutes 130A-309.130 to.141
  • System: Shared responsibility between manufacturers, governments and the consumers. Manufacturers need to register and pay a fee. This statute does not affect the ability of local governments voluntarily managing these things.
  • Ban: Yes
  • Products included: Televisions, computers, monitors, printers, scanners, and computer peripherals such as keyboards and mice. There are some differences in the regulations for TVs.
  • Recycling programs: Manufacturers have three levels of recycling plans to choose from but they have to do one of them.

Oregon:

  • System: Oregon has a free electronics recycling program paid for by the manufacturers. It also prohibits solid waste disposal facilities from knowingly accepting these for disposal, they must revise their plans to address the ban and prevent acceptance of CEDs (also to ensure proper disposal when they are received), if they realize they did break this rule then they have to complete a hazardous waste determination. There are specific requirements for how many recycling programs there must be.
  • Ban: Yes.
  • Products included: Computers, monitors and televisions are currently covered. In 2015, they will be adding computer peripherals and printers.
  • Recycling programs: Manufacturers can either choose to pay to participate in state program or pay for their own if it meets the requirements.

Rhode Island

  • System: Manufacturers must pay a registration fee and an additional recycling fee. The burden is on the manufacturers for recycling.
  • Entities included: Households and schools
  • Ban: Yes.
  • Products included: computers (CPUs), computer monitors (CRT and flat panel), combination units (CPUs with monitors), laptops (with a screen greater than 9 inches diagonally), televisions (including CRT, LCD and plasma with a screen greater than 9 inches diagonally), and similar video display devices with a screen greater than 9 inches diagonally which contains a circuit board
  • Recycling programs: Manufacturers can either run their own program or participate in a state run program.

 Washington

  • Statute: 173-900 WAC Electronic Product Recycling Program, The Senate Bill (SB-6428)
  • System: All costs are covered by the manufacturers. There are different tiers of annual payments depending on the size of the manufacturer. The fees are based on market share and collection share.
  • Entities included: Free to residents, businesses, schools and the government
  • Products included: televisions, computers, computer monitors, portable or laptop computers including “tablet computers” and e-readers (also called e-book readers)
  • Recycling programs: Manufacturers have a choice to join the state plan or implement their own recycling plan.
  • Orphan devices: Distribution of costs

Additional resources: