ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Municipal leaders from New York City to Niagara County told lawmakers at a hearing Wednesday that the state’s 6-year-old electronic waste recycling law is putting a costly burden on local governments.
The 2010 “e-waste” law requires manufacturers to manage and fund programs to collect and recycle electronic waste in New York. But local officials said much of the cost and burden is falling on municipalities.
“The law is not working as intended,” said John Strough, supervisor of the Warren County town of Queensbury.
He said Queensbury and many other towns are collecting discarded electronics from residents because no other program is readily accessible.
Discarded cathode ray tubes, or CRTs, from televisions and computer monitors are the main problem. Their lead content makes them costly to process and there’s no market for the recycled components. Recycling companies that used to take electronic waste from municipalities for free are now charging for CRTs.
After the recycler that was taking Queensbury’s e-waste shut down because the business was no longer profitable, Strough said he found a new one that will charge the town 15 cents a pound for CRTs.
Strough and others said the law is flawed in that it allows manufacturers to meet their obligation to provide free recycling through mail-back programs.
“I find it highly unlikely that someone will send a 100-pound TV back to the manufacturer,” Strough said.
Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, said experts at the time the law was drafted underestimated the volume of CRTs that would need recycling.
“This raises serious problems since the act only requires manufacturers to collect a certain volume of e-waste each year based on faulty estimates,” he said. “Once the goal is met, manufacturers have little incentive to pay e-waste recyclers for additional material.”
Acquario said Westchester County estimates it will have to pay $1.2 million for e-waste removal in 2016. Delaware County anticipates a cost of up to $90,000. Madison County’s annual expense for e-waste is about $33,000. Cattaraugus and Niagara counties each had e-waste program costs of $60,000 for 2015, Acquario said.
The Association of Counties wants the Department of Environmental Conservation to enact regulations to require manufacturers to provide year-round support for collection sites regardless of whether their performance target has been met.
Eugene Leff, the department’s deputy commissioner of remediation and materials management, told lawmakers the agency is working on regulations to address the problems. He said DEC will use money from the household hazardous waste program to reimburse municipalities for part of their e-waste recycling costs.
Steve Englebright, chairman of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, said manufacturers were invited to testify at the hearing but declined to attend.
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