House Painting and Heart Surgery in VT S.77

Is your state looking at e-waste legislation?

First, don't buy the line that re-writing your bill is creating a "patchwork quilt" and that you need to stick with an existing formula. Every state that has been represented as going with the formula has made changes. There is no single bill. Even proponents of the mythical "single bill" are submitting major changes from year to year. The latest novelty, the NY style "convenience" legislation is the most complex, I'll explain why in a future blog. For now, suffice to say it is the only bill in court challenge.

So if you are starting, I suggest that you look at the job like layers of paint. I won't try to convince you that you don't need 5 layers of paint, let's just proceed now based on your belief that your wall needs 5 layers. How do you apply 5 layers of paint to a wall?

A layer at a time.

1) Ban e-waste from disposal.

You can do this now under RCRA (Massachusetts and California achieved 3+ pounds per resident ten years ago with no legislation). Some counties in VT simply banned CRTs from disposal and refer to EPA rules. This creates an infrastructure, i.e. municipalities which already collect batteries, tires and refrigerators now must accept what you ban. (It is hard for my business to collect in St. Albans and Newport, the only major municipalities which are not collecting). This is also the stage where you start setting up the minimum standards of processing for an e-waste recycler in your state.

2) Funding.

75% of residents will pay $10 for an item. If you start with that, we can arrange coupons for the other 25% and to hold collection costs down. You can have a once-a-year "amnesty" or free collection for folks who will sit in a line. But at this point you are looking for just $400k to get the entire state of Vermont collecting 100%. With funding, you can start to raise the bar to get "best practices" (R2 standard compliance) from your ewaste service providers.

3) Advertise.

What the Small Dog Electronics ewaste event in Burlington shows is that if you advertise you get participation. That has been mistaken for other things, but basically the free ice cream at ben and jerry's lines are as much about the event as about the free ice cream. Some of the Vermont legislators were telling me there were not TV collections in towns that Good Point Recycling picks up TVs from once a month. The program needs to be advertised.

4) Outside Stewardship funding

Once you get the skeleton in place, like we have in VT, at that point you may add the layer of paint for OEM funding. You have the access points created, you can identify how many people refuse to pay $10 vs. those who prefer not to pay $10 or (the largest group) were not aware of the ewaste collection until you advertised it. If the OEMs have accepted the market share approach to funding, which it appears they have, then set up a fund for that and take the money. But first use that money for advertising and coupons, and then see where the state still needs coverage. Once this money is available, I can go out and pay the $20k per year it will cost to be R2 Certified.

5) Convenience

Now if you still need to mandate which town of 4,312 residents needs collection funds from which manufacturer of digital watches, and want to calculate and administer that, go ahead. I don't think you need this layer of paint, but go ahead.

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By July 15, 2010, ANR will enact a law banning disposal of used electronics at transfer stations, landfills, or incinerators, including a ban on unfair dumping of ewaste on the export market. ANR will issue a grant application for up to $350,000 for the establishment of convenient collection programs in districts which do not have them. Those sites must be up and running by the December 2010 date below to receive their funding.

By December 2010, ANR will have printed a list of places to take ewaste in Vermont, and will publicize them through mailings and other media. This work may be contracted out to solid waste districts or to a private consultant.

By July 2011, each district receiving ANR grants and assistance will complete a "Sustainability Report" demonstrating the costs incurred by running their ewaste program. ANR will use this report to recommend use of funding collected in December of 2011.

In 2011, all manufacturers and brand owners selling electronics in Vermont will... (now you implement the fundraising / stewardship / cost sharing).

I told the committee that I feel like my business is being wheeled into an operating room for open heart surgery, and I cannot get a second opinion. But I've acknowledged that our client municipalities are running out of gas and we can no longer stand between them and manufacturer taxation.

Because we started collecting in 2000, and achieved 85% TV recycling, we don't really need the part of S.77 which was about setting up a collection infrastructure. We could use the waste ban to get a few "slow" municipalities into collections (St. Albans, Newport), we could have created $300k worth of coupons and had the recycling free.

But the manufacturers don't really respond until their goose is cooked. The coupon program started after S.77 had come within a whisker of passing, and only Sony took it seriously. Now they are looking at a bill that mandates they collect, and the towns which don't want to collect are going to feel rewarded if they say they don't have staffing and get paid for the ewaste. That may lead the 85% which have collections to demand payment. That could lead to a bidding war between recyclers for tonnage in the cheap and easy spots (Chittenden, Rutland etc.), going for the 20% of tonnage which is cheapest to collect will allow you to sell the tonnage to Manufacturers for less.

The bill is written for cherry pickers. I am doing the same thing in other states which passed the bill, signing up 20% of manufacturer obligations and then competing hard for the easiest 20% of the tonnage. I am even paying and outbidding other recyclers for the easy tonnage, which will ultimately create a bidding war and the costs will get passed back to the manufacturers.

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