Vermont S.77 2010 discussions

Headed back this morning for the 3rd day of testimony about Vermont's proposed e-waste bill. S.77 has been sent to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Two years ago, the price of recycling ewaste was dropping fast. Samsung was buying post-consumer CRT glass tubes to recycle into new CRTs, we had more orders for refurbished monitors than we could fill, and we had an extremely talented and ethical monitor manufacturer in Malaysia who was getting permits and responding to our Fair Trade philosophy (we lower the price in return for ISO140001, permits, best practices). We said that the rate of growth of e-waste collection in Vermont, in pounds per resident, was actually FASTER than the projected collections under the e-waste Stewardship bill.

A year ago, BAN involved itself in the Samsung glass purchase order, and without parsing their letter to the Malaysia Dept of Environment (Jim doesn't like when I characterize their position), suffice to say that weeks later Samsung no longer recycled CRTs from the USA and continued to do so from Europe, Japan, Australia, South Korea, etc. USA CRTs began to go through Korea, Canada and Mexico instead. (You will see Korea, where Samsung is based, playing a larger role, as BAN goes after India, which is the other remaining CRT glass market after China, which has put its money into virgin mining and no longer wants to allow recycling of CRT glass except from Chinese sources).

Today, TVs are pouring in, from digital conversion but more so from the falling price of flat TV displays at Wal-Mart and Best Buy. But Mexico has been shut down as an intermediary. The cost of CRT handling is going to go up. So, we are in a position of either passing costs to our municipal clients in Vermont, or getting on board with S.77

In three days I have heard a lot of testimony I disagree with, but with 600k residents it's not like Vermont going to kill the planet with unintended consequences. So now we are about doing surgery on the S.77 bill to fix the anti-reuse language.

History will show that the legislation is a million dollar solution to a $300k problem. But $300k is a problem for cities and towns in Vermont, and I don't want to be holding the bloody towel if staff are laid off at the solid waste districts. And the kind of thing that I was also afraid of (cherry picking of good clients like CSWD and good material like computers) has already happened with Small Dog Electronics and Goodwill Industries.

What I really, really, really don't like is that I spend my life doing the best thing I can do and then I hear, in committee, that an retailer has told someone, who told them, that my company, Good Point Recycling, is dumping Vermont e-waste in China (as the CEO threatened in a negotiation over money). Environmentalists are taking on the age old role of the church in modern society. You join (the church, or the environmental group) because you really want to be a good person. You try to use your church or group to do good things which you don't really know much about. In your tireless crusade against sin, Gallileo and Copernicus get in the way. Not comparing myself to either of those geniouses. Just saying that when the flock doesn't know Jupiter from Alpha Centauri, the idea that Gallileo belongs in jail can seem like "precautionary principle".

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