First Day of Vermont E-Waste Disposal Ban

Happy New Year.

As of today, it is illegal to dispose of "e-waste" in Vermont.  Of course, most of you haven't been disposing of it anyway.  Vermont already had one of the highest recycling rates per capita in the USA for "e-waste".  Some counties have already had waste bans for several years, and most people here prefer to recycle (or donate their computer for repair and reuse).

In 6 months, the state will take over much of the management of the electronics from the private sector.

To qualify as a vendor for the state program, we are doing the R2 paperwork for our reuse friends and partners overseas.  It's very expensive, but worthwhile.  We need to qualify these overseas companies in order to provide peace of mind to our clients, especially original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) whose programs we manage in Rhode Island, Maine, and New York.

Oddly, when it comes to our home state of Vermont, these R2 certifications of overseas reuse partners are not worth doing.  That's because, in the current draft of the Vermont "E-Waste" Program proposal document, it's like California - anything which is reused is dis-included from the collection fees.  That means that you are collecting material, in a truckload, not knowing what is reusable, and must then track back the weight of anything you sell for refurbishment.  Interestingly, the state law S.77 does not require this, it was created by ANR.  Since non-local reuse is allowed under S.77,  it's probably a big opening for independent plans.

So in other words, the state of Vermont requires us to certify R2 downstream markets if we reuse, but does not allow us to bill for that, only to bill for destruction.   If you did want to bid to be the official state operator, and you want to keep your reuse markets, say in Egypt and Indonesia, here is how it would work:

Bid to Collect 1 ton at (say) $100 per ton = $100

Collect 1625 tons (5 lbs per resident)

To achieve close to 25% reuse and refurbishment (about 406 tons):
Sign PO for 50 tons of tested working reuse for Egypt hospitals
Sign PO for 100 tons of TV reuse in Mexico
Sign PO for 250 tons of tested repairable units for Indonesia (reuse in same factory that made monitors).


Do R2 Audit ($5k) for each end market (3 x $5000 = $15000)

Bill state for 1650 tons x 100 per ton = $165,000
Subtract 50 tons for reuse sent to Egypt hospitals = $5,000
Subtract 100 tons for reuse sent to Mexico coop = $10,000
Subtract 250 tons for repair and refubishing in Indonesia = $25,000

Total subtracted = $40,000 + $15,000 (R2 certifications)

That leaves you $110,000 if you choose to reuse.

If you destroy (recycle) everything, you get $165,000 plus you eliminate the testing, packing and shipping jobs (about 6, replaced by 2 demanufacturing)

That means the value of the 400 tons sold for reuse must be greater than or equal to $55,000 plus the four jobs, or 175,000.   At 40 units per ton, that means the cost of reusing 16,000 items is $10.94 per item.  The value of the monitors and TVs is about $6 each, so that's a loss of almost $5 on each piece.

A rational business person will eliminate reuse, and gain about $1.50 in scrap for each piece, prefering to lose $4.50 reuse value rather than $11 in redemption value.

Of course, the overseas markets which are growing fastest are the 3B3K - the countries earning $3,000 per capita.   Those people, I guess, will go out and buy new $150 LCD monitors to replace the $6 CRTs.  Or, in the case of the United Nations schools program we were working with, they will simply go without the computer in the school.

Vermont will lose the export revenue and the jobs.

Why Vermont ANR chose to do this in this way?   I don't know whether the manufacturers who don't like the secondary market got to them, or the folks who denigrate the export market, or the folks who don't reuse and don't want to compete with a Fair Trade operation which does.  This is what happened in California, when government took over the electronics recycling business there.

We will fire the reuse people and destroy the working product, the math is obvious.  Vermont loses the jobs and loses the $6 per unit revenues from overseas.  The people overseas will lose a very honest and reputable Vermont Fair Trade supplier.  What a killer.

Obviously, the films we produced, in Vermont and Senegal and Mexico, covered by NPR and PBS, etc., did not even convince our own state that reuse is environmentally preferable, higher on the hierarchy than recycling.   I am probably going to lose interest in this business, it's just going to be another commodity.  For me, the best part of coming to work every day is creating jobs for Vermonters who need to meet the specifications of counterparts in other countries who cannot otherwise afford to get online. 

Hopefully, the state will realize that fixing computers for overseas reuse is good for the environment, good for the Vermont economy, and better than prohibitions and boycotts.  Good Point already has agreements with some OEM manufacturers who do not allow us to repair and refurbish their product - if they want to pay for the cost of destruction and recycling, that's fine by me.  But getting the state to intervene makes losers out of the OEMs which were participating with  us in improving fair trade markets.  What a killer.

Happy New Year!

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