A New Jersey lawmaker may introduce legislation boosting the government’s role in e-scrap recycling, a move electronics manufacturers would likely fight.
State Sen. Bob Smith, who helped write the Garden State’s original e-scrap recycling law, is working on legislation that would update the law, said Marie Kruzan, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Recyclers.
A bill hasn’t been introduced yet, but the legislation would aim to bring New Jersey’s e-scrap program, called E-Cycle New Jersey, more in line with the state law in Connecticut, Kruzan said.
Connecticut’s e-scrap program is relatively unique because it has government officials set the prices that recycling contractors get paid by the product manufacturers funding the state program. In most other states with e-scrap legislation, pricing is left for the market to determine.
In addition, the Connecticut model does not rely on a fixed collection target manufacturers are responsible for hitting. Such targets have caused issues in New Jersey and other states because manufacturers have at times stopped processing material after hitting their annual goals, leaving a backlog of collected material awaiting processing.
David Thompson, director of the corporate environmental program at Newark, New Jersey-based Panasonic North America, said that, based on what he heard at a Feb. 9 New Jersey Senate committee hearing, Smith is proposing legislation that would make New Jersey’s program essentially on par with Connecticut’s.
Smith couldn’t be reached for comment.
Currently in New Jersey, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) provides a target number of pounds the manufacturers are responsible for recycling each year, and the manufacturers get to contract with their choice of recycling firms to hit that quota. The New Jersey law took effect in 2010.
Kruzan, who supports the proposed changes to New Jersey’s program, said the current e-scrap landscape in the state needs fixing.
“What’s been happening is halfway through the year the manufacturer says, ‘We’ve collected everything. We don’t have to do it anymore,’” she said. “Basically the state doesn’t have any way to check that they’re giving them right numbers.”
According to Kruzan, recycling companies receiving contracts from manufacturers are getting paid much less than what is needed to fully process material, and those not receiving contracts are forced to battle with local governments over who pays for e-scrap collection.
Thompson, who also serves as president of product manufacturer recycling group MRM, said manufacturers support policies to better match supply and demand and ensure proper processing of all collected material. In some cases, states underestimate the amount that will be generated when they establish targets, he said.
“We’re trying to match our target to what a group of collection sites will generate,” he said.
DEP increased the targets again for 2015, Thompson indicated.
“I said this at the hearing – I thought that the New Jersey situation could be resolved with the target increase that the DEP implemented,” he said.
Manufacturers typically oppose Connecticut-style legislation because, in those states, the recycling costs to manufacturers are substantially higher for the same amount of material per capita, Thompson said. And they want to be able to contract with recycling firms possessing high-quality, efficient recycling technology, he added.
“We want the ability to choose our own recyclers and to do our own collection,” Thompson said.
A bill would have New Jersey joining a short list of other states that are mulling changes to their e-scrap extended producer responsibility law this year. Illinois and New York are also considering amendments.