NJ Capital / JosephSohm, ShutterstockThe New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) suggested several amendments to an e-scrap reform bill that would hand greater program control to manufacturers. The state’s recycling community said it objected to the changes.

At a state Senate environment committee meeting today, John Gray with DEP presented the amendments, which include moving from a statewide plan to what DEP calls a contingent plan. Under this proposed structure, the state would shift greater management responsibility over to manufacturers, companies that are already charged with funding the statewide recovery effort. Under the current law, manufacturers must provide “free and convenient” recycling of their products.

The state agency recommendation is to essentially abandon the state run program, maintaining it only as an enforcement tool. If a manufacturer is unable to meet its obligation, the state would take over.

Gray said DEP should not be the entity spearheading the recovery effort. “Manufacturers should have the responsibility and obligation,” he said.

The amendments also include a second level of oversight, which would require authorized recycling companies doing business for manufacturers to register with the DEP. There is no fee associated with the registration – the goal is to simply track down e-scrap businesses imposing fees on counties when they shouldn’t be.

The DEP’s amendments also clarify language within the bill regarding manufacturers’ responsibility for costs at collection sites. These steps would help tighten up standards of handling materials, Gray said.

The last major topic discussed by Gray was e-scrap that is being collected by entities that are not funded by manufacturers – this is referred to as “out of system” material. The DEP is still collecting data on that topic. Once DEP receives that information from counties, the agency will provide further recommendations.

Opposition from some stakeholders

Public testimony was heard at the Senate hearing. While supported by manufacturers, the amendments were not well received by municipalities, local government officials and e-scrap processors.

Several took issue with DEP’s perspective on out-of-system material. Allen Weston with the New Jersey Association of Counties said some manufacturers don’t want to have collection sites in some parts of the state, so counties are hiring their own vendors to collect e-scrap material. That material is considered out-of-system, and the DEP is still deciding if manufacturers should pay for it.

Gray, with the DEP, said the amendments create a manufacturer-driven system, and those electronics producers have the obligation to determine where collection sites are. Under the current law, there must be a collection site in every county, and one for every 40,000 people. The DEP expects the number of collection sites to grow, but several recycling representatives and local government officials disagreed.

The amendments were proposed for a bill called S-981, which was introduced to lawmakers in April.

A bill similar to S-981 was vetoed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last year. The current version of S-981 has been approved by the Senate and is expected to be approved by the state Assembly.

However, if it does pass both chambers of the Legislature, the bill is expected to be vetoed by Christie.

State Sen. Bob Smith, a Democrat who co-sponsored the bill and is on the Senate Environment and Energy Committee that heard the testimony, asked recycling companies and local officials in attendance if they would prefer to move forward with S-981 or the amended version. They all said they preferred to push through S-981 as is and risk a Christie veto.

Frank Brill, a lobbyist for the Association of New Jersey Recyclers, said even if S-981 gets vetoed, it sets the tone. “We’ll take our chances in the next term,” he said.

Smith and other members of the Senate committee will confer on the testimony and make a recommendation to the Assembly.

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