E-Scrap News

Environmental nonprofit lands e-scrap contract with major city

Skyline view of Pittsburgh.

Residents in the city of Pittsburgh will have an electronics recycling program again. | Amy Lutz/Shutterstock

Pittsburgh will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the city’s e-scrap recycling program, using public funds to help subsidize recycling costs for residents.

The Pittsburgh City Council on May 3 unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to sign a contract with statewide environmental nonprofit Pennsylvania Resources Council. The contract is for up to $315,000.

The city of over 300,000 people lost its subsidized e-scrap recycling program when its prior vendor, Environmental Coordination Services and Recycling (ECS&R) closed last fall. The company recycled over 180,000 pounds of e-scrap from city residents from January through October 2021, according to city documents.

Pennsylvania has a 12-year-old extended producer responsibility (EPR) program for electronics, but it has failed to provide free e-scrap recycling for all residents throughout the year. Pittsburgh Department of Public Works staff wrote that the contract with Pennsylvania Resources Council (PRC) is necessary because “very few options currently exist for residents to properly dispose of these materials that are banned from the landfill locally at a reasonable cost.”

PRC currently provides e-scrap collection events, but the city plans to use public operating funds to establish permanent drop-off locations and subsidize the costs of recycling to lower fees charged to residents.

The contract with PRC covers collection and recycling of e-scrap and household hazardous waste, including batteries, bulbs, paints, pesticides and other materials. The contract will be for 2022, with options to renew for 2023 and 2024.

Under the agreement, PRC will charge residents 35 cents per pound to drop off TVs, 25 cents a pound for latex paint and 35 cents per pound for freon-containing equipment. Those are the three most-received categories of hard-to-recycle materials, according to council documents.

With the contract, public works staff wrote, the city will enjoy a cost savings from fewer hours spent cleaning up dumped TVs and computers, as well as from less staff time directing callers to their limited recycling options.

The Pennsylvania Resources Council was one of five companies to bid on the contract when the city put out a request for proposals last fall. The others were Noble Environmental, Techno Rescue, Clean Harbors and Heritage Environmental Services.

The city’s request for proposals wanted “proposals to include reference to existing eStewards certification or movement towards that certification.” In documents submitted to the City Council, Public Works staff wrote the choice of PRC was “best for the environment-E-steward certification highest level to manage materials, ensure downstream markets are responsible and not polluting someone else’s environment overseas.”

PRC is an e-Stewards Enterprise, which means it pledges to use e-Stewards-certified downstream processors, but it is not e-Stewards certified and does not undergo the audits that certified facilities do.

Sarah Alessio Shea, deputy director of the PRC, told E-Scrap News all e-scrap collected through the contract will go to eLoop, which is an e-Stewards-certified processor. According to e-Stewards’ website, eLoop has certified facilities in Export, Pa., near Pittsburgh, and in State College, in central Pennsylvania.

“PA Resources Council is very excited to bring responsible, convenient, and affordable e-waste recycling service to the residents of Pittsburgh through this contract with the city,” she said.

Alicia Carberry, who manages the PRC contract for the Pittsburgh Department of Public Works Bureau of Environmental Services, told E-Scrap News “the city is satisfied with PRC as a certified e-Steward Enterprise, and with their subcontractor eLoop LLC’s certification.”

Carberry noted that the previous contract required ECS&R, which was R2 certified, to become e-Stewards certified, but the company never did.

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