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An agreement is likely to soon be reached on the pending electronics recycling legislature. Disagreement over exactly who manufacturers could charge for recycling services as well as pressure by electronics manufacturers to shift responsibility and cost (Advanced Recycling Fees) to the consumer had stalled the legislation until recently.

A severe operational budget deficit of over 55 state parks is likely to break the deadlock with the new legislation along with several other measures being implemented to generate much needed funds for the New York’s Environmental Protection Fund to keep the parks open. New York City was the first US municipality to enact an e-waste law, but now 22 states have e-waste laws on the books, which contain components that are similar to the New York City program.

E-Waste Management Program “E-waste” refers to discarded covered electronic equipment, such as computers, monitors, televisions, computer accessories, cell phones, and some personal electronic devices. Concern over the disposal of e-waste which contains lead, mercury, and other metals – has grown in recent years, as technological change and lower prices have made replacing electronic equipment more and more popular.

The New York City program requires manufacturers to finance and implement methods to retrieve covered electronic equipment from city residents, government offices, and many businesses in a manner that is “convenient” for consumers. They are given a collection target linked directly to their market output. Collecting more than the target set would see some kind of bargaining chips or credits being given to the manufacturer while failure to reach the target incurs a penalty of between $0.30 and $0.50 per pound depending on the size of the company, with smaller manufacturers benefitting from lower charges.

Law Requirements

The electronics recycling program bill that is part of this budget package, A. 11308 and S. 7988, is almost identical to the two bills that were formerly in play, S. 6047A and A. 9049. Changes to the new bill include:

  • Computer peripherals, document scanners and printers weighing more than 100 pounds would be exempted from the law
  • Manufacturers may charge “business consumers” for the collection and recycling services
  • Manufacturers may charge for premium services
  • Manufacturers may not charge government or not-for-profit corporations under 501(c)(3)

Although conservationists and environmental lobbyists are very optimistic about the new bill, electronics manufacturers remain unhappy, claiming it will cost them over $200 million per year to comply with the new legislation, a cost which will inevitably be passed on to the consumer although the bill expressly states that the service should be free for New York residents. They also argue that the new legislation violates the manufacturers’ equal protection rights by targeting only certain types of electronic equipment while excluding from coverage other types of electronic equipment that contain the same types of potentially harmful substances.

The new law is set to be passed and signed at the end of May* and will immediately preempt New York City’s electronics recycling law and implementing regulations.

(*Correct at the time of writing.)

Contact:

Ke Yang
Technical Sustainability Consultant

SGS U.S. Testing Company, Inc.
t: +1 973 575 5252 
Website: www.us.sgs.com/cts

About SGS

The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With 59,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.