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Legislative Memo

BILL:

A.1455 (Colton)

Support

SUBJECT:

Regulation of Electronic
Equipment Recycling

 

DATE:

January 21, 2005

 

This bill directs the Department of Environmental Conservation to adopt regulations governing
facilities that recycle, reuse or re-manufacture electronic equipment, and provides a definition of
“electronic equipment”intended to define the scope of this new DEC regulatory program. The
Business Council believes this legislation is unnecessary for several reasons, and recommends
against its adoption.

First, the state Department of Environmental Conservation already has sufficient authority to
govern the transportation, management, recycling and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes.
Further, the DEC's regulations already have specific requirements for facilities that handle and
recover recyclable solid wastes, and extensive provision governing hazardous waste management,
including recycling. And DEC has broad statutory authority to adopt additional regulatory
requirements that may be deemed necessary for the safe management of hazardous materials.

Second, in directing the DEC to adopt a new regulatory program for the recycling, reuse or re-
manufacturing electronic equipment, we are concerned that this legislation will have unintended
impacts on recycling efforts and current business activities. For example, certain activities – such
as manufacturing facilities that accept specific categories of source-separated, non-putrescible
recyclables for use in their manufacturing processes – are currently exempt from DEC's regulatory
requirements for recycling facilities, but are subject to other DEC regulations governing air and
water pollution, hazardous material handling, and the generation and management of solid and
hazardous wastes. Even so, this legislation suggests that such facilities should be subject to
additional regulatory requirements regarding their use of recycled electronic products.

Likewise, it is unclear how the DEC would regulate the “reuse” of electronics equipment. While
the term “reuse” is not defined in this legislation, it would seem to imply the use of such
equipment in the same manner as was originally intended. We do not believe that such activity
poses any significant environmental threat, or needs to be addressed by a DEC regulatory
program.

It is also unclear what would constitute the “re-manufacturing” of electronic components, or what
environmental aspect of such activity would need environmental oversight above and beyond that
applied to the original manufacturing process.

Third, the bill contains what we believe is an unworkable definition of “electronic equipment.” It
defines the term to mean “appliances that contain complex circuitry, circuit boards or signal
processing, and one or more hazardous elements,” (emphasis added), and goes on to state that
the definition includes, but is not limited to, ten specific product categories. As the term
“hazardous elements” is not defined in either this bill or the ECL, the meaning of this definition is
very unclear. Further, by including specific product categories within the definition of “electronic
equipment,” this language suggests that all products in these categories contain one or more of
these “hazardous elements” and is in need of special regulatory treatment.

Finally, The Business Council recognizes that there statutory and regulatory changes that could
promote the recycling of electronic equipment. For example, specific electronic products or
components (i.e., cathode ray tubes) could be added to the state's list of hazardous wastes that
can be treated as “universal wastes.” The universal waste rules allow common products that are
classified as categoric hazardous wastes to be managed with less stringent requirements than
otherwise would apply under RCRA. While the state already has the authority under federal and
state law to add materials to its universal waste rule, it has not done so since such authority was
granted. Moreover, this legislation does not provide the DEC with any additional statutory
flexibility to promote recycling than is already provided in the state's waste management laws,
and state legislation cannot authorize flexibility that is contrary to federal RCRA requirements.


In summary, The Business Council recognizes that there is a growing volume of electronic
equipment being disposed of by individuals, businesses and institutions, and we support efforts to
promote the recycling of this material. However, we do not believe that the provisions of A.1455
are necessary for the development of an effective and safe electronics recycling industry. In fact,
we believe this legislation could add confusion to the already extensive body of federal and state
waste management regulation.

For these reasons, The Business Council respectfully recommends against adoption of A.1455.