Regulation of electronic equipment recycling



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 transportation, management, recycling and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes are already governed by federal and state laws and regulations. The DEC's regulations already have specific requirements for facilities that handle and recover recyclable solid wastes, and extensive provision governing all aspects of hazardous waste management, including recycling. These existing programs regulate electronics recycling, reuse or re-manufacturing to the extent that such activities involve the management of solid or hazardous wastes and/or hazardous materials. Further, the DEC already 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 S.897 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 S.897.