Local News

Electronics are piling up; haulers losing money on recycling

E-waste causing problems in some towns

By Stephen Seitz

A global slowdown in the electronic waste recycling market is causing problems in some Vermont towns.

“E-waste is in a bit of a turmoil,” said Jim O’Gorman, who manages the Rutland County Solid Waste District. “It’s still being worked out with the state. The contractor is losing money. We’ve been going back and forth with (the Agency of Natural Resources), the district, and two contractors. It still hasn’t sugared out.”

Under current Vermont law, certain types of electronic devices are banned from disposal in a landfill. Some can be collected for free and sold to recyclers. These include computers, monitors, printers, computer peripherals, and TV sets. Individual households, school districts, small businesses employing no more than 10 people, and charities are permitted to bring them in free of charge. There may a fee to dispose of other electronics.

However, now that haulers and recyclers are losing money taking these items, some are reluctant to take on more electronic waste to be recycled.

At a recent selectmen’s meeting, Jim Mullen, Weathersfield’s town manager, said the situation is leading to a space crunch at the local transfer station.

“The recyclables are piling up with no place to go,” Mullen told the board. “We’ve got no place to get rid of electronic waste.”

Mullen said he understood that a drop in the price of metal had a lot to do with the downturn.

“They were getting $180 to $220 per ton for metal,” he said. “Now, steel’s going for $80 a ton. There’s no market.”

Tom Kennedy, executive director of the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, said that problem is being felt at local transfer stations.

“When they took the contract, the market was stronger,” Kennedy said. “The bottom has dropped out of the market, and they’ve asked transfer stations and other collectors to receive less per pound.”

A deadline for a new collection agreement should have gone into effect on Nov. 1, but that didn’t happen, Kennedy said.

“A number of communities didn’t sign,” he said. “They’re waiting to see what happens.”

Josh Kelly, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s materials management chief, said the global downturn has had a ripple effect.

One problem, he said, is the shrinking number of options to deal with cathode ray tubes (CRTs). Liquid diode crystals have taken over much of the work from the clunky and inefficient CRTs, which are now backing up in the recycling stream. Before flatscreen TV sets and computer terminals, CRTs provided the illumination for the screen.

“We’ve been working with contractors to alleviate those logjams,” Kelly said. “We know there are some delays, but the situation is being alleviated. We have been in contact with the contractor weekly, if not daily, to pursue all avenues.”

Kelly said that Vermont has one of the highest per capita recycling rates in the country, and that on the whole the system is working well.

“We urge everyone to call their collection point to confirm what material they’re collecting and when,” Kelly said.

More information on Vermont’s electronic recycling program and to find the nearest e-waste collection point near you, visit the ANR e-waste page atwww.anr.state.vt.us/dec/e-waste/

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