Resource Recycling Magazine: Connecticut EPR law challenged in court

Connecticut EPR law challenged in court

By Bobby Elliott, Resource Recycling

June 30, 2015

TV manufacturer Vizio has sued a Connecticut official over an electronics recycling law it says unfairly burdens the company.

In a lawsuit filed on June 17 against the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Robert Klee, Vizio alleges the state’s e-scrap law "is so deeply flawed and unfair that it threatens Vizio’s ability to innovate and competitively price its products for consumers."

Connecticut’s e-scrap law, fully implemented in 2011, requires manufacturers of computers, printers, monitors and televisions to pay for the collection and processing of end-of-life devices.

According to Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio, the "foundational problem" facing Connecticut’s program is its use of nationwide television sales to determine manufacturer collection and recycling targets each year. That method, Vizio claims in the suit, has required the company to collect as much as 17 percent of all televisions entering Connecticut’s e-scrap stream despite a "negligible" sales presence within the Nutmeg State.

The suit states Vizio "does not sell to any distribution centers in Connecticut" and sold just 190 TV sets in the state between 2012 and 2014. Its state-mandated e-scrap efforts, meanwhile, have cost the company over $1.8 million, according to the suit.

In a statement sent to Resource Recycling, Vizio said it expects costs to reach "well over" $2 million by 2016.

"Using the national market share approach as a proxy for the number of discarded televisions in Connecticut does not result in a fair or proportional distribution of recycling costs," the company stated.

The official court docket for the case, which is being heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in New Haven, indicates parties are awaiting Klee’s official response to the claims set forth by Vizio. Klee is being represented by two Connecticut assistant attorneys general, Sharon Seligman and Michael Skold.

A spokesperson for the state’s Office of the Attorney General told Resource Recycling, "We are currently reviewing the lawsuit in consultation with our client agency, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and will respond at the appropriate time in court."

Jason Linnell, who directs the National Center for Electronics Recycling, which works with 14 state e-scrap programs, says it’s common for a state to calculate a manufacturer’s share of collection responsibilities by national sales data.

"If you’re looking at it on an individual state basis, maybe the manufacturer has data that says sales were lower than what national sales data would estimate, but they could be in another state where it’s higher than what the national sales data would suggest, and they aren’t going to complain in that state," Linnell stated. "It evens out in the end and national sales data has been the best available data and the most consistent."

The Vizio suit also complains that the company, which was founded in 2002 as a flat-panel display TV manufacturer, is routinely responsible for recycling CRT televisions that were made before the company entered the market. CRT televisions account for the bulk of the volume of end-of-life TVs entering the U.S. waste stream.

Walter Alcorn, the vice president of environmental affairs and industry sustainability for the Consumer Electronics Association, told Resource Recycling Vizio is "exercising its constitutional rights against the state program that is the least popular state mandate for most consumer electronics manufacturers."

The Vizio suit indicates the company is supportive of "a law requiring television brand-owned sellers to pay for the recycling of televisions," but it adds recycling obligations should be based on the composition of the waste stream itself. This model, known as a return share model and used to determine manufacturer responsibilities for all other e-scrap covered under Connecticut’s law, calls for electronics made by a particular manufacturer to be collected and recycled by that manufacturer.

A recent study, the suit suggests, found 23,000 pounds of televisions collected under Connecticut’s program contained no Vizio products.

As a result of the program and its associated costs for Vizio, the company says it’s been forced to adjust out-of-state prices, a situation that has led to "lost profits, opportunity costs, transactional costs, administrative costs and/or market share loss."

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Resource Recycling Magazine: Plastics group indicates optimism for mixed-waste processing

Plastics group indicates optimism for mixed-waste processing

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

June 30, 2015

A recent paper from the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council finds there are both pros and cons to the "all in one bin" recycling collection and processing approach.

"There are key tradeoffs that that need to be analyzed as part of assessing mixed-waste processing," the report, commissioned by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), concludes. "The technology promises to deliver more volume of recycled materials but potentially with a lower unit value for some materials because of contamination."

Research for the report was conducted by Gershman, Brickner & Bratton (GBB).

The mixed-waste processing approach, which is opposed by the the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and The Recycling Partnership, among others, forgoes residential source-separation of recyclables and uses mixed-waste processing facilities to extract recyclables and organics directly from municipal solid waste.

Mixed-waste processing has been in the spotlight recently, with a $45 million facility planned in Indianapolis and talk of a similar venture ongoing in Houston. A mixed-waste processing facility opened in Montgomery, Ala. last year. Such operations are sometimes called dirty MRFs.

"The goal of diverting more materials from the waste stream to higher uses compels us to explore all options," Craig Cookson, director of sustainability and recycling for ACC’s Plastics Division, said in a press release announcing the study’s release. "As the waste stream continues to evolve, we must consider new strategies and innovations that could help us to meet these challenges."

The GBB study, which can be read in its entirety here, suggests modern, "highly automated" mixed-waste processing could be capable of unlocking higher overall diversion rates than some single-stream programs. The quality of the recyclables recovered from MSW, however, remains a question.

"Until there is better publicly available data or testimonials from buyers of the materials, it will remain a challenge to evaluate newer [mixed-waste facilities]," the report cautions.

Using a waste characterization study from Fort Worth, Texas as the basis for its conclusions, the study estimates the city could push its diversion rate, currently at 19 percent under a single-stream program, to as high as 46 percent under a mixed-waste processing system that also diverts organics.

According to the characterization study, 28 percent of overall MSW currently makes it into Fort Worth recycling bins. Of that total, 67 percent ends up being recovered at a single-stream MRF, resulting in an estimated 19 percent recovery rate. No organics are recovered.

Under a mixed-waste system, GBB found, theoretically 100 percent of Fort Worth’s MSW would reach a modernized mixed-waste processing center. The study suggests a 70 percent recovery rate for organics under that system and an overall diversion rate of 46 percent for the municipality. "It should be noted that these numbers are from an equipment manufacturer with recent experience with these modern [mixed-waste processing] facilities," the report notes.

The study also determined that if the city’s current single-stream program were paired with a mixed-waste facility to process trash, the recovery rate could jump to 54 percent.

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Resource Recycling Magazine: Municipalities urged to help improve MRF safety

Municipalities urged to help improve MRF safety

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

June 30, 2015

A recent report from a group of nonprofit organizations asks cities to leverage their contract powers and force better conditions for workers at materials recovery facilities.

The study – from GAIA, Partnership for Working Families, MassCOSH and National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, all of which are nongovernmental organizations – notes 17 workers died from accidents at MRFs from 2011 to 2013. The organizations also cite a notable U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finding: that the rate of nonfatal injury incidents at MRFs was 8.5 per 100 workers in 2012, a number higher than both the rate for all industries (3.5 per 100 workers) and the average rate for waste management and remediation services in general (5.1 per 100 workers).

Some of the groups behind the study advocate for labor unions.

The report states MRFs’ reliance on temporary workers may account for part of the injury and fatality issue. "Among employers who use temporary labor, failure to properly train and orient workers who are new to the job, or have been brought on as temporary labor, is a common practice and serious concern," the report states.

Extreme instances of contamination also pose risks to those working the sort lines at facilities, the report indicates. Hypodermic needles, nails, sharp metal, hazardous chemicals and rotting animals are all items many workers must pull off belts after they’ve been improperly added to the recycling stream.

The report calls on municipalities to take action, offering recommendations including: Evaluate potential processing contractors based on health and safety criteria, prohibit the use of temporary workers, boost communication to residents to ensure cleaner source separation, reject mixed-waste processing proposals, require contractors to provide a written illness and injury prevention program, and create a system for municipal inspection.

"[Recycling] is about recovering resources for future generations and reducing the impacts of our consumption," the report states. "To fully live those values, however, we must consider the human impacts of our waste management system, and invest as much energy in improving recycling worker jobs as we do in raising diversion rates."

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Resource Recycling Magazine: Resource Recycling Conference 2015: Book your hotel room now

Resource Recycling Conference 2015: Book your hotel room now

June 30, 2015

The Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, the host hotel for the 2015 Resource Recycling Conference, offers premier accommodations in the heart of Indiana’s capital.

To get the most out of your conference experience, we recommend you stay at the host hotel, where hundreds of recycling professionals will be an open door away. Your room reservation at the conference host hotel also ensures lower registration rates for current and future years.

Book your reservations here.

Resource Recycling Conference 2015 is scheduled for Sept. 28-30 at the Downtown Marriott in Indianapolis, Indiana. Head to rrconference.com for all the latest on attending, exhibiting and sponsoring.

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Resource Recycling Magazine: Study: Nearly half of Austin’s residential trash is compostable

Study: Nearly half of Austin’s residential trash is compostable

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

June 30, 2015

More than 46 percent of the curbside residential garbage in Austin, Texas is compostable material – an estimated 52,920 tons annually.

Yard trimmings alone make up 6.6 percent of the trash stream, or about 7,500 tons, despite the fact the city has a separate yard debris collection program.

The numbers come from a residential-waste characterization study exploring the composition of material collected at the curb in Austin. The study was conducted by consulting firm CB&I Environmental and Infrastructure for the city’s waste management arm, Austin Resource Recovery. Crews analyzed various loads of garbage and recyclable materials during the 2014 fiscal year.

"The [study] offers a stark view of the ‘waste’ discarded into the residential trash carts," Bob Gedert, Austin Resource Recovery director, wrote in a summary. "Of the residential trash sent to the landfill, 44.8 percent is recyclables and 46.3 percent is organics. This study demonstrates that 90 percent of what is sent to the landfill can be diverted toward recycling and organic composting."

The city’s goal is a 50 percent diversion rate by December of this year; its current curbside diversion rate is about 40 percent.

The City currently provides weekly yard trimmings collection, and twice-yearly collection of large brush. It’s also conducting a curbside food scraps pilot program serving 14,000 households each week.

The report recommended boosting food scraps service.

"Food waste, as the single largest component of the disposed waste stream, represents an opportunity for a substantial increase in diversion if collection service is provided to more households," the report noted.

Gedert said the Austin City Council is currently reviewing a five-year rollout of enhanced curbside organics collection. City staff proposed a schedule rolling out boosted service from 2016 to 2020.

The report also found a significant volume of potentially recyclable materials being thrown in the trash, including paper (22.8 percent of the waste stream), plastics (12.8 percent), metals (4.4 percent) and glass (3.9 percent).

"The results of this study have been discussed with staff, and a new incentive outreach campaign is being designed and will roll ­out in November 2015 on America Recycles Day," Gedert wrote in response.

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Resource Recycling Magazine: Haulers confront costs of recycling

Haulers confront costs of recycling

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

June 30, 2015

Following a number of high-profile criticisms of the current recycling landscape, one hauler is making changes to the way it’s charging some customers for the service.

To compensate for declining revenue from sales of recyclable materials, Casella Waste Systems announced it was raising tipping and collection fees in 2015.

Now, it says it has begun tacking a sustainability/recycling adjustment fee onto bills of residential customers with month-to-month service and commercial customers with adjustable contracts. A similar charge is also figured into its longer-term municipal contracts.

The development was first reported by Waste360.

The move is a reflection of major haulers’ efforts to confront the challenges of low prices for recycled commodities, which are pinching recycling operations. Low recycling fees and widespread revenue-sharing deals with communities don’t meet the companies’ needs in today’s economic environment, hauler executives have said. Some say they want municipalities to bear more of the financial risk of recycling.

Waste Management’s CEO, David Steiner, has used the word "crisis" to describe the current conditions.

Others are questioning the industry-wide trend toward single-stream recycling collection, which, they say, reduces recycling values overall because of increased contamination. A recent article in The Washington Post explored issues of contamination and recycling’s profitability.

"The quality limitations and processing costs associated with single-stream collection were masked for a time by booming commodity prices and overseas demand for recyclables," Robin Wiener, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, said in a statement. "Today, we face a new reality that is forcing many communities to realize what many in the recycling industry have known for decades: a trade-off exists between convenience and quality."

Joe Fusco, vice president of finance at Casella, is a strong defender of single-stream recycling, according to Waste360. Contamination issues stem from a lack of public outreach and education, he says.

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Resource Recycling Magazine: NewsBits from Resource Recycling

NewsBits

June 30, 2015

A recently formed company called WestRock will be the second-largest paper and paperboard firm in North America, behind International Paper. The company is the result of a merger between two industry giants, RockTenn and MeadWestvaco, and it will operate 26 mills in North America with a combined annual capacity of about 12 million tons. Included are paper recycling mills in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. In total, WestRock operates more than two dozen paper processing centers and MRFs.

Boston residents are recycling more, saving the city money by reducing disposal fees. But the city’s diversion rate, at 23.7 percent, is still below the roughly 34 percent national average. The city pays $74 to dispose of every ton of trash from downtown neighborhoods, while its recycling costs are $5 per ton at most, according to the Boston Herald.

The board of the Consumer Goods Forum, representing 400 retailers and manufacturers, has approved a resolution calling for reductions in food waste. The resolution says the forum’s members will reduce food waste in their operations by half by 2025. Nestlé S.A., one of the member companies, praised the latest pledge from the forum.

Major changes in waste management in Vermont are soon approaching, thanks to the state’s Universal Recycling Law. Starting July 1, the disposal of recyclable materials in the garbage is illegal. A ban on throwing out yard debris goes into effect July 1, 2016 and food scrap disposal will be banned July 1, 2020. The law, passed in 2012, also requires all municipalities to adopt a pay-as-you-throw rate structure.

Residents of the Vancouver, British Columbia metro area will soon face fines for including clean wood in the trash. Officials will levy a 50 percent surcharge on loads found to contain 10 percent or more clean wood. The disposal ban went into effect Jan. 1, 2015, with a six-month education period. Financial penalties begin July 1. So far, the ban has been effective at boosting recycling of the material, according to Metro Vancouver.

In Indonesia, nearly 25 percent of survey respondents said waste is the country’s top environmental concern. The online survey was conducted by Yougov.

Northern Ireland is considering implementing a beverage container deposit program, according to Let’s Recycle. The move comes as Scotland, another part of the U.K., considers the same step. Northern Ireland has about 1.8 million people, making it the smallest region of the U.K.

The Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) has issued a statement encouraging Baton Rouge, La. leaders to continue glass recycling. The City has negotiated a new contract with Progressive Waste Solutions jettisoning the material from the program starting Nov. 1. GPI said it and its member companies are exploring options for glass recycling.

For multiple reasons, all glass collected at the curb in Denver is used as landfill cover and none is recycled, but some new businesses in the area hope to change that, according to Westword. Momentum Recycling is building a glass-only MRF with optical sorters, and it hopes to sell clean glass to bottle manufacturers. Another effort, Clear Intentions, is collecting bottles directly from restaurants and bars for recycling.

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Resource Recycling Magazine: Industry and supplier news

Industry and supplier news

June 30, 2015

A campaign, Change the Pallet, aims to encourage businesses to switch from wooden pallets to corrugated cardboard pallets. The Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit group says the pallets are fully recyclable and yield larger storage capacity than traditional wooden ones. For more, click here.

Fox River Fiber has received a no-objection letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for using its deinked paper pulp in food packaging. The letter allows the De Pere, Wis.-based company to create food packaging using 100 percent recycled fiber. For more, click here.

South Carolina-based Hilton Head Brewing Co. will use a high-recycled-content aluminum can from Novelis. The brewer will use the Evercan, which contains at least 90 percent recycled content. Introduced in 2014, the can has been used by other breweries. For more, click here.

The board of the scrap metal recycling company Metalico has agreed to sell the company to Total Merchant for $105 million. Under the deal’s terms, Metalico will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Total Merchant. Metalico, which is expected to retain its staff, has operations in six states. For more, click here.

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Don’t Leave Home Without This Green Camping Gear

If you spend any time camping in the outdoors, chances are you’re going to be passionate about protecting it. While camping isn’t necessarily a high carbon footprint activity, there are still ways to minimize your environmental impact even more when planning a weekend or week of trail blazing. Check out these green camping gear options before you head out. Even …

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