New year, new fees
Local residents, landfill struggle under recycling act
By SARAH PAEZ
McELHATTAN — Local residents are not happy about having to pay to drop off their electronics at the Wayne Township Landfill.
But landfill officials say the fees are necessary to keep collecting electronic devices banned from landfills by the state legislature’s 2010 Covered Devices Recycling Act.
As of Jan. 1, the landfill started charging a $20 flat fee for all televisions and computer monitors that customers bring to the landfill. They also charge $10 for each computer, desktop printer and scanner and $2 per computer peripheral like keyboards and mice.
Since 2013, WTL continued to collect banned electronic devices free of charge. They spent around $50,000 annually to use a service called eLoop in State College that deconstructs and reassembles devices for resale.
Now, landfill officials say that service has become too costly.
At November’s solid waste authority meeting, landfill Environmental Manager Mike said that the landfill is actually losing money by providing the electronic recycling service free of charge.
“We still provide a means for residents to get rid of their electronics and tires; however, there is a nominal cost for this service,” said Crist. “The nominal fees charged for these items help us cover the operational costs associated with recycling electronics and tires.”
In fact, he said, charging the fees will help the landfill just about break even on the $50,000 cost of using eLoop’s services.
“We had an onslaught of material” in December before the fee went into effect, Crist said at Wednesday’s solid waste authority meeting.
In December, the WTL board received an anonymous letter from a resident who said the electronic collection fee is “way too much.” The writer also said there will be televisions “all over the place just sitting around and being dumped off the side of the roads.”
Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority, which serves Tioga, Bradford and Sullivan counties, has stopped collecting banned electronics altogether because of cost issues.
But neighboring Lycoming County Resource Management Services collects electronics from Lycoming County residents free of charge. They use eLoop’s services and will continue to work with them for another year.
Lauren Strausser, the recycling coordinator for LCRMS, said the county is very lucky to be able to offer these services for free, but that might change.
“It’s been getting really hard for us to continue our program,” she said.
They are budgeting to lose $1,500,000 this year to provide single stream recycling services to their customers.
LCRMS does not accept banned electronics from businesses, corporations, government entities, hospitals, non-profits or school districts.
The Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority also accepts banned electronics free of charge for Centre County residents.
Dave Immel, the administrative coordinator for CCRRA, said they are fortunate to be located very close to eLoop, the company whose services they use.
“We’re fortunate to have a good electronics recycling program,” he said. Using eLoop’s services “is relatively painless.”
But he said CCRRA may start looking at charging electronics recycling fees in the near future because of the amount of time it takes for staff to package the electronics.
On Dec. 15, the county solid waste authority wrote a letter of concern about the CDRA to Sens. Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway, and Gene Yaw, R-Williamsport, and State Reps. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, Jeff Wheeland, R-Williamsport, and Garth Everett, R-Muncy.
“As you are aware, the CDRA has created operational hardships for electronic recycling programs across Pennsylvania,” landfill General Manager Jay Alexander wrote, “causing many organizations to either shut down collection programs or start charging fees to sustain (them).”
He urged the legislative officials to support Senate Bill 800, which would update the CDRA to allow consumers to access a network of e-waste recycling centers without paying a disposal fee. The proposed bill would also impose a 0.5 percent fee on the purchase of new electronic devices.
“This plan will help to ensure the collectors, i.e., organizations like us, receive adequate compensation to cover the associated operational costs (of transporting and outsourcing electronics recycling),” said Crist.
Clinton County commissioners echoed the solid waste authority’s sentiments at their meeting Thursday.
“I don’t want to see people improperly disposing of these devices” because of the fee, said Commissioner Pete Smeltz.
“We’re going to find these things down on our banks…it’s going to be a problem,” said Commissioner Paul Conklin.
Smeltz recommended the commissioners compose a letter to state legislators asking them to support SB800.
He said the commissioners had notified the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and other legislative bodies about supporting the bill, to no avail. But he said they will keep at it until they get results.
“We want to do this,” he said.
Elisabeth Lynch McCoy, the project director of Clinton County CleanScapes, a nonprofit that helps citizens clean up county waterways and landscapes, said she has not seen an increase in people dumping their electronics.
She said it is too early to tell if the fee will increase dumping electronics, because it was instated less than two weeks ago.
“But do we anticipate seeing (an increase) happen? Yes, unfortunately,” she said. “The cost (to turn in electronics) is expensive.”