CalRecycle’s Failure to Pay e-Waste Recyclers is Killing Green Jobs and Threatening Environment
By: Luis Alvarado, President of Familas Unidas de California
Thanks to legislation passed in 2003, California consumers can safely get rid of their outdated and broken computers, cell phones, televisions and other electronic equipment through the state’s Electronic Waste Recycling program.
Under the program, e-waste haulers collect this old technology and make sure this toxic waste – especially from CRT glass – is properly disposed of so that harmful lead and toxins from these devices don’t end up in the landfill. For more than a decade, the e-waste program has worked smoothly, creating nearly 40 news businesses and hundreds of green jobs statewide, including many for Latinos in such Southland communities as Chino, Ontario, Pomona, Los Angeles, Commerce and Santa Fe Springs.
The e-waste recyclers are paid from fees on consumers when they buy new electronics equipment. This is a true win-win situation for the environment and economy.
Yet this model program is now being undermined by arbitrary decisions made in Sacramento. Specifically, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has failed to do its job and now fabricated a problem by taking issue over how reputable recycling plants in Spain, Mexico and India are recycling e-waste material shipped from California.
It defies comprehension that the state is punishing California’s green companies when the United States Environmental Protection Agency and European countries have all given their stamp of approval to these offshore facilities.
Based on absurd DTSC interpretations, CalRecycle suspended all payments to e-waste haulers and recyclers in California early this year.
This about-face is contrary to CalRecycle’s decade-long history of providing payments within 60 days – well within the 90 days required under Section 42479 of the Public Resources Code.
These small businesses have come to rely on that cycle and plan their operations accordingly. The massive deviation (over 6 months and longer) from this cycle in 2016 has caused expensive and even crippling disruptions, layoffs and loss of longstanding business contracts to many in the e-waste industry. It has also condemned much of this material to the landfill, rather than environmentally beneficial secondary markets.
This disruption was triggered by DTSC’s failure to respond within its required 60-day time period when requested by leading industry representatives in May 2015.
State law (Section 66273.9) provides that “[t]he Department, within 60 days of receipt of an application for concurrence pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, shall notify the applicant in writing that classification of the CRTs or CRT glass is approved or disapproved or that the application is incomplete or inadequate and what additional information is needed.”
Had DTSC responded by end of July 2015, as it was required to do so, none of this would have ever happened. However, CalRecycle compounded the problem by suspending their payments program to give DTSC time to get its act together.
Moreover, the e-waste recyclers managing to survive this situation continue to collect and stockpile the public’s e-waste. With the state shutting off payments, the people of Kettleman Hills are shouldering the brunt of lingering e-waste.
Scott Smithline, CalRecycle’s new director responsible for shutting off payments to e-waste recyclers comes before the Senate Rules Committee this week for confirmation.
He needs to answer questions about why he is crippling this model green business program. He should pledge to immediately resume payments to e-waste recyclers so California can once again be proud of generating green jobs and protecting the environment from toxic e-waste.
Familias Unidas de California provides awareness and seeks to improve wellness in our Latino community, by focusing on issues of poverty, immigration reform, health care, and quality education