The electronic recycling industry is reeling – that much, we can agree on. We’ve been decimated by a historic decline in commodities markets and are getting paid less and less every day for the crucial recycling services we offer.
The truth is the industry can’t go on like this much longer.
Many recyclers in this country have either closed or been forced out of business. Others are using a general lack of government oversight and enforcement to illegally store or dump electronics intended for recycling. These are the stories you have read. These are the conversations you and your colleagues are having.
Predictable struggles with CRTs
Is anyone really surprised with the latest news regarding CRT troubles in Ohio and Arizona? Were you surprised when you read similar stories about companies in Florida, Kentucky and Minnesota?
Everyone in our industry knew where these now-closed sites were headed. It was not a matter of if it would happen, but when. In fact, some of your customers may have endorsed, used and relied on these sites.
The fact is most of the CRT glass and devices at these defunct sites came from state collection programs. This is not a surprise to anyone. About 70 percent of all electronics collected from consumer programs are CRT devices. The millions of pounds of CRTs that have been stored and abandoned have come from all over the country and mostly from other electronics recyclers that believed in the hope of a new technology or were seeking only the lowest price.
Many states are struggling to sustain solutions for residents to drop off end-of-life electronics. The programs, as many in the industry have already argued, are falling apart. Recyclers have even been forced to charge municipalities, which is contradictory to the original intent of the laws. Cities, counties and states do not have budgets to support the costs.
There are many of us in the industry that believe in doing things the right way. Each day we invest our resources for the long term, focus on improving our operational efficiencies and hope that the market will change.
Time to hold bad actors responsible
Unfortunately, some of those good companies have already left the consumer segment of our industry, or have left the industry all together. Those of us still in this market keep fighting the good fight, but ultimately we will not survive unless things change. We all know it.
With limited enforcement, and no accountability, how will this industry recover? What changes need to be made? What can be done to save this vital industry? The answers may be simple.
State and federal agencies need to hold recyclers responsible for abandoning material. The entities that shipped material to defunct recyclers need to be the ones that will now get material recycled properly
We don’t need new laws to make this happen – there are many commercial and environmental laws already in place to cover the management of abandoned materials. We just need someone to step up and express the fact that abandoning material is wrong and to make sure such activity stops today.