County Costs and Funding in North Carolina’s Electronic Recycling Program

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2013-04-19

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Hamilton, James T

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Abstract

Senate Bill 887, better known as the “Amend Electronics Recycling Law,” banished electronic waste from landfill disposal in 2010. It also set up a system of funding to ensure that manufacturers of electronics sold in the state dedicate resources to electronics recycling. Thanks in a large part to this system, county recycling programs expected to manage electronic material with little cost. However, in FY11/12 and 12/13 local counties reportedly spent large amounts of money to run their electronic recycling programs. Using survey data from 21 counties in the state, this paper seeks to describe the costs experienced by county electronic recycling programs. It also aims to determine if there is a fault in the funding system with large monetary consequences for counties, or if programs are reacting dramatically to smaller costs based on their original perception that counties should have zero costs to managing this material. Finally, it analyzes the factors in county demographics and program management that predict high costs. This paper finds that counties are experiencing high costs in the form of fees from their recycling vendors. Vendor fees were made necessary due to an unexpected drop in the value of CRTs and underfunding from the state’s producer responsibility system. Prior to FY12/13 many programs had a zero-cost–zero-revenue relationship with their vendors. Many were also saving the annual electronic management funds distributed by The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). While this indicates a low investment in program infrastructure, the savings may have helped to soften the blow when vendor fees were put in place. It is unlikely that counties will be able to return to a cost free scenario such as existed prior to 2012. However, there are steps that programs can take to secure themselves against future spikes in cost. The level of capital investment counties made in their electronic programs appears to have positively affected their program’s vendor relationships. Programs can also make sure they are getting the best deal possible by shopping for more vendors and noting where else vendors may be collecting material as well as how much manufacturer funding they have received. The type of material counties collect will be a critical component to county costs in FY12/13 and will likely remain so going forward. Programs may be able to improve on the quality of material by increasing the number of customers served while staying aware of the potential for CRTs to increase with the adoption of schools. Programs can also invest in infrastructure and outreach to minimize the receipt of scavenged material. For its part, DENR should work to make sure that a market place for purchased TV tonnage is available. DENR can also consider the role that per capita income plays in the type of material county programs receive.

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Leven, Rachel (2013). County Costs and Funding in North Carolina’s Electronic Recycling Program. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/6660.


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