York County authority suspends electronics recycling

Greg Gross

If you are expecting, or hoping, to unwrap a new television on Christmas morning, you may have to hold on to that older model a little longer.

The York County Solid Waste Authority has suspended its electronics recycling program until further notice after the vendor it had lined up to provide the service told the authority it can't provide the service because it is cost prohibitive.

That's bad news for residents, who are forbidden by state law from tossing most electronic devices out with their garbage but now have one less way to recycle them.

"It couldn't happen at a worse time with the holidays and everybody getting new electronics," said Ellen O’Connor, spokeswoman for the authority.

Municipal satellite programs in Carroll, Fairview, Hopewell, Penn, Shrewsbury, Warrington, Dover, Fawn, Lower Windsor and Windsor townships, as well as Stewartstown borough and York City, have also been suspended.

The law: Problems include requirements in a law that addresses electronics recycling that went into effect in 2013 and that the price of metals found in electronics has dropped, O'Connor said.

"The metals market is so low it makes it unattractive for vendors to take part," she said.

The law, the Covered Device Recycling Act, forbids most household electronics, such as computers, monitors, tablets, computer peripherals and televisions, from going to a landfill and requires that the items be recycled.

That has created a supply and demand imbalance for recyclers, O'Connor said.

"It's happening statewide," she said of counties suspending or discontinuing electronic recycling. "It's not just a York problem."

Manufacturers and retailers aren't allowed to charge for recycling items covered by the law, but vendors not associated with manufacturers or retailers can charge a fee.

Old cathode ray tube televisions and computer monitors, which use tubes and feature leaded glass, are particularly problematic and are considered a negative value commodity. Recycling them carries a high cost, and there are only 10 CRT processors in the world, leading to high transportation costs, according to a DEP report.

"Several other Pennsylvania communities have experienced similar challenges with the implementation of the Covered Device Recycling Act," Neil Shader, a DEP spokesman, wrote in an email. "DEP is working with the General Assembly to address some of the unintended issues with electronic recycling that have arisen for counties, collection and recycling operations, and manufacturers."

The York County Solid Waste Authority offered its e-cycling program free to residents. About 3 million pounds of electronics are recycled through the authority annually, O'Connor said.

Where to recycle: Minnesota-based electronics store Best Buy, which has a location at 2865 Concord Road in Springettsbury Township, offers its own electronics recycling program.

The office-supply store Staples, as well as the Salvation Army and Goodwill Keystone Area locations, are some other places that accept some electronics, according to a list of electronics collection programs from DEP.

Officials with the York County Solid Waste Authority are now scrambling to find new vendors, including ones outside the state, to take electronics, O'Connor said

But it may take weeks to find one. Until then, residents should hold onto their electronics if they can't find a place to recycle them, she said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.