Electronics recycling coming back in York County

Greg Gross

York County residents who were left hoarding old electronics will soon be able to get rid of them after the county Solid Waste and Refuse Authority announced Monday it is bringing back its electronics recycling program.

"We're glad to get it started again," said Ellen O'Connor, spokeswoman for the authority. "We're in good shape for this year."

The free recycling program is expected to be up and running again sometime in April, but an exact date hasn't been set.

Once it is restarted, e-scrap will be collected from 3 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the authority's yard waste site off Flour Mill Road. Satellite collection sites will also be set up in Penn and Fairview townships, O'Connor said.

The authority was forced to cancel the program in December because of problems that arose from the Covered Device Recycling Act and because the market for some precious materials used to make electronics bottomed out and a vendor that was to recycle e-scrap collected in York County backed out of the program.

The new contract with Philadelphia-based ECOvanta to recycle the e-scrap expires at the end of the year.

Stuck: The cancellation left many Yorkers stuck with old electronics and no way to legally dispose of them.

Jess Ensminger has been looking at her husband's old television, a relic from when he lived with his parents, sitting on the back porch of their York City home for the last six or eight months.

"When it snowed earlier this year, people were talking about putting their old electronics in the streets to save their parking spots in hope that the city would come through and take them," Ensminger said. "I'm thrilled that the recycling program is coming back."

O'Connor and lawmakers feared people would start dumping electronics along side roads with the program shuttered.

"We are finding piles of stripped televisions — carcasses of broken plastic and shards of leaded glass — scattered in open fields and on dead-end streets," Shannon Reiter, president of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, testified during a joint state House and Senate Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee on Monday.

Legislation: Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, sat in on some the testimony and said she hopes it spurs on a long-term fix by the Legislature.

"I think it's important we don't make the same mistakes again," she said, adding counties in other parts of the state are facing the same problem as York County.

Rep. Chris Ross, R-Chester County, wrote the original bill that became the Covered Device Recycling Act and plans to introduce amendments to it.

The 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.  Older cathode ray tube televisions and computer monitors that are heavier than modern electronics created an imbalance in the system because of the high cost of recycling them.

Phillips-Hill said one person testified Monday that a recycling facility in New York state has so large a backlog of tube TVs waiting to be recycled that it would take three years to process them all.

Influx: But now that York's program is poised to return, O'Connor said the authority is working to make sure it has enough staff on hand to manage what she expects will be a landslide of electronics.

"We have a feeling we'll get an onslaught the first couple of weeks," she said.

Though the authority has a temporary fix for the problem, O'Connor said a solution to the act needs to be hashed out in the Legislature. In the meantime, the athority is already searching for a vendor to take electronics in 2017.

"Depending what happens in the industry, we could find ourselves in the same position again," O'Connor said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.