House Bill 3220, an extended producer responsibility (EPR) initiative (developed in 2007) to improve the Oregon E-Cycles initiative, has been approved by Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek. Electronics producers are required by the Oregon E-Cycles Program to provide free and responsible recycling of some electronics to Oregon homeowners and other covered businesses.
According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the new law will identify program weaknesses and enhance them by extending the list of recyclable devices, assuring program accessibility, and allowing for reuse.
In July 2022, discussions about updating the Oregon E-Cycles program started. Over the course of a six-month period, DEQ held five workshops with interested parties, including the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) in Hopewell, Virginia, the Oregon Refuse & Recycling Association (ORRA), local governments, and current and former operators, collection sites, and processors of E-Cycles.
In January 2023, an agreement was reached by a nearly unanimous vote of 23-1. The new law will become operative on January 1, 2026.
“The program has been successfully running for over 10 years and over time there’s been changes to standard practice with extended producer responsibility programs,” Abby Boudouris, senior legislative analyst at DEQ says about why modernization of the program is necessary.
“So, part of [the change] was purely to bring the program up to date and to align it with our existing programs. And then more broadly, there’s been changes in the electronics industry, changes in technology, changes in recycling. So, the update was also sought to include additional devices to be covered by the program.”
The Oregon E-Cycles Program previously restricted recycling to computer, monitor, TV, printer, keyboard, and mouse components. VCRs, music players, DVD players, game consoles, digital converter boxes, cable receivers, satellite receivers, routers, and modems will also be added to the list of recyclable gadgets, according to DEQ.
All cell phones are expressly excluded from the list of covered equipment by the amendment, and Boudouris claims that there are currently no intentions to add them.
In accordance with the present approach, electronics producers are required to register their brands with DEQ and sign up for either a state contractor recycling program or a privately managed manufacturer-run recycling program known as a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO). According to Boudouris, the new law will replace government engagement with PROs and do away with the state contractor program.
“The existing E-Cycles law, the old one, was a little more government involved,” Boudouris says. “In the philosophy of extended producer responsibility,” she says that part of modernization is to move to a system where manufacturers can “pick whichever of the PROs they want to join.”
The new program, according to DEQ, aims to stabilize the discrepancy between the volume of e-scrap collected by the program’s two PROs and the requirements for collection established by the state.
Both PROs exceeded their collection targets for a number of years, and in late 2021, one PRO announced plans to close numerous collection locations in order to align its volume of collections with state regulations. The measure will expand the number of necessary collection sites while eliminating the DEQ’s yearly process for establishing collection goals.
“I would say the most important thing the bill will require is stability in the collection convenience. So, there will be easy access to all parties that are eligible to bring in their covered electronic devices on an ongoing basis,” Boudouris says.
Here is a tweet that confirms the news:
Oregon E-Cycles Program to Ensure 95% of Oregonians Within 15 Miles of Collection Site
Every city with a population of at least 10,000 people was required to have one collection location under the prior arrangement. According to DEQ, the new scheme will ensure that 95% of Oregonians live within 15 miles of a collection site and will also require additional sites in those cities based on population density.
Another convenience change will see DEQ approve other collection techniques in accordance with regional requirements. “That could look like collection events,” adds Boudouris. “In most of these programs, a permanent collection site is best, but if there isn’t one in a community, that would be one chance to do one-day events at some point.”
The new rule will also mandate the inclusion of equitable principles in order to improve accessibility and convenience. Everywhere in the state, but particularly in rural areas, minority low-income communities, and historically disadvantaged groups, PROs must offer quick and fair service. According to the new law, PROs must continue to raise program awareness in these neighborhoods. It needs to be determined how these equal services and high-awareness efforts will appear.
“There will be a rulemaking that will cover much of the implementation of the new law that will occur over the next year or so between now and the implementation date,” Boudouris says regarding the program’s equity requirements. “I think we have more work to do to understand what the barriers are.”
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Program Collects 268 Million Pounds of Electronics
Additionally, the new program provides chances for reuse. The amendment mandates that a PRO combine efforts with recycling and reuse initiatives in order to advance environmentally responsible e-scrap management.
As well as recovering seized gadgets, collection sites may restore them for retail resale. The PRO may demand that for reporting and compensation calculation reasons, the weight of any devices recovered for reuse by a collection site be deducted.
The Oregon E-Cycles Program, which was established in 2007 and inaugurated in 2009, has reportedly collected 268 million pounds of electronics for recycling.
The service is open to anyone dropping off seven or fewer gadgets to a collection station at once. Residents will be able to recycle more electronics over time and in a more convenient manner by expanding the list of covered electronics and assuring accessibility in the collection network.
“We want the E-Cycles Program to be convenient,” Boudouris says. “We want people to know about it and use it, and we want the devices collected and managed in an environmentally sound manner.”
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