Advancing bill ushers in ‘big change’ to state program

If the bill passes, South Carolina will be the second state to move to a clearinghouse-style EPR program. | Grindstone Media Group/Shutterstock

South Carolina’s legislature is working out the final details on a bill that eliminates weight targets for electronics collection and instead aims to give consumers easy access to drop off items.

House Bill 4775 would reform the state’s extended producer responsibility (EPR) program to more closely resemble that of Illinois, with a focus on a convenience metric for drop-off sites over a weight target.

If the bill passes, it will be the second state to move to a clearinghouse-style program, Jason Linnell, executive director of the National Center for Electronics Recycling, told E-Scrap News. Linnell has previously written about the Illinois model for E-Scrap News.

“It’s definitely a big change,” Linnell said. “The current program has some specific manufacturer targets for how much they have to collect each year and doesn’t really get into how much of the state is covered. This is more along the lines of what Illinois did, looking at convenience.”

HB 4775 passed the state House of Representatives and Senate, but the bill is now in conference committee after the House rejected a Senate attempt to link an unrelated bill to it. Linnell predicted the EPR program changes have a good chance of landing on the governor’s desk.

Eliminating targets but requiring convenient drop-offs

Under a clearinghouse model, manufacturers develop state-required plans, make sure that all local governments that have opted in to the program are covered and handle submitting everything to the state, but they do not make individual arrangements with recyclers and other contractors for service.

Manufacturers would not be required to participate in a clearinghouse under the bill, but Linnell said it’s typically easier for manufacturers to work together to divide up the responsibility of covering a number of required collection locations, which would be the case if the South Carolina bill becomes law.

Linnell said the clearinghouse approach provides less volatility than asking OEMs to meet individual weight targets, which can change every year.

House Bill 4775 requires one collection site in each county with a population under 100,000; two sites in each county with a population between 100,000 and 200,000; and three sites in counties over 200,000 people. A collection site could also be swapped out for four, one-day collection events. Retail collection sites are not considered a collection site for the purposes of the convenience standards.

Under the bill, registered collectors participating in a collection program supervised by a county or solid waste authority would be allowed to collect a fee for each monitor or TV accepted.

Differences from Illinois program

The current law in South Carolina bans consumers from knowingly discarding covered devices in landfill, effective July 1, 2011. And as of Jan. 1, 2015, television and computer manufacturers have been required to join a representative organization or submit an individual plan to create a consumer electronic device stewardship program and provide for the recycling of TVs and computers collected by participating local governments.

One difference from Illinois’ model is that in South Carolina, under the new bill, only manufacturers of computer monitors and televisions are covered, just like the current program. In Illinois, the law covers a wider swath of device types.

Linnell said the South Carolina bill has an accelerated implementation schedule, with some deadlines set as early as July 2022 and others next year.

“It envisions a plan being submitted to the state that would kick off in operation as of January 2023,” he said. “A lot of stuff needs to happen between if the bill is fully agreed to and signed by the governor and the end of the year.”

The bill also requires that, starting in 2023, all recoverers – defined as a person that reuses or recycles a covered device – that store, consolidate or process covered devices must register with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and pay a $3,000 registration fee.

The existing requirement that manufacturers pay an annual registration fee of $3,500 is retained by the bill; however, the bill removes sections that require representative organizations to pay an annual registration fee of $20,000, because clearinghouses have replaced producer responsibility organizations.

Under the bill, manufacturers of covered devices that sell 100 or fewer devices per year would be exempt from registration or penalty. The existing law sets the level at 500 or fewer devices.

Good chance of becoming law

Linnell said while there have been some attempts in recent years for other states to follow the Illinois model, South Carolina’s bill has gotten the closest to passage.

The bill unanimously passed the House of Representatives on April 6, with seven people absent from the vote. In the Senate, on May 12, it passed 41-2, with another two people not voting.

It is now in conference to iron out differences, because the Senate attached unrelated provisions regarding plastic pellets just before passing the electronics EPR bill. The House disagreed with the addition.

Linnell said “it’s not over until it’s over,” but the bill appears to have strong support and a good chance of making it to the governor’s desk.

He noted that the delay for conferencing “makes the time frame even shorter on getting going on some of the tasks that have to happen” before deadlines, if the bill is enacted.

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