Albany offers to help with e-waste recycling costs

Please recycle: New York municipalities are getting a little help from Albany with the cost of recycling "e-waste."

From the Partially Funded Mandates File comes a $3 million state fund that will help New York municipalities cope with an unexpected garbage detail.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a new statewide application program designed to relieve municipalities of “unexpected financial costs” associated with the 2010 Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act – particularly, a provision that took effect Jan. 1, 2015, requiring New York consumers to recycle “electronic wastes” including computer peripherals, televisions and small electronic equipment.

Since the act became law in 2011, more than 400 million pounds of e-waste, everything from smartphones to small-scale servers, has been diverted from landfills to government-run reuse-and-recycling centers – and the tonnage of collected e-waste is multiplying even faster since the consumer recycling requirement kicked in 18 months ago.

Steve Englebright: Squeaky municipalities get the grant-assistance application program.

Steve Englebright: Squeaky municipalities get the grant-assistance application program.

It’s an environmental win, but also a source of “unanticipated financial pressures on local governments,” according to the governor’s office.

Hence the new relief effort, which is carved out of the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and is a direct response to municipal governments griping about rising recycling costs, according to Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who chairs the State Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee.

“These grants came about as a direct result of a hearing held by the committee, during which municipalities raised concerns regarding the costs of the disposal of e-waste,” Englebright said in a statement. “Working with the governor and the Senate, we were able to secure funds to ease the burden of e-waste collection and recycling on municipalities.”

The $3 million fund is part of the fiscal-year 2017 state budget’s record $300 million investment in the Environmental Protection Fund, a funding source for public-land stewardship and capital projects that protect the environment while enhancing communities, including historic-site restoration, farmland conservation, sewage-treatment upgrades and new recycling initiatives.

Through the grant effort, which will be administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Household Hazardous Waste State Assistance Program, municipalities can be reimbursed for up to 50 percent of eligible expenses incurred for collection and recycling of e-waste between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017.

The DEC will accept applications from Oct. 3 to Oct. 31 of this year, according to the governor’s office. Application materials, guidance documents and important information for Electronic Waste Assistance Grants are available on the DEC website.

Noting New York is “a leader in protecting the environment and promoting sustainability,” Cuomo said the $3 million would go a long way toward mitigating the growing costs of efficient and sustainable e-waste recycling.

“The responsible recycling of electronic waste is an essential component of these efforts,” the governor said. “This funding will provide resources across the state to ensure cleaner communities for all.”