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February 13, 2014
Is TSCA an obstacle to recycling?

In the latest congressional hearing on reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a representative of the electronics industry argued that  EPA’s “narrow” interpretation of TSCA Section 8 discourages manufacturers from recycling by-products with valuable materials and makes it easier to simply dispose of these by-products.

In testimony on behalf of IPC—the Association of Connecting Electronics Industries, Brent Grazman notes that EPA’s 2011 Chemical Data Reporting Rule (CDR) requires that by-products sent for recycling must be listed on the TSCA Inventory and, as newly manufactured chemicals, are subject to the full regimen of TSCA recordkeeping and reporting provisions.  If the by-products are not listed on the Inventory, recycling cannot lawfully occur.

Grazman is also a vice president of Viasystems Group, Inc., which manufactures printed circuit boards.
The TSCA provisions of concern to Grazman include new chemical notification and significant new use restrictions under Section 5, restrictions under Section 6, reporting obligations under Sections 8(a), 8(d), and 8(e), recordkeeping under Section 8(c), reporting obligations under Section 12(b), and associated penalties or enforcement provisions.

Two exemptions

Exemptions to these requirements apply when the by-products are landfilled or treated as inert.  Exemptions also apply if the manufacturer’s only commercial purpose is to extract component chemical substances from it.  According to the EPA, this second exemption applies only if the by-product is removed through a process that does not involve a chemical reaction. 

“This narrow interpretation means that the recovery of any waste metals like gold, tin or copper that are dissolved in Viasystems’ by-products cannot be exempted as by-products if they are recycled – because the only way to recover them is through a chemical reaction.”

The requirement puts unusual pressures on manufacturers such as Viasystems, said Grazman.

 “Under [the EPA’s] interpretation, sending our waste by-products for recycling would be considered by EPA to be the manufacturing of a new chemical for commercial purposes – subjecting us to registration and reporting of our waste by-products under TSCA.  This interpretation requires by-product manufacturers to have detailed knowledge, on the molecular and atomic level, of all chemical reactions that occur during the recycling process after it leaves their hands,” said Grazman. “We manufacture electronics, not chemicals.   When the by-product manufacturer sends the by-product for recycling, the by-product manufacturer does not have the information needed to determine regulatory applicability.  The by-product manufacturer is simply sending the by-product for recycling. 
“I would point out that all of these regulatory obligations arise solely because a manufacturer is trying to do the right thing by sending the waste by-products for recycling rather than disposing of them in a landfill,” testified Grazman.

Redundant reporting

Grazman also points out that much of the data collected on by-products are already required by the EPA under RCRA and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).  For example, EPCRA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program requires that manufacturers report chemical release data to the EPA. “The release data provided in the TRI program is very similar to that required under the CDR,” testified Grazman.   Another example of duplicative reporting in the CDR rule is the requirement that manufacturers report worker exposure data despite existing OSHA regulations and standards requiring reporting of the same information.

Reconsideration possible

Grazman notes that when the EPA issued the CDR, the Agency said it recognized the importance of recycling and would examine the need to collect information on by-products in upcoming reporting cycles.

“We ask that EPA follow through on the commitment to analyze the collected notification and reporting data pertaining to by-products sent for recycling from the 2012 CDR reporting cycle, and provide an explanation of how the data is being used, and a rationale for why this data continues to be needed,” said Grazman.

Grazman’s testimony

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