Recycling companies see big growth from subsidized program

John Shegerian credits the explosive growth of his Fresno company to a temporary state program that subsidizes companies that recycle TV sets and computer monitors.

Next month, final regulations will replace the temporary program, which may have kept more than 100 million pounds of electronics — and the lead, heavy metals and other hazards they contain — out of landfills since it began Jan. 1, 2005. Recyclers believe the program can support more industry growth, and they’re racing to tap in.

“The numbers are absolutely astounding,” said Shegerian, chief executive of Electronic Recyclers International Inc. in Fresno. “There’s no other state in the country that has done anything close to California. I don’t think things have even gotten warmed up yet.”

The program authorizes the state Integrated Waste Management Board to pay 48 cents per pound for recycling of televisions, monitors and laptops. That can mean $14 to $24 for a typical monitor, which costs about $25 to $30 to break down. Fees of up to $10 on the purchase of new video-display equipment pay the freight.

The state program paid $29.1 million in 2005 and $20.7 million in the first half of 2006, the waste board said.

Next year, the amount of money the state collects from electronics buyers could equal the amount it pays out to recyclers. If the program looks likely to lean into the red, the waste management board would have to raise consumer fees, said Jeff Hunts, supervisor of the recycling program.

When the program started, it included about 80 businesses that collected electronics and about a dozen that broke apart the equipment and recycled parts, Hunts said. Now, there are 444 collectors and 59 recyclers. People who once paid $10 to dump an old TV at a landfill now can leave it for free with the collectors registered in the program.

It’s unclear how much the program has contributed to the industry’s growth because the board didn’t track electronics recycling figures before it began, Hunts said. But company owners say it sparked a boom in business.

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