Monday, September 17, 2007

State Tries to Reduce Waste by Penalizing Berkeley Recycling Center

By Kathleen Richards
Mon, Sep 17, 2007 at 4:57 PM

The Alameda County Computer Recycling Center, based in Berkeley, is one of the few places that recycles electronic waste (pickup is free for Berkeley residents). The nonprofit has repaired thousands of computers and donated them to schools, groups, and individuals around the world, as well as been an active participant in the Maker Faire. For their efforts, Executive Director James Burgett was recently named one of four "Heroes" by CNN for "innovative efforts to preserve and protect the environment." Well, apparently that's not good enough for the Department of Toxic Substance Control, a division of the state's Environmental Protection Agency. In August, an inspector from the department paid ACCRC a visit, and last week sent a letter telling Burgett his recycling charity was violating one of their codes. The problem? Apparently Burgett and his crew failed to maintain a proper inventory of all material that they divert, and they're not allowed to stockpile any material for more than one year. Or, as Burgett wrote more succinctly on his blog: "Please note that if I destroy this material I have none of these restrictions. So thanks to the state re-use has more hassles, hurdles, and paperwork than destruction. So not only does the system only pay for destruction it now is actually impairing re-use." Failure to meet the department's demands will result in a fine of at least $2,000 and no more than $25,000, meaning certain doom considering ACCRC's total assets are less than $500 as of last Thursday. Burgett wrote a letter disputing the violation, citing "Repurposable material is not waste," and began soliciting for a defense fund on his blog. In response, the department agreed to a conference call with Burgett to discuss the matter further, but on Friday, they informed him "the conference had been cancelled due to offensive statements on this blog and that this had come down from 'the executive' office." According to Burgett, the department told him he could try and get an extension, but that he'd be subject to fines as early as today. Burgett wasn't at work today and an email to him was responded to just yet.


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