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U.S. imports first Canadian PCBs for recycling

reprinted from
Electric Light & Power
July 1997

Nearly six years after S.D. Meyers Inc. began its quest for free trade in the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) disposal marketing, it imported the first PCB transformer from Canada for disposal via recycling. Overcoming a 17-year-old policy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banning such imports and overcoming Canadian reversal of a 5-year-old policy which allowed such exports, the import on March 29, 1997, of a PCB transformer form Niagra Falls Hydro brought free trade to PCB disposal.

Companies, such as S.D. Meyers Inc., can recycle transformers, capacitors, lighting ballasts and other electrical equipment contaminated by PCBs and transformer oil contaminated by PCBs. Ninety-five percent of a transformer is recyclable copper, aluminum, steel and ceramics, which are cleaned to Canadian cleanliness standards (105g PCB/100cm2) and smelted. Five percent of the transformer is non-recyclable materials (wood, paper, gasket material, etc.), which are incinerated in a U.S. EPA-permitted incinerator. No landfilling of Canadian wastes is allowed. Since natural resources are recycled and since all PCBs are destroyed (none landfilled), the threat of PCBs is removed from the North American environment.

The savings to Canadian PCB owners is estimated to be more than $150 million (Cdn). The average market rate for PCB disposal in Canada has been cut in half due to efforts to open the border.

The only opposition to opening the border during EPA hearings came from three Canadian dispoal companies which presumably has a vested interest in keeping the borders closed. Other Canadian brokers and disposal companies did not comment; no environmental group provided coments, either.

Virtually all the PCBs in Canada were manufactured in the United States; Canada never manufactured PCBs and so allowing PCBs to be repatriated for disposal completes the life cycle for these PCBs.

S.D. Meyers Inc., founded in 1965, is the largest PCB disposal via recycling company in North America. Its six U.S. EPA-permitted recycling processes have handled more than 120 million kg of PCB and PCB contaminated fluids and equipment in the last six years.

S.D. Meyers also has transported PCBs more than 17 million km without a spill and has been audited by more than 500 corporate and utility environmental auditing teams in the United States, as well as toured by Londoners For the Elimination of All PCBs, the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Environment Canada.