Robin Ingenthron of Good Point Recycling lost a bid to Casella Waste Systems in August to run Vermont's electronic waste recycling program. Good Point had run the Vermont "e-cycles" program for its first three years of operation, and the Agency of Natural Resources had been pleased with the program.
But when renewal negotiations with Good Point faltered, ANR went with Casella instead. Good Point's subsequent lawsuit, alleging improper procurement practices by the state, was punted to Vermont Environmental Court. Ingenthron agreed to drop the case when his application was approved in November.
Now, Ingenthron says his competitive edge was hampered by contract limitations and unclear communication from ANR to the electronics manufacturers, who fund the program.
Ingenthron was not allowed to recruit electronics companies that hadn't signed onto his initial application, limiting his potential income from manufacturers. At least four of companies that initially indicated they'd work with Good Point ultimately chose Casella. That left Ingenthron with just a fraction of the tonnage he needs to maintain Good Point's level of operations, he says.
David Mears, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, says Ingenthron was aware of the contract's limitations when his independent plan was approved, and he stands by his staff's work.
"It's always a disappointment and a concern to hear that we might lose jobs in Vermont," Mears said. But he views the issue as one of classic competition. "These are private agreements between these entities. We just created the framework they could work within," he said.
One point of contention is that Casella will not accept e-waste hauled by Good Point to recycling facilities operated by Casella's subcontractor. In an email to Good Point, a representative from Casella said the company negotiated an exclusive contract for transport with North Coast Services, headquartered in Portsmouth, N.H.
Casella also will not accept e-waste Good Point collected during the contract transition, when Casella and North Coast's e-waste collections were not yet operational. Some facilities were running out of storage, and Ingenthron says he picked up their materials in good faith and with the understanding that Casella would be bound to account for it.
A call to Casella for comment was not returned.
Ingenthron underscored that he'll meet his obligations to the manufacturers, such as Sony and Panasonic, who chose him as their recycler. But the rest of the business he lost has forced him to cut back on his overhead.
He says Good Point's payroll has shrunk from $26,000 per week to $17,000 per week. The attrition stems from six lost positions, plus a halt to overtime pay.
Good Point's building is for sale or lease starting in August. The 50,000-square foot facility, which Ingenthron purchased in 2008 right before the real estate market collapsed and one of the anchor tenants left, is listed at $1.69 million.