Reps. Thompson and Green Introduce E-Waste Recycling Bill
Rep. Gene Green (TX-29) and Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-01) introduced H.R. 6252, The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act to provide the United States with the regulatory framework to monitor the export of used electronics. Although e-waste (consumer electronics such as TVs, cell phones and computers) is the fastest growing waste stream in the country, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently has no framework to monitor the removal, disposal, and export to developing nations. Over 3 million tons of e-waste was generated by the United States in 2007.
“As technology advances at a rapid pace, explosive sales patterns emerge in consumer consumption and old electronics are discarded as a result,” Rep. Green stated. “Many of these electronics are sent to developing nations for reuse or recycling.”
E-waste can contain toxic chemicals which present environmental and health concerns when not properly handled. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that many of the developing nations who receive e-waste from the United States do not have the capacity or facilities to safely recycle and dispose of these used electronics.
“Every year, we scrap 400 million units of electronics in the U.S.,” said Rep. Thompson. “Each piece of e-waste can be incredibly harmful to our environment. Congressional action to stop the free flow of these dangerous materials is long overdue and we must act now before it is too late.”
The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act will create a new section of 1976’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RICRA) to prohibit the export of restricted e-waste to developing nations. While tested and working equipment can still be exported to promote reuse, other consumer electronic equipment, parts, and material derived from them that contain toxic chemicals could not be exported to developing nations.
“Dell bans the export of e-waste to developing countries as part of our global disposition policy, and the ever-growing e-waste challenge makes it necessary for all recyclers to do the same,” said Mark Newton, director of sustainable business at Dell. “The introduction of this bill is a great first step in giving consumers confidence that the systems they drop off for recycling will be handled responsibly.”
Non-hazardous or tested and working electronic products or parts are not restricted. Other exemptions from the restrictions are:
- products under warranty being returned to the manufacturing facility that made them;
- products or parts being recalled; and
- crushed cathode ray tube (CRT) glass cullet that is cleaned and fully prepared as feedstock into CRT glass manufacturing facilities
“The marketplace has rejected the practice of dumping e-waste on developing countries, but exporting instead of recycling is still common in our industry,” said Robert Houghton, President of Redemtech, Inc., an Ohio based asset recovery company and certified e-Stewards serving Global 1000 companies in North America and Europe. “Such so-called recyclers are virtually defrauding customers who count on them for responsible recycling, at the same time they are helping to poison workers in recycling sweat shops overseas. By ending the toxic trade in e-waste, this bill does the right thing, and will create thousands more jobs in recycling and refurbishment here in the U.S.”
This legislation will prevent the export of hazardous waste to developing nations and prevent detrimental impact to the environment and public health. It will also create jobs in America to process these products in a safe manner. The regulatory framework is consistent with policies most other developed nations have adopted through international treaties.
“This e-waste export bill will stem the tide of the toxic techno-trash sent from the U.S. to developing countries around the world,” said Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, a national environmental coalition which promotes responsible recycling of e-waste. “Right now, consumers can’t tell whether their local recycler will actually recycle their old products or dump them on the developing countries - and this bill will solve that problem, as well as create new recycling jobs here in the U.S.”
The legislation has received support from Dell, Apple, Samsung, The Electronics TakeBack Coalition, and The Natural Resources Defense Council.