The growing awareness at all levels of society
to the problems associated with the disposal and
recycling of electronic products, especially computers,
monitors and televisions, is being translated into
legislation at the state and municipal levels.
Many are calling upon Congress to step in and bring
forward legislation to set basic standards for
the United States, with an emphasis on persuading
citizens, companies and institutions to do their
part in ensuring that e-waste is dealt with in
an environmentally-friendly way.
American Recycler recently interviewed House of
Representative Member Mike Thompson (D-CA), co-chairman
of the Congressional E-Waste Working Group, for
the latest developments on the drafting of federal
Will the federal government establish a nationwide
ban on the landfilling of electronic goods and
if so, when could this be implemented?
Thompson: It is extremely important that Congress
address the growing amount of e-waste, which poses
a serious risk to the environment and public safety.
The stakeholders involved understand it will be
easier to comply with a federal e-waste program,
rather than a patchwork of state laws. The Congressional
E-Waste Working Group's (CEWG) intention is to
introduce legislation that would create a national
program, and we hope to introduce the bill as soon
Can the federal government restrict e-waste exports
to nations that already have an established e-cycling
infrastructure and standards that guarantee that
such products are deconstructed and recycled in
a way that is environmentally sound?
Thompson: We are currently developing legislative
language that would address the export of e-waste,
so it is too soon to discuss details. But the public
health and environmental impacts of e-waste are
the primary reason we are working to address this
What is the state of the negotiations regarding
the proposed federal legislation on e-cycling and
when do you expect legislation will be introduced
into the House of Representatives and the Senate?
Thompson: A few months ago, the staff of the CEWG
released a framework for the legislation and solicited
feedback from stakeholders. We are currently reviewing
their comments and beginning to craft the bill.
We aim to get the bill finalized as quickly as
possible; however, it's critical that this bill
is carefully crafted.
Is the issue of e-cycling legislation a bipartisan
issue or will it require that one party has effective
control of the Congress and the presidency?
Thompson: The CEWG is a bipartisan effort including
members from both sides of the aisle and both sides
of the Capitol. The issue of e-waste is not a political
one, and I do not anticipate any trouble finding
support from either party.
What type of electronics would you like to include
in national legislation?
Thompson: Any cathode ray tube,
flat panel screen, or similar video display device
with a screen size greater than four inches measured
diagonally, and any central processing unit, which
would cover desktop and laptop computers.
Individual states are passing producer responsibility
laws in terms of dealing with e-waste. Should there
be a level-playing field across the nation and
how would federal legislation mesh with existing
Thompson: I am pleased that 13 states and New York
City have adopted e-waste laws and 20 more states
have proposed bills. That being said, it is also
important to consider the issues that arise from
a patchwork of fifty different state regulations.
The CEWG’s concept paper addresses this problem
by setting high standards for federal certification
of state programs; at the very least, states will
have minimum benchmarks to meet.