AUGUST 2011
                                        

E-Waste export bill to stop global e-waste dumping

United States Representatives Gene Green (D-TX) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) introduced new legislation – the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act - to stop sham United States recyclers from dumping electronic waste on developing countries and to promote recycling jobs at home. The bill is supported by environmental groups as well as electronic manufacturers, all of which already have policies that prohibit the export of e-waste to developing nations. The bill also has bipartisan support, including sponsors Reps. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) and Lee Terry (R-NE).

The bill addresses the toxic exposures caused by e-waste dumping and primitive recycling operations in countries like China, India, Nigeria and Ghana, which have been the subject of recent media exposés, and a scathing report by the United States Governmental Accountability Office (GAO).

Twenty five states have passed e-waste recycling legislation, but these laws do not ban e-waste exports, which is an international trade issue, and not the constitutional jurisdiction of the states. Only Congress has the authority to legislate this much needed restriction.

Currently, electronic waste is exported to developing countries by many companies that claim to be recyclers, to be bashed, burned, flushed with acids, and melted down in unsafe conditions in developing countries. Eighty percent of children in Guiyu, China, a region where many “recycled” electronics wind up, have elevated levels of lead in their blood, due to the toxins in those electronics, much of which originate­­­s in the United States. The plastics in the imported electronics are typically burned outdoors, which can emit deadly dioxin or furans, which are breathed in by workers and nearby residents.

The bill establishes a new category of “restricted electronic waste” which cannot be exported from the United States to developing nations. Used equipment can still be exported for reuse as long as it’s been tested and is fully functional. Non-hazardous parts or materials are also not restricted. Other exemptions from the restrictions are:

•Products under warranty being returned to the manufacturer for warranty repairs;

•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.

Similar legislation was introduced in the House in September of 2010, but it was too late in the Congressional session for the bill to advance. This time, the bill has added a provision for research into recycling and recovery of Rare Earth Metals from electronics. Export of electronics scrap to crude recycling operations in developing countries also prevents proper collection and recycling of precious and strategic metals.