EPA Takes a Lax Approach to E-Waste Monitoring, GAO Report Finds
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Chalk up another success to the fine folks over at the EPA. As The Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin reports, the federal agency has barely raised a finger to regulate the growing flow of e-waste, short for "electronic waste," much of which has been finding its way into countries with lax environmental standards, such as China and India (always to tragic effect).
The stinging Government Accountability Office (GAO) report detailing the findings, commissioned by Democratic House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, criticizes the EPA for failing to establish a rigorous, national approach for disposing of the waste. The toxic metals found within, including lead, mercury and cadmium, are known to impair thyroid metabolism and brain development. 43 U.S. recyclers found to be in violation of CRT rule
The report also said that many recycling companies haven't been exactly truthful about their green credentials. Forty-three recyclers were found to be in violation of CRT regulations, which require the companies to safely dispose of discarded CRT monitors and not simply send them abroad; many had set up shell companies in India, Vietnam and other countries and were shipping all their waste there.
The GAO alerted the EPA to these floutings in January 2007, when it discovered that Jet Ocean Technology, a Chino, Calif.-based firm, had been circumventing the CRT rule. Over a year and a half later, the EPA is still working on enforcing the rule -- clearly to little success. According to the report, the EPA still can't keep track of over 80 percent of the country's e-waste.
Patchwork of state laws has made regulatory action difficult
One thing holding back the effective regulation of e-waste has been the lack of a clear national policy; currently, New York City and 16 states have their own individual programs for dealing with the waste, resulting in a confusing patchwork of laws that has made it difficult for companies to obey. Not that most are complaining, I'm sure.