Photo by Jaymi Heimbuch
This week, new legislation was announced that targets e-waste dumping in developing countries. The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, introduced by US Rep Gene Green (D-TX) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), would not only stem the flow of electronics to e-waste dumps, but could also boost green-collar jobs at home among recycling plants. The US is a major contributor to the e-waste that ends up in dumps where there are few or no regulations on the recycling process, allowing for methods of breaking down the devices that are toxic to the people working in the dumps and living nearby, as well as the local environment. While 25 states have e-waste legislation in place requiring companies to provide electronics recycling drop-off locations or pick-up services, they don't -- and can't -- ban exports. That's why this new legislation could make a big difference globally.
The bill will create a new category of "restricted electronic waste" -- waste that is not allowed to be exported but must be properly recycled within the US. Equipment that is still fully functional can be exported and resold in other markets, but anything that is no longer functional would not be allowed to be exported under this new legislation. Products that are being sent back to the manufacturer for repairs or are being recalled would also be allowed to be exported, since they aren't being sent to e-waste dumps.
A similar bill was introduced last year, but too late to make any progress. This time, it has been introduced early enough to hopefully make it's way into law.
Major electronics companies are already signing on with their support, including Dell, HP, Samsung, Apple and Best Buy. In fact, HP's Ashley Watson, vice president and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, says of the bill, "As an industry leader in product lifecycle improvements, HP does not allow the export of e-waste from developed countries to developing countries. We support the work of Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) to pass the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, and we encourage other companies to join the effort and promote responsible recycling."
Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, states, "This is the most important step our federal government can take to solve the e-waste problem - to close the door on e-waste dumping on developing countries." She also notes that this could bring much needed jobs to the US in the recycling sphere.
"The bill will create "green" jobs in the U.S. by keeping e-waste recycling processes in the country," Green said in the press release. "There's a value in used electronic equipment, and currently, there are small, domestic recyclers that process this equipment safely," he said. "But they have a hard time competing with facilities overseas that have few, if any, environmental and safety standards."
We'll keep following the story as the bill makes its way through the system. To help it move along, you can tell Congress to end e-waste dumping. Meanwhile, if you have any broken gadgets that need recycling, be sure to use a responsible recycler.
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More on e-Waste Legislation
Landmark E-Waste Bill Introduced to Crack Down on Exporters
Connecticut Becomes 24th State to Put e-Waste Recycling Into Law
Europe E-Waste Exports Continue, Despite Ban; U.S. Exports More, With No Ban At All