U.S. Senate Considering Bill to Slow the Impacts of e-Waste

gadgets in store photo

Photo via Rojer via Flickr CC

Could cradle-to-cradle design become law? The beginnings of it seem to be hatching with a new bill going through the Senate. The bill, titled S.1397, the "Electronic Device Recycling Research and Development Act," would push for dealing with e-waste through not only better disposal methods, but also having designers consider end-of-life product design in the first place. While this is already a growing part of electronics design - especially if a manufacturer wants their product to qualify for labels such as EPEAT, it isn't a very broadly set goal. This bill could help us slow the impacts of e-waste, and move towards cradle-to-cradle design. However, it is a bill without much teeth. Well...without any teeth.The bill was introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), and points to the largest facts of e-waste - all of which we bemoan often on TreeHugger - that gadgets will continue to take over our lives, that they continue to pile up in drawers, recycling centers, and e-waste dumps in developing nations, and that not enough people know how to - or do - recycle their gadgets at end of life. Pretty much the opposite of what it takes to make gadgets green. The "Electronic Device Recycling Research and Development Act" would like to help out on this front - but pay close attention to the name; "research and development" doesn't quite mean "we're going to make things function better, now."

Ars Technica reports, "The research aims of the bill fall into three broad categories: to figure out how best to deal with the e-waste already out there, to "develop and demonstrate environmentally friendly alternatives to the use of hazardous and potentially hazardous materials in electronic devices and the production of such devices," and to "reconsider product design and assembly to facilitate and improve refurbishment, reuse, and recycling of electronic devices, including an emphasis on design for recycling." The bill acknowledges that the problem is endemic to current product design standards, and many designers will have to take into account the total life-cycle of their devices to help mitigate the gadget pileup."

Right now, the bill only directs funding towards research on the problems of e-waste. It wouldn't yet require companies or consumers to behave differently. That is disappointing, but any research into e-waste and how it can be eliminated is important, especially if it leads to bills that will have the teeth to require manufacturers to deal with e-waste, and for designers to focus on cradle-to-cradle concepts. And while this research is already being conducted on some level among companies and advocacy groups, having it be part of legislation will bring needed governmental attention to the results.

More on e-Waste Law
Electronics Associations File Suit Against NYC Over Door-to-Door e-Waste Collection Law
Indiana Approves Major Statewide e-Waste Recycling Program
Nation's First TV Energy Efficiency Standards Will Cut CO2 By 3.5 Million Tons

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