U.S. Reps Introduce E-Waste Export Ban Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC — Two U.S. Representatives yesterday introduced a bill that would ban the export of electronic waste to the developing world, in a move to try to reduce the health and environmental impacts of improper dismantling of waste electronics.

The bill, H.R. 6252, was introduced by Gene Green (D-Texas) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and is known as the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, and adds a section to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the legislation that gives the EPA the overarching power of managing and controlling hazardous waste.

The new section establishes the category of "restricted electronic waste" that cannot be exported from the U.S. to developing nations. The rule could cover only hazardous and non-functioning electronics; gadgets that have been tested to be found functional are eligible for export. Other exemptions in the new bill are:

• products under warranty being returned to the manufacturing facility that made them;
• products or parts being recalled; and
• crushed cathode ray tube (CRT) glass that is cleaned and prepared to be re-used in CRT glass manufacturing facilities.

"Right now, consumers can't tell whether their local recycler will actually recycle their old products or dump them on the developing countries," Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, said in a statement. "This bill will solve that problem, as well as create new recycling jobs here in the U.S."

In addition to support from the government and environmental groups, electronics firms are also backing the legislation, notably Dell, Samsung and Apple. Last year, Dell announced a company-wide policy banning exports of e-waste. "If it's not working, Dell considers it to be electronic waste, and they will not export it to a developing country. Period," Mark Newton, then the company's senior manager of environmental sustainability, said at the time.

Newton, who is now Dell's director of sustainable business, said this week in a statement: "The introduction of this bill is a great first step in giving consumers confidence that the systems they drop off for recycling will be handled responsibly. Dell bans the export of e-waste to developing countries as part of our global disposition policy, and the ever-growing e-waste challenge makes it necessary for all recyclers to do the same."

Although e-waste recycling laws are in place in 23 states in the U.S., states do not have the jurisdiction to ban e-waste exports, hence the need for federal legislation to address the issue.

Photo CC-licensed by purplemattfish.