E-Waste Bill Criticized for 'Loopholes'

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A proposed bill could prohibit exports of certain types of electronics materials meant for recycling with the exception of “refurbishment or repair.”

However, it’s this exception that has angered groups such as the Electronics TakeBack Coalition and the Basel Action Network. The group says the exclusion provides a loophole of which too many recyclers may take advantage.

Electronics that are diverted to landfills can leak hazardous materials like lead, cadmium and mercury into the environment and air. Photo: Boingboing.net

Electronics that are diverted to landfills can leak hazardous materials like lead, cadmium and mercury into the environment and air. Photo: Boingboing.net

“We’re all in favor of the reuse of electronic equipment,” says Jim Puckett, Director of the Basel Action Network. “But this bill plays right into the hands of the thousands of brokers that want to send broken, outdated equipment to developing countries and a whole lot of useless toxic parts along for the ride. This bill now legitimizes that despicable practice.”

Currently, the U.S. has no federal law against sending e-waste to dealers overseas, despite existence of the widely accepted Basel Convention, an international treaty which controls the cross border movement of hazardous waste.

Also, the ETBC points out how the proposed bill states that e-waste may still be exported, as long as the exporting companies “certify annually to the United States government that the export of such items is intended for refurbishment.”

The ETBC estimates that the U.S.exports enough e-waste each year to fill 5,126 shipping containers, which when stacked, would reach 8 miles high. Furthermore, electronics sent to developing nations often tend to end up in “backyard” recycling operations, where unsafe methods to remove materials for resale are used, causing great harm to human and environmental health.

Consumers looking to properly recycle their e-waste should take care to ensure their products are not being shipped overseas. Certain organizations, such as the International Scrap Recyclers Institute and the International Association of Electronics Recyclers, provide ethical guidelines for compliance which recyclers can subscribe to in order to properly handle e-cycling.

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