Technology moves fast. Just three years ago we were using the first generation iPhone, punch-drunk in love with the concept of making calls from a touch screen. Since then, Apple hasn’t lost its footing with America’s hippest techies, and April’s launch of the first iPad only made us want more.
This week, we were surprised to get a tip about the first iPad to be processed in a recycling facility. Sims Recycling Solutions, the world’s largest electronics recycler, received its first Apple iPad at its Sacramento facility. The condition of the iPad remains unknown.
Ironically, the news comes on the heels of the introduction of landmark legislation that could change the electronics industry and its growing global e-waste problem.
Late Wednesday, U.S. Representatives Gene Green and Mike Thompson introduced the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2010, an effort to stop U.S. “recyclers” from dumping electronic waste in developing countries.
The bill is supported by environmental groups as well as electronic manufacturers Apple, Dell and Samsung, all of which already have policies that prohibit the export of e-waste to developing nations.
While 23 states have passed e-waste recycling legislation, a sweeping ban of e-waste exportation does not yet exist. The new bill would be a step forward in establishing this type of federal legislation against dumping.
Also, the bill adds a new section to the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) laws establishing a new category of “restricted electronic waste,” which cannot be exported from the U.S. to developing nations.
Oftentimes, electronic waste is exported to developing countries by the majority of U.S. companies claiming to be recyclers. In reality, these electronics are bashed, burned, flushed with acids and melted down in unsafe conditions, affecting the health of residents.
In fact, 80 percent of children in Guiyu, China have elevated levels of lead in their blood, due to the toxins in those electronics, much of which originate in the U.S.
“This e-waste export bill will stem the tide of the toxic techno-trash sent from the U.S. to developing countries around the world,” says Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, a national environmental coalition which promotes responsible recycling of e-waste.
“Right now, consumers can’t tell whether their local recycler will actually recycle their old products or dump them on the developing countries – and this bill will solve that problem, as well as create new recycling jobs here in the U.S.”
Worldwide generation of e-waste is growing by about 40 million tons a year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In late September, Kenya became the first country in East Africa to make the proper handling of e-waste an official national priority.