H.R. 6252 Fails to Provide Comprehensive Answer to Electronics Recycling Exports Issue Overview: Sustainable Electronics Recycling and H.R. 6252

[tweetmeme]Orginally posted by: www.ISRI.org

In today’s global economy, voluminous amounts of new and used electronic devices are being manufactured, sold and used and ultimately meeting the end of their useful lives throughout the world.  Collectively, this creates a huge demand for used and end-of-life electronics for countries that rely on exports from the US and other developed nations to meet their countries’ demand for raw materials.   Unfortunately, a number of bad actors around the world that engage in illegal pollution have placed a vibrant, established global recycling infrastructure in jeopardy.

The recycling industry strongly opposes illegal or irresponsible recycling.  However, calling for a complete ban on the export of recycled electronics from the US is a “red-herring.”  Ceasing all exports to developing countries is not the solution to addressing illegal pollution outside of the U.S.  A recent study by Eric Williams, Assistant Professor Arizona State University, in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology Journal, March 26, 2010, reinforces this point: “Between 2016 and 2018 the developing world will generate more used and end-of-life computers than the developed by around 2025. 

The developing world will generate double the developed world’s used and end-of-life computers.  Instead of banning trade the U.S. (and others) should teach developmental countries how to improve health and safety conditions and encourage environmentally responsible recycling practices.”  ISRI Advocates for Sustainable Electronics Recycling.   

On March 25, 2010, ISRI’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve ISRI’s electronics export policy.  The policy strongly condemns illegal exports and prohibits exports unless they are legal and the downstream vendor can demonstrate and verify that environmental and health and safety standards are in place.  ISRI is also a strong proponent of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Responsible Recycling (R2) program.  R2 is an independent set of voluntary operational practices specific to electronics recycling. 

The practices were developed over the past three years through a multi-stakeholder effort, led by the EPA, and is supported by a diverse group including state governments, electronics manufacturers, recyclers and organizations such as ISRI. Whereas R2 reflects a consensus approach — comprising the views of federal regulators, state governments, recyclers, manufacturers and activists — the “ban all exports” approach advocated in some quarters enjoys no such broad-based consensus. 

Currently, more than 30 facilities are now certified to the R2 practices.  See www.R2Solutions.org  and www.CertifiedElectronicsRecycler.com 

Benefits of Electronics Recycling If done responsibly, electronics recycling provides a number of environmental benefits including energy savings, carbon emission reductions and the recovery of recyclables such as steel, gold, platinum, palladium and plastics, thus reducing the need to mine virgin ores from the earth to produce new materials. 

Electronics recycling simulates the economy and creates jobs in the US and in non-OECD countries such as China, India, Brazil, Malaysia and Vietnam.   H.R. 6252 Eliminates Key Markets and Fails to Provide a Comprehensive Funding Mechanism.

While well intended , HR 6252 does not set the appropriate policy for electronics recycling exports and does not address some of the key components of the electronics recycling policy discussion.  This approach will unnecessarily eliminate key global markets and hurt small US businesses during the ongoing economic recovery.

Additionally, the costs to responsibly collect, transport, reuse and recycle electronic equipment remains the greatest challenge for recyclers.  An export ban without a comprehensive financial mechanism will only worsen the fundamental economics of electronics recycling and will likely lead to more land filling and less recycling.

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Comments

  1. Ahem. Isn’t interesting that the association that has the most hazardous waste exporters as members finds it objectionable that finally, finally, the Congress is considering doing what the rest of the developed world has already done — stop dumping toxic waste on developing countries! They state that they “strongly condemn” illegal exports, and yet they have done nothing to eliminate them. Isn’t it interesting also that the editorial above fails to mention the Basel Convention which is an international treaty that in facts makes the exports taking place every day by ISRI members — ILLEGAL. House Bill 6252 simply makes US law consistent with long-standing international law. Perhaps ISRI is saying they only consider breaking US laws to be illegal — but its perfectly all right to violate other country’s laws!

    The R2 standard which ISRI touts, also does not uphold international law and that is why all of the environmental groups involved in its negotiations walked out — after ISRI insisted they wanted to export hazardous wastes to countries without their consent.

    So the claim that R2 has widespread support from all stakeholders including “activists” is simply false. The standard that does enjoy support from leaders in the industry and environmental groups is the e-Stewards Standard, developed by the Basel Action Network. This support includes over 70 environmental groups including Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It also includes the support of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Samsung and other major enterprises. Bringing your e-waste to any recycler other than an e-Stewards Recycler risks that old equipment being very quickly slammed into a container and shipped to China or Africa. Don’t let that happen.

    Find and e-Stewards Recycler at http://www.e-Stewards.org

    Sincerely yours,

    Jim Puckett
    Executive Director, BAN

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