This week, new legislation was announced that targets e-waste dumping in developing countries. Rep. Gene Green and Rep. Mike Thompson introduced H.R. 2284, The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2011, to prohibit the exportation of some electronics whose improper disposal may create environmental, health, or national security risks.
The bill will create a new category of “restricted electronic waste” — waste that is not allowed to be exported but must be properly recycled within the US. Equipment that is still fully functional can be exported and resold in other markets, but anything that is no longer functional would not be allowed to be exported under this new legislation. Products that are being sent back to the manufacturer for repairs or are being recalled would also be allowed to be exported, since they aren’t being sent to e-waste dumps. The new bill has added provisions for research into recycling and recovery of rare earth metals, which are valuable for the production of IT technologies and clean energy technologies.
Until now large amounts of U.S. e-waste end up at unsafe overseas recycling facilities often in violation with the international law. In the US, it is estimated that 50-80 percent of the e-waste collected for recycling is being exported in this way.
The bill is supported by electronic manufacturers such as Dell, HP, Samsung, and Apple. “As an industry leader in product life-cycle improvements, HP does not allow the export of e-waste from developed countries to developing countries. We support the work of Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) to pass the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, and we encourage other companies to join the effort and promote responsible recycling,” said Ashley Watson, Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer for HP.
The e-waste makes it third appearance in the U.S House. A similar bill was introduced last year , and the year before (2009) but in both cases too late to make any progress. This time, it hopefully has been introduced early enough to make it’s way into law.