WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson (CA-05) and Gene Green (TX-29) have introduced H.R. 2791, the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (RERA) of 2013.
The legislation promotes the U.S. Recycling industry by prohibiting the exportation of some electronics whose improper disposal may create environmental, health, or national security risks. This helps bring recycling jobs back to the U.S.
According to a recent study by the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling, restrictions on e-waste exports could create up to 42,000 new direct and indirect jobs with a total payroll of more than $1 billion.
While there are domestic recyclers that currently process e-waste, they have a hard time competing with overseas recycling facilities that have few, if any, labor and environmental standards and are thus able to offer cheaper services.
A U.S. International Trade Committee (ITC) report also states the RERA will help increase U.S. Exports and create jobs.
Discarded computers, TVs, phones and other consumer electronics – commonly referred to as electronic waste or “e-waste” – now comprise the fastest growing waste stream in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the U.S. Generates more than 3.4 million tons of e-waste a year.
“Each year, millions of tons of e-waste are discarded in the U.S. And shipped to developing nations for unsafe salvage and recovery,” said Thompson. “By carefully regulating the export of e-waste, this bipartisan legislation creates good-paying recycling jobs here in the U.S., while taking concrete steps to address a growing environmental and health crisis.”
“E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the United States and can pose serious environmental and health problems here and around the world when not handled properly,” said Green. “As a senior member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I look forward to working with the majority in the House to pass this important legislation which will create thousands of jobs at home while helping protect human health and the environment.”
H.R. 2791 has garnered bipartisan support with original Republican cosponsors, Reps. Mike Coffman (CO-6), Steve Stivers (OH-15) and Mike McCaul (TX-10). Original Democratic cosponsors include Reps. Thompson, Green and Louis Slaughter (NY-25).
The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act creates a new section in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that prohibits the export of “restricted electronic waste” from the U.S. To countries that are not members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the European Union (EU).
Restricted electronic equipment refers to any equipment that contains specific toxic materials at levels greater than those deemed non- hazardous by the EPA.
In 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that many of the developing nations that receive e-waste from the United States do not have the capacity or facilities to safely recycle and dispose of these used electronics.
Under the legislation, tested and working equipment can still be exported to promote reuse. Products could also still be exported for warranty repair or due to recall. However, consumer electronic equipment, parts, and materials that contain toxic chemicals could not be exported to nations outside of OECD member countries or the EU.
This legislative approach is consistent with the e-waste policies adopted by most other developed nations via international treaties, such as the Basel Convention and Basel Ban Amendment.
H.R. 2791 also creates a research program at the Department of Energy to help assess the recycling and recovery of Rare Earth Metals from electronics. This provision will help ensure the proper collection and recycling of precious and strategic metals.
The legislation is broadly supported by the electronics industry, including official backing from Hewlett Packard, Dell, Apple, Samsung, and Best Buy. It is also widely supported by the recycling industry, including the Coalition For American Electronics Recyclers, which includes more than 100 companies operating more than 185 processing facilities in 34 states; and the environmental community, including the Electronic TakeBack Coalition (ETBC) and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Steve Skurnac, President of Sims Recycling Solutions and CAER steering committee member, said “By requiring responsible recycling of electronic scrap within our borders, RERA will create valuable recycling jobs that add significant economic value.”
Neil Peters-Michaud, CEO of Cascade Asset Management and CAER steering committee member, noted “RERA will promote investment in our domestic recycling industry that can boost trade in tested, working electronics as well as processed e-scrap commodities.”
“This is the most important step our federal government can take to solve the e-waste problem – to close the door on e-waste dumping on developing countries,” said Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, a national environmental coalition which promotes responsible recycling of e-waste. “Consumers want to recycle their electronics, but they shouldn’t have to worry about whether their old products will really be recycled, or just exported to China.”
“Samsung Electronics America prioritizes responsible electronic recycling and is proud to again support the passage of RERA,” said Joel Wiginton, Vice President of Government Relations of Samsung Electronics America.
H.R. 2791 has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.