Reps Gene Green (D-Texas) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) have introduced an e-waste export bill in the House of Representatives that is designed to promote responsible electronic recycling and stop global dumping of US e-waste.
Currently, electronic waste from the US is exported to developing countries in Asia and South America by companies that claim to be recyclers. Some of this waste is bashed, burned, flushed with acids, or melted down in unsafe conditions. Some of the e-waste is disassembled by families, including children, under conditions that expose them to toxic chemicals. The disassembled components are often flushed back into the supply chain as counterfeits.
According to the Government Accountability Office, "80 percent of children in Guiyu, China, a region where many ‘recycled’ electronics wind up, have elevated levels of lead in their blood, due to the toxins in electronics.” Much of those electronics originate in the US.
The plastics in the imported electronics are typically burned outdoors, which can emit deadly dioxin or furans. These toxins are breathed in by workers and nearby residents.
The Green-Thompson bill establishes a new category of “restricted electronic waste” that cannot be exported from the US to developing countries. Used equipment can still be exported for reuse as long as it’s been tested and is fully functional. Non-hazardous parts or materials are also not restricted.
Other exemptions from the restrictions include:
- Products under warranty being returned to the manufacturer for warranty repairs;
- Products or parts being recalled; and
- Crushed cathode ray tube (CRT) glass cullet that is cleaned and fully prepared as feedstock into CET glass manufacturing facilities.