June 29, 2011
Old laptops, cell phones and other electronics are piling up at an alarming rate as Americans upgrade to the latest technology. But there is a danger in trashing, even recycling old electronics. Some U.S. companies ship electronic waste to developing countries where it is taken apart or burned with little or no safety regulation, exposing workers to dangerous chemicals. The Electronics TakeBack Coalition estimates 50% to 80% of e-waste collected by recyclers in the U.S. is exported to developing countries. In states that don’t ban e-waste from landfills the old electronics leach into the land over time and are released into the atmosphere.
Now some lawmakers want to put an end to illegal and dangerous exports of e-waste. The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2011 was just introduced into the House. It aims to stop the export of electronics that contain toxic material like mercury and lead. The bill would also create green jobs by keeping e-waste recycling in the U.S. and not overseas where it is often shipped to save money. So far, 25 states have passed e-waste recycling legislation but the laws do not ban exports since trade is outside the jurisdiction of states. Supporters of federal legislation say state laws are keeping most e-waste out of landfills but cannot stop recyclers from shipping parts to third world countries.
Leading electronics manufacturers including HP, Dell, Samsung, Apple and Best Buy have all endorsed the legislation. They are also pushing for recycling companies in the U.S. to abide by standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency, to upgrade their recycling technology and create more jobs.
To find out more about e-waste and make sure you are recycling in a responsible way click here.