The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has expressed concern over legislation introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse that the association says will restrict the legitimate trade of used electronic products, diminish environmentally responsible recycling throughout the world and threaten American jobs.
The bill, S. 2090, which looks to prohibit the export from the United States of certain electronic scrap, was introduced to the U.S. Senate March 6, 2014, and was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
According to ISRI, the bill would negatively influence recycling efforts by undermining existing policies and initiatives, such as those proposed by the Obama administration and the Interagency Task Force on Federal Electronics Stewardship, and also would violate international trade laws by unilaterally and arbitrarily banning exports to certain countries.
“This bill fails to end irresponsible recycling and will limit any opportunity to promote environmentally sound electronics recycling standards in other countries by perpetuating the outdated approach of identifying environmental risk based simply on geographic location rather than responsible operating practices,” says Robin Wiener, president of ISRI.
“This legislation is fatally flawed,” Wiener adds. “Not only does it violate trade obligations, but study after study shows the vast majority of used electronics collected for recycling within the U.S. remains in the U.S. for processing, and is not exported.”
The trade association, based in Washington, D.C., says studies by the International Data Corp., U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)/United Nations University all refute the need for the bill. For example, the ITC report in February 2013 revealed 88 percent of all UEPs exported as repaired/refurbished are sent “tested and working.” Only a small share of U.S. exports, less than 1 percent (0.8), is sent overseas for disposal.
Another negative impact of the bill being passed into law, according to John Dunham and Associates, is that many small electronics recycling firms would be forced out of business and workers let go.
The recycling industry supports efforts that contribute to responsible recycling globally and job creation within the U.S. Many recyclers say the best way to accomplish this is through strict enforcement of current laws, both domestic and international; restrictions (such as notification, recordkeeping and due diligence requirements) on the export of unprocessed, non-working UEPs to any country for the purpose of recycling, reuse or refurbishment; a ban on the export of UEPs for landfill or incineration for disposal; and the promotion of global trade in tested, working UEPs for reuse and commodity grade e-scrap for recycling by industrial consumers worldwide.