A report conducted by John Dunham and Associates, Brooklyn, N.Y., and released by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, D.C., highlights the relationship between economic growth and electronic scrap export activity. According to the report, a ban on the export of electronic scrap would result in less competition, reduce jobs and increase the costs of consumers.
The Dunham report, "Assessment of Efforts to Restrict the Trade of Electronic Scrap on Electronic Scrap Recycling Industry Jobs and Exports," analyzes the effects on jobs and the economy were a ban on electronic scrap exports to occur. It predicts that many smaller firms would be forced out of business and workers let go as a result. As the findings state, “Rather than create opportunity for small domestic businesses, [a ban] will consolidate business to those firms that already have the necessary machinery and manpower. It will crowd out small existing businesses and inhibit the entry of newer businesses.”
Robin Wiener, president of ISRI, says, “The Dunham report reaffirms that a total ban on the export of used electronics only harms the economy by reducing competition among responsible recyclers in the e-recycling industry.”
She adds, “Not only would workers in the export business and those supporting it lose their jobs, but as larger e-recyclers crowd out the market, those working at small and midsized companies would be displaced. Less competition also means higher costs for consumers, who in turn may find it cheaper to discard used electronic products rather than recycle.”
The electronic scrap recycling industry employs more than 30,000 workers, a more than five-fold increase from 6,000 in 2002, the report states.
The Dunham report disputes an earlier report released by the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER) claiming a ban on e-scrap exports would help the domestic economy. According to John Dunham and Associates, the CAER report used rudimentary survey methodology, relying on a small sampling of its own members, many who have a vested interest if a ban was implemented.
Furthermore, the report claims that CAER fails to analyze the electronic scrap market outside that of its own membership, falsely assuming that anything not recycled by one of its members is exported. Not only does this exclude used electronics responsibly recycled by others in the industry or sent to landfill, but it also ignores an ITC report from earlier this year showing that only 17.2 percent (by weight) of used electronic products collected in the U.S. are exported.
As reported by Dunham, “adding jobs to CAER members while cutting deeply into the rest of the industry does not ‘create’ jobs, it displaces jobs.”