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Proposed federal legislation addresses e-scrap exports

Secure E-waste Export and Recycling Act, which CAER supports, is said to offer protection for the environment and national security.

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May 13, 2021

U.S. Reps. Adriano Espaillat of New York and Steve Stivers of Ohio introduced the Secure E-Waste Export and Recycling Act (SEERA) to the House May 7. They say the legislation, which was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs the same day, will protect the environment and national security by restricting export of untested, nonworking electronic scrap from the United States. As of May 13, the text of SEERA, also known as H.R.3036, was not yet available on www.congress.gov.

Espaillat first introduced legislation by the same name in 116th Congress in 2019, and it was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs June 27, 2019. Previous bills by the same name were introduced by Rep. Paul Cook of California in the 114th and 115th Congresses.

The Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER) says SEERA will ensure America’s end-of-life electronics do not end up in toxic dumps in developing countries and chokes off the flow of raw materials used by electronics counterfeiters.

CAER describes itself as the voice of the emerging recycling industry on Capitol Hill. CAER includes more than 130 companies and supporting members operating more than 300 facilities in 37 states and in Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Its executive committee members include representatives from ERI, Colt Refining & Recycling, Cascade Asset Management LLC and Ingram Micro, among others.

“There is a bipartisan consensus around the threat that China presents to our critical supply lines, environment, personal information and national security—I was proud to work with my colleague, Congressman Stivers, on our bill to abate e-waste exports to China,” Espaillat says. “The vulnerabilities presented by China’s handling of American e-waste was illuminated in a 2012 Senate Armed Services Committee Report. But in the nearly 10 years since its release, we have yet to take the necessary steps to address the problem.”

He adds, “Our e-waste flow is on track to reach 27 million tons by 2030, and until we turn it off, our national security and environment will be under threat by the malign actors in China. Furthermore, we will continue to miss out on the economic benefits from this industry as China’s e-waste industry is on track to be worth $23.8 billion by 2030. It is beyond time that we take action.”

Stivers says, “In our efforts to counter China’s growing influence, this bill is an important step. Thanks to Representative Espaillat and all involved for their leadership on this critical issue.”

The CAER says SEERA will deliver various benefits to the American economy by requiring domestic processing of untested, nonworking end-of-life electronics. SEERA will increase high-value exports of refurbished computer equipment and commodity-grade material derived from end-of-life electronics. U.S. recyclers will be better able to attract investment, expand capacity and create up to 42,000 quality jobs for Americans, the organization says.

SEERA includes exemptions for materials considered low risk because they are unlikely to be used by counterfeiters or recycled overseas under primitive conditions, CAER says. These include tested, working used electronics; e-scrap that has been shredded or demanufactured, which may be exported for use as feedstock for smelters and other recycling processes; and recalled electronics that can be exported for repairs.