Federal E-Waste Proposals Differ over Legislative Scope

Date: February 13, 2009

Source: News Room

Various democratic lawmakers are drafting three separate bills to address the disposal of electronic waste (e-waste), that could lead to conflicts of approach to the problem. The House Science & Technology Committee has a draft bill that calls for EPA to commission multi-year studies by various research institutions and a one-year study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to examine ways to improve the efficiency of e-waste recycling, but not mandate any regulatory requirements on handling e-waste. But Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Congressional E-Waste Working Group co-founder Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) are drafting separate legislation which could impose bans on e-waste exports, set handling and disposal requirements, or other measures. And Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) has previously expressed a desire to pursue legislation that would impose an export ban on e-waste. There are currently no federal laws regulating the disposal of consumer electronics, though eighteen states and New York City have passed laws regulating its disposal. The EPA estimates that less than a fifth of electronics are disposed of or reused responsibly, and often the e-waste is sent to developing countries, where it is mined for the valuable metals inside, often using methods that are extremely unsafe for the workers and the environment.

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