Bill Aims to Encourage Recovery of Rare Earths and Bar E-Waste Exports

Date: August 10, 2011

Source: News Room

New legislation aims to enhance the recycling and recovery of rare earth metals from disposed electronics in the U.S. while also barring the export of so-called "e-waste" to countries like China. The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (H.R. 2284) and its companion bill in the Senate (S. 1270) seek to stop the flow of these materials oversees as collectors seek to save money by exporting e-waste to countries with little environmental regulation. It would also boost domestic electronics recycling which has been operating under capacity and accordingly has been reluctant to invest in new equipment. The legislation comes amid a U.S. outcry over China's continued imposition of export quotas on rare earth minerals, which are needed for a variety of high-tech products. According to Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network, a Seattle-based environmental group, China technically bars the import of e-waste but roughly 50 to 100 containers full are smuggled into the country via Hong Kong per day to support an underground recycling industry.

June 24, 2011

Brown Introduces Bill to Promote Domestic Recycling Efforts, Reduce Counterfeit Electronics

  • Bipartisan Legislation Would Prohibit Export of E-Waste to Developing Nations, Reduce Counterfeit Electronics in U.S.

  • EPA Estimates that U.S. Generated More than 3.1M Tons of E-Waste in 2009; Columbus-Based Company Refurbishes Equipment, Reduces Toxic Electronic Waste

WASHINGTON, D.C. Following growing concern over the disposal of consumer electronics, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced legislation to bar the export of electronic toxic waste to developing countries. The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2011, cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) would support domestic recyclers like Columbus-based Redemtech, which recycles and refurbishes electronic equipment to manufacture new products and to reduce landfill waste. It is aimed at reducing the exportation of electronic waste, or e-waste, to developing countries which in turn, results in goods that are often repackaged and sold to the United States.

"This bill will foster domestic innovation and allow Ohio businesses, like Redemtech, to create good-paying, clean energy jobs," Brown said. "By addressing environmental threats that endanger public health and reducing the number of counterfeit electronics in the U.S., we can spur economic development in Ohio."

"Federal e-waste legislation is critical to controlling the unfair and environmentally unsound trade practices that constrain our domestic electronics recycling industry. Senator Brown is to be commended on introducing a bill that both promotes environmentally responsible recycling and creates jobs. Many of Redemtech's corporate customers are demanding it," said Robert Houghton, President of Redemtech.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 2009 alone, the U.S. generated over 3.1 million tons of e-waste. Much of the e-waste collected in the U.S. for alleged "recycling" or "reuse" is actually exported to developing nations where some enterprises re-package the electronics and sell them back to the U.S., increasing the prevalence of counterfeit electronics.

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The GAO recently determined that most of these receiving countries lack the capacity to safely recycle and dispose of these discarded and used electronics. Electronics are often sent overseas to be "recycled" and end up in landfills where the local populations face hazardous toxic materials and are unable to effectively manage the e-waste.

Addressing electronic waste also creates opportunities for Ohio companies, like Columbus-based Redemtech, and reduces the re-importation of discarded electronics sold to American consumers as counterfeits.

Many responsible recyclers in the U.S. operate under-capacity, undercut by brokers exporting e-waste to developing nations. These exports also fuel a growing counterfeit chip market in China that sells fake military grade chips into our military supply chain.

Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Gene Green (TX-29) and Mike Thompson (CA-01). U.S. Rep. Steven Latourette (OH-14) is an original cosponsor. The bill is supported by: Hewlett Packard, Dell, Apple, Samsung, Best Buy, the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, and 29 recyclers representing 74 recycling operations in 34 states.

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