Group Sees E-waste Export as Threat to National Security

Date: June 21, 2016

Source: Coalition for American Electronics Recycling

A recycling advocacy group, which has always opposed the export of used electronics (e-waste), is switching tactics. The Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER), which had previously sought to amend existing environmental law, now aims to change export law. Fueling this change is concern that e-waste is being used as a feedstock in counterfeited electronic components coming primarily from China, according to a May 25 press release. The coalition has long argued legislation is needed to shut off e-waste dumping on developing countries and boost job growth in the US. In past proposals, CAER obtained bipartisan backing on amending the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) that would have barred the export of "restricted electronic waste" from the US to developing countries, while increasing EPA's authority to regulate it. For that reason, it was opposed by a scrap industry association. Under a new approach, CAER is proposing legislation, dubbed the Secure E-Waste Export and Recycling Act (SEERA), that would amend the Export Administration Act, which regulates exports based on national security and for foreign policy reasons.

May 25, 2016

Capitol Hill Briefing Highlights Link Between E-Waste Exports And Threats To Security, Public Safety

  • U.S. E-Waste Provides Raw Materials For Counterfeit Electronic Parts From China That Undermine Reliability of Military Hardware, Critical Infrastructure and Consumer Products

Washington, DC - A Congressional briefing hosted by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) today highlighted the need for trade policies addressing export of electronic waste (e-waste) that provides feedstock for electronic component counterfeiters based primarily in China.

"Counterfeit microchips and other components are pervasive in military and civilian supply chains and are undermining the performance of technologies we rely upon every day to keep Americans safe," said Tom Sharpe, Vice President at SMT Corporation, an electronics distributor to the defense and aerospace industries. "These counterfeiters, use e-waste exported from our own shores as a primary source of cheap raw materials."

A Senate Armed Services Committee study found 1,800 cases of counterfeit parts in military technology, including helicopters, cargo planes, submarines, thermal weapons site, and missile control systems, Sharpe noted. The study traced most counterfeits to a city in southern China. Reflecting a threat to public safety, counterfeits have been found in intravenous drip machines, automated external defibrillators used to save heart attack victims, airport runway lighting systems, and braking systems for high-speed trains, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.

The practices of counterfeiters are a stark contrast to the clean-room conditions required to make reliable electronic components, Sharpe noted. "These parts are going to fail with potentially disastrous consequences," he said. "Because counterfeits are so difficult to detect, we need action that reduces the volume of fake components flooding our supply chains."

The Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER) is proposing legislation to stop exports of untested, nonworking e-waste that provide an abundant supply of feedstock for counterfeiters. The Secure E-Waste Export and Recycling Act (SEERA), now in draft form, would include e-waste under the Export Administration Act of 1979 (EAA) that regulates exports for national security and foreign policy reasons.

"CAER includes more than 130 companies operating in the U.S. that are committed to secure, responsible e-waste recycling," said Paul Healey, manager of recycling at Glencore and a member of the CAER steering committee. "Unfortunately, a significant portion of U.S. e-waste ends up with sham recyclers and exporters willing to ship used electronics overseas where it is used by counterfeiters."

SEERA will enhance traceability of electronic products to discourage counterfeiting, Healey noted. Customs and Border Protection would be authorized to inspect shipments of electronic products intended for export and to stop the shipment and hold the shipper accountable.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has oversight of the EAA. Rep. Poe hosted the briefing as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.

"By keeping these materials in the United States, we will keep them out the hands of counterfeiters and data thieves," Healey said. "Under SEERA, export of tested, working equipment will continue and is expected to grow, creating up to 42,000 good-paying jobs for Americans."

About the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling

The Coalition for American Electronics Recycling is the voice of the emerging e-waste recycling industry on Capitol Hill. Our industry will play an integral role in the fight against counterfeits by providing secure, domestic e-recycling services for government and businesses. CAER includes more than 130 companies and supporting members operating more than 300 facilities in 35 states and Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

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