Recycling Industry Leaders Say E-waste Export Limits Will Spark Job Creation in the U.S.

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Recycling industry leaders say e-waste export limits will spark job creation in the U.S.

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Proposed federal legislation to restrict export of toxic electronic waste (e-waste) from the U.S. will spur expansion of the domestic recycling industry and create tens of the thousands of new jobs, leaders of the Coalition For American Electronics Recycling said today.

“The U.S. lacks a robust domestic e-waste recycling industry – and the quality jobs that come with it – because our laws promote unrestricted, unfair and unethical trade in toxic electronic scrap,” said Jim Taggart, CEO of ECS Refining. “E-waste exports not only poison the environment and people in developing countries across Asia and Africa, they limit the ability of responsible recyclers to expand our businesses and build our workforce in the U.S.”

The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, introduced in June, would restrict toxic e-waste exports to developing countries that lack adequate safeguards for the environment and workers. The House bill is co-sponsored by Gene Green (D-TX), Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Steve LaTourette (R-OH). In the Senate, similar legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

The Coalition For American Electronics Recycling includes 29 U.S. companies involved in all aspects of the domestic electronics recycling and disposition industry, with 74 recycling operations in 34 states. The legislation is also supported by major electronics manufacturers and retailers, including Hewlett Packard, Dell, Apple, Samsung and Best Buy, as well as the Electronics Takeback Coalition, an environmental organization.

The U.S. generated more than 3.1 million tons of e-waste in 2009, according to U.S. EPA statistics. Electronic scrap contains high concentrations of toxic materials such as lead and cadmium and is classified as hazardous by the U.S. EPA and many states. However, a large percentage of e-waste collected for “recycling” is actually exported to developing countries that lack environmental and worker safeguards.

“We need to stop exporting American jobs along with toxic e-waste,” said Robert Houghton, President of Redemtech. “For each job in exporting electronics, we can create seven good-paying jobs in our domestic recycling industry. However, domestic recyclers are at a substantial financial disadvantage to overseas recyclers with few restrictions on worker and environmental safety. By creating a level playing field, this legislation will unleash investment and job creation in our industry.”

The legislation promotes business expansion and job growth through free trade of tested, working electronics and parts; separated and properly labeled commodities recovered from electronics, such as copper, steel and aluminum; and manufacturer warranty returns for repair within the original supply chain.

“While taking action against unregulated export of hazardous materials, this legislation promotes free trade in value-added products that are critical to global success and creating jobs here in America,” said Wendy Neu, Executive Vice President of Hugo Neu Corporation. “By promoting responsible recycling, the proposed legislation will position U.S. companies as leaders in global markets.”

Current government policies are distorting the marketplace and preventing U.S. companies from meeting market demand for responsible, domestic recycling services.

“With growing awareness of the environmental risks, a majority of large U.S. companies and many consumers are asking for ‘no export’ e-waste services. However, due to unregulated exports, few qualified facilities exist in the U.S.,” said Neil Peters-Michaud, CEO of Cascade Asset Management. “The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act will enable American recyclers to rationalize investments in plant and personnel necessary to provide the services people and businesses want.”

The Coalition is actively working with both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which have jurisdiction over the bills as well as other Congressional offices who would benefit from the job creation from this legislation.

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Paul Vetter

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