The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2011, introduced in the summer, would prohibit U.S. recyclers from dumping electronic waste on developing countries and to promote recycling jobs at home. The House bill has bipartisan support and is co-sponsored by Gene Green (D-TX), Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Steve LaTourette (R-OH). The bill has support from recyclers and businesses such as Coalition for American Electronics Recycling, which 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 environmental organizations.
Currently, electronic waste is exported to developing countries by many U.S recyclers, to be bashed, burned, flushed with acids, and melted down in unsafe conditions in developing countries. The plastics in the imported electronics are typically burned outdoors, which can emit deadly dioxin or furans, which are breathed in by workers and nearby residents. Other issues include lead, mercury and arsenic contamination to local water supplies, as well as pollution to soil and air, for entire communities.
While there are 25 states that e-waste recycling laws, California being one of them, there is little that states can do in terms of regulating export of e-waste because it would violate the Commerce Clause. US Congress has a pivotal role in addressing this problem.
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