California's leadership is again needed to advance a comprehensive solution to the e-waste disposal crisis both here and abroad. Even though California's E-waste Recycling Law (SB 20) helped establish an infrastructure and system for the recovery, reuse and recycling of one of the largest category of toxic electronics, the uncovered devices remain unregulated.
California has successfully curbed both the illegal disposal and export of covered electronics (TVs, computer monitors, laptop computers and other 'video display devices') and it's estimated that half will either be reused or recycled in the state today.
California's e-waste policy is also unique in that the statute explicitly prohibits the export of unprocessed e-waste to non-OECD countries (i.e. developing countries, including China). Some legal experts believe that State Governments may lack the legal authority to regulate exports. However, to address this contingency, California's law also requires recyclers participating in the program to 'demonstrate' that they are properly managing material consistent with California law, and that they are not sending unprocessed materials to non-OECD countries. This 'demonstration' is a condition of recyclers receiving payment, and for the most part appears to be working to curb exports, but only for the devices covered by SB 20.
While this policy appears to be working for covered devices, the crisis continues to grow with the close to 300,000 tons of e-waste not covered by SB 20 that continues to be illegally disposed of, despite a nearly two-year old landfill ban on e-waste. And because the recycling of these devices remains unregulated, it's likely that much of this e-waste continues to be exported to the developing world in violation of international treaty.
CAW believes that California's policy makers, including the Governor, Legislature and Department of Toxic Substances Control, have an opportunity to continue the state's nationally recognized leadership and success in addressing the e-waste crisis by expanding both the hazardous waste reduction and recycling provisions of California law.