Environmental activists estimate that 50-80% of the 300,000 to 400,000 tons of electronics recovered and collected for recycling in the United States every year ends up in foreign countries. In these countries, such as China and India, workers use often times their bare hands to extract the recyclable materials inside, such as metals and glass.
Those who collect e-waste for disposal in California are not allowed to dipose of this e-waste illegally to foreign countries. In Caifornia, someone who wants to export a convered electronic device elsewhere must adhere to strict rules outlined in SB 20/SB 50 which includes notifying the Deparment of Toxics Substances Control of the contents for export and indicate that the waste and devices are for the purposes of recycling or disposal.
The AP reports on how Americans are unaware of their e-waste being shipped abroad.
The EPA is working with environmental groups, recyclers and electronics manufacturers to develop a system to certify companies that recycle electronics responsibly. But so far the various players have not agreed on standards and enforcement.
Many activists believe the answer lies in requiring electronics makers to take back and recycle their own products. Such laws would encourage manufacturers to make products that are easier to recycle and contain fewer dangerous chemicals, they say.
Eight states, including five this year, have passed such laws, and companies such as Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Sony now take back their products at no charge. Some require consumers to mail in their old gear, while others have drop-off centers. HP says it also now designs its equipment with fewer toxic materials and has made it easier to recycle.
What You Can Do
- Learn more about California and e-waste.
- Find a place to properly dispose of your unwanted electronic waste.