New Legislation Leaves E-Recyclers Divided

Electronic waste (e-waste) recyclers have found themselves at odds over the recent reintroduction of a bill that, if passed by Congress, would ban the exportation of certain types of e-waste. The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (RERA), which did not pass in the last session of Congress, proposes to make illegal the exportation of unprocessed electronic scrap (e-scrap), such as computers, phones, televisions, and digital audio players. However, it would still allow automobile components and functioning devices intended for refurbishment to be sent overseas.

All in Favor

RERA’s main support from within the recycling industry comes from the Coalition of American Electronic Recyclers (CAER), which is composed of 72 e-scrap recycling companies. Supporters of the bill argue that by banning the sale of e-scrap abroad, domestic e-waste recycling companies would benefit significantly. First, an increase in the amount of materials that recycling facilities have to process would translate to an increase in profit, as well as an increase in the number of jobs available within the industry.

Second, the environment itself stands to benefit as well. Recyclers in Third World countries tend to use unsustainable methods of reducing e-scrap down to its valuable metals, including burning, which releases harmful toxins into the atmosphere. CAER believes that the implementation of RERA would therefore give American recyclers a chance to better compete with the recycling companies abroad.

All Opposed

The opposition, which also includes a host of domestic recycling companies, questions whether banning the exportation of e-scrap would really benefit the US. Eric Harris, associate council and director of government affairs at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), citing an International Data Corp study, reports that 70% of the nation’s e-scrap by weight is already recycled by domestic companies rather than sent overseas. America’s electronic recycling industry is already growing without the bill—between 2002 and 2010, full-time employment at domestic e-recyclers increased from 6,000 to 45,000 people.

Harris says the bigger issue is large amounts of e-scrap being sent to landfills rather than recycled in any capacity, and focus should be placed on enforcing existing rules and keeping e-scrap out of landfills.

Looking Ahead

Due to the upcoming election and other more pressing issues facing Congress, it is very unlikely that RERA will pass this time around. If and when the bill is reintroduced, additional studies will hopefully have new data to clarify its projected effect on the e-scrap recycling industry.

Whether the bill makes it through Congress or not, we at employ environmentally friendly processes in the recycling of all of the e-scrap that we receive. So instead of letting your old electronics go to waste, let us turn it into cash for you.