E-Waste Bill Reappears with REE Provision

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"The bill also promotes the creation of environmental jobs in the U.S."

Sustainable Business

Two U.S. Representatives reintroduced legislation last week to stop sham U.S. "recyclers" from dumping electronic waste on developing countries.

Similar legislation was introduced in the House in September of 2010, but it was too late in the Congressional session for the bill to advance.

This time, the bill has added a provision for research into recycling and recovery of rare earth elements (REEs), which are valuable for the production of clean energy technologies. REEs have been a hot topic in policy debates over the last year, as China has a monopoly on production and is cutting back on exports to meet domestic demand.

Gene Green (D-TX) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) also said the bill promotes the creation of environmental jobs in the U.S.

The bill is supported by environmental groups, as well as electronic manufacturers (Dell, HP, Samsung, Apple and Best Buy), all of which already have policies that prohibit the export of e-waste to developing nations.

The bill also has bipartisan support, including sponsors Reps. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) and Lee Terry (R-NE).

The bill addresses the toxic exposures caused by e-waste dumping and primitive recycling operations in countries like China, India, Nigeria, Ghana, which have been the subject of recent media exposés, and a report by the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office (GAO).

"The States have been passing laws that are already increasing the amount of e-waste collected for recycling, instead of land-filling," says Kate Sinding, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Unfortunately, these laws can't stop recyclers from simply sending our e-waste—and our jobs—to developing nations where improper handling threatens health and the environment. But Congress can."

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