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E-waste recyclers support federal bill on e-waste exports

December 22nd, 2011

The largest e-waste recycler in the world yesterday announced its support for legislation in Congress to restrict exports of e-waste from the U.S. to developing countries.  Sims Recycling Solutions, which has e-waste recycling facilities in 14 countries, and handles e-waste recycling and asset recovery for many of the IT companies in the U.S., announced its support for H.R. 2284/S.1270, the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, and joined a growing coalition of  recyclers calling for passage of this policy.

The Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER) is a new organization of electronics recyclers committed to growing the U.S. based electronics recycling industry, and expanding the capacity of U.S. companies to manage e-waste here, adding new jobs and promoting the U.S. economy.

Why A New Coalition?

You might ask why you even need a coalition to promote such mom-and-apple-pie goals as more recycling, more jobs, and a stronger economy. Doesn’t everyone want that?  But it makes sense when you understand that many companies calling themselves recyclers are mostly exporters – companies who collect e-waste, who pick out a few of the highest value items, and then export the rest by the container-load, to developing countries, where the toxics in the e-waste are not well-managed, and they end up causing great harm to communities and the environment.  These are the companies that are behind a lot of local community or charity collection events, or who contract with local governments to handle the used electronics from local residents. They don’t actually recycle most of it – they export it, or more likely, they just sell it to a broker who exports it. It doesn’t take a lot of workers) or create a lot of jobs) to load up shipping containers.

On the other hand, real recyclers create a lot of jobs. Recyclers take the products back to their facilities. They sort and disassemble the products, pulling out reusable parts (or separating out, testing, and refurbishing reusable whole products), removing hazard-containing parts, and then separating the products into various materials (glass, plastics, metals, etc) that they can sell as recyclable commodities. Many of them have invested in expensive equipment (shredders) that help with this material separation and processing, as well as equipment for testing, inventory, sales.

Why the Sims Announcement Is Significant

This new coalition represents real recyclers, not the exporters. They came together to voice support by their industry for the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act in Congress.  Currently, the primary opponent to the bill is the scrap recycling industry association called ISRI – the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. ISRI says they are the voice of the recycling industry. But the existence of this new coalition, whose members have 89 facilities in 32 states plus the District of Columbia,  suggests that ISRI does not speak for the whole industry. The addition of a large company like Sims to this coalition is significant, because Sims is the world’s largest electronics recycling company, and they have been a key ISRI member. They have more than one seat on ISRI’s governing board. And they are on the other end of many of the electronics companies’ own takeback programs.

The business community’s support for this legislation continues to grow. It’s been endorsed by Dell, HP, Apple, Samsung, LG, and Best Buy – all companies that operate e-waste recycling programs, all companies who are already living by the policies and principled behind the legislation.  It’s a policy that’s good for business and good for our economy.