Senate Bill Creates U.S. Jobs and Stops Toxic E-Waste Tide

Promotes Responsible Recycling

(Washington, DC – March 6, 2014)  U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today introduced S. 2090, the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (RERA) of 2014 to stop sham U.S. “recyclers” from sending toxic electronic waste to developing countries and to promote recycling jobs at home.    In an era of extreme partisanship, it should be noticed that this is the same bill that was introduced in the House (H.R. 2791) last July, which has significant bipartisan support (15 Republicans (including 9 chairs of committees or subcommittees) and 5 Democrats).  It is now before the Energy and Commerce Committee.

“This is the most important step our federal government can take to solve the e-waste problem –  to close the door on exports of toxic e-waste to  developing countries,” said Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, a national environmental coalition which promotes responsible recycling of e-waste.  “It will bring recycling jobs back to the U.S. and stop the poisoning of exploited children and the environment.”

Indeed, a recent International Trade Commission report predicts that under RERA, “more recycling activity would take place in the United States.”  More recycling activity in the U.S. means more jobs.

Significantly, recent data from StEP, MIT, and NCER[1] reports reveals that the U.S. is the world’s leader of total e-waste volume generated per year (9.4 million tons) and that the U.S. has the highest level of annual e-waste per person among major countries. StEP predicts that the global volume of e-waste could grow 33 percent by the year 2017. The problem is real and increasing. This is precisely why RERA is needed.

The legislation prohibits the export of some electronics whose improper handling may create environmental, health, or national security risks.  The bill addresses the toxic exposures caused by primitive e-waste recycling operations in countries like China, India, Nigeria, Ghana, which have been the subject of recent media exposés, as well as a scathing report by the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office (GAO).

RERA levels the federal policy playing field and helps bring back recycling jobs to the U.S. According to a 2013 study by the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling, restrictions on exporting untested and non-working e-waste could create up to 42,000 direct and indirect jobs with a total payroll of more than $1 billion. While there are domestic recyclers that currently process e-waste, current federal policy favors overseas recycling facilities that have few, if any, labor and environmental standards and are thus able to offer cheaper services.

Discarded computers, TVs, phones and other consumer electronics – commonly referred to as electronic waste or “e-waste” – now comprise the fastest growing waste stream in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the U.S. generates more than 3.4 million tons of e-waste a year.

RERA creates a new section in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that prohibits the export of “restricted electronic waste” from the U.S. to countries that are not members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the European Union (EU). Restricted electronic equipment refers to any equipment that contains specific toxic materials at levels greater than those deemed non- hazardous by the EPA.

Under the legislation, tested and working equipment can still be exported to promote reuse. Products could also still be exported for warranty repair or due to recall. However, consumer electronic equipment, parts, and materials that contain toxic chemicals could not be exported to nations outside of OECD member countries or the EU. This legislative approach is consistent with the e-waste policies adopted by most other developed nations, including U.S. trade partners. via international treaties, such as the Basel Convention and Basel Ban Amendment.

The bill also creates a research program at the Department of Energy to help assess the recycling and recovery of Rare Earth and Critical Metals from electronics. This provision will help ensure the proper collection and recycling of precious and strategic metals.

The legislation is broadly supported by the electronics industry, including official backing from  Dell, HP, Apple, Samsung, and Best Buy, as well as by  a coalition of over 130 electronics recyclers, called the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling and the environmental community, including the Electronics TakeBack Coalition (ETBC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

More information:

E –waste Overview –

E-waste reports, films and photos –

E-waste legislation –

Export briefing book –


[1] StEP is the “Solving the E-waste Problem” Initiative of the United Nations University, MIT is, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NCER is the National Center for Electronics Recycling

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