U.S. senator: Proper management of e-waste essential
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By U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio

Aug. 26 — Many of us know too well the difficulties of disposing of unwanted or unusable electronics equipment. As China expands its recycling capacity, domestic companies must be able to compete and create new, advanced recycling jobs in our country.

Electronic waste, or e-waste – which includes televisions and computer monitors, VCRs and DVD players, cell phones, faxes, copy machines and similar items – have accumulated in landfills or empty lots for years.

It´s a widespread issue. In fact, e-waste is growing two to three times faster than any other type of waste. As a member of the United States Senate Recycling Caucus, I am committed to improving the capacity of Ohio companies who hire workers to recycle e-waste right here in the U.S.

Unrecycled e-waste can be hazardous to human health, the environment and our homeland security. Many electronics products contain lead, mercury, polyvinal choloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants that can leak into the soil and groundwater if improperly disposed. Further, hard drives containing personal information can be removed and manipulated if they aren´t disposed properly.

Fortunately, e-waste can be recycled.

According to Ohio E-Waste Recycling, if the 100 million cell phones disposed in 2006 had been recycled, the U.S. would have saved enough energy to power approximately 194,000 U.S. households with electricity for one year.

That is why I introduced The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2011, bipartisan legislation to support domestic recyclers and refurbish electronic equipment in order to manufacture new products and reduce landfill waste. By recycling e-waste domestically, we can create recycling jobs domestically and ensure that e-waste is properly managed.

In fact, this bill is aimed at reducing the exportation of e-waste to developing countries – which in turn, results in goods that are often repackaged and sold in the U.S. It is supported by Apple, Best Buy, Dell, Electronics TakeBack Coalition, Hewlett Packard, and 29 recyclers representing 74 operations in 34 states.

The U.S. EPA estimates that in 2009 alone, the U.S. generated more than 3.1 million tons of e-waste. Much of the e-waste collected in the U.S. for alleged ·recyclingö or ·reuseö is actually exported to developing nations like China, where it is often repackaged as counterfeit electronics.

Many responsible recyclers in the U.S. operate at less than capacity, undercut by brokers exporting e-waste to developing nations. These exports also fuel a growing counterfeit chip market in China that sells fake military grade chips into our military supply chain.

To protect our environment, consumers, public health and preserve the integrity of our military supply chain, we must take action to make e-waste recycling the norm throughout the U.S.

That´s why it is critically important to support domestic e-waste recycling centers.

Ohio-based companies are already gearing up to lead the country in providing secure and efficient e-waste recycling.

For more than 10 years, Redemtech in Columbus has had a zero-export, zero-landfill, zero-incineration and zero-prison-labor environmental policy to safely recycle e-waste. This company has processed hundreds of millions of pounds of electronic material, and, according to Redemtech, has kept the equivalent of more than 16,000 Hummer H2´s out of America´s landfills.

We must support companies like Redemtech that help to reduce the re-importation of discarded electronics sold to Americans as counterfeits.

By improving the potential for e-waste recycling in the U.S, we can save energy, improve the environment and create new jobs. n

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is co-sponsor of Senate Bill 1270, the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2011.

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