House of Representatives Considers Resolution to Ban the Export of Toxic E-Waste to Developing Nations
Call for Co-Sponsors in Washington State
Electronics TakeBack Coalition Press Release
31 July 2008 (Washington, DC, Seattle, WA.) –
The Basel Action Network and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition applauded U.S. Representative Gene Green (D-TX), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, for introducing a congressional resolution today (H.Res. 1395) that calls for the U.S. to join other nations around the world that have banned the export of toxic e-waste to developing countries. This resolution could be the precursor for future legislation.
“As the pace of technology increases, the amount of toxic electronic waste is piling up at home and abroad,” said Rep. Gene Green. “Many Americans are unaware that discarded electronics often contain lead, mercury, and other toxics and end up being salvaged under inhumane conditions in the developing world.”
The resolution explains that older cathode ray tube (CRT) TV sets can contain more than eight pounds of lead each, while newer, flat panel TVs can contain dangerous levels of mercury. These and other highly toxic materials can cause great physical harm in developing countries, where low-wage workers with no safety protections use crude and unsafe methods to take apart and process electronic wastes. In fact, research has found that some of the very same lead from e-waste exported by the US has been returned to us in the form of lead-contaminated children’s jewelry exported from China.
Millions of working analog TV sets are expected to become obsolete and rapidly discarded in conjunction with the February 17, 2009 conversion to digital television signals. Those obsolete TVs are expected to create a tsunami in what is already a flood of e-waste being exported to foreign shores every day.
“This resolution banning the export of e-waste to developing countries brings the US in alignment with the rest of the world that has already condemned and prohibited this toxic trade,” said Sarah Westervelt of the Basel Action Network (BAN) and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition from Seattle. “Such exports not only victimize the poorest communities with high-tech poisons, but undermine our own domestic recycling industry that seeks to do the job responsibly. We call on the Congressional Delegation in Washington State to quickly move to co-sponsor this excellent Resolution.”
BAN first revealed the horrors of e-waste exports in their report and film “Exporting Harm” in 2002. Washington State since passed an electronics waste law in 2007, which will go into force in 2009, but unfortunately this law cannot ensure that the waste collected will not be exported offshore. Future federal legislation which has jurisdiction over foreign trade is seen as vital to prevent the export loophole through which massive volumes of US e-waste now moves.
With Congress displaying support for a ban on e-waste export, Westervelt said, more US manufacturers should do the same and also start taking responsibility for their products by offering free national takeback programs. She pointed to Sony as an example of an electronics manufacturer that allows consumers to simply drop off their old Sony products at a local takeback center, where they will be responsibly recycled. Sony is currently the only major TV company that offers a free national takeback program. Sony also has signed a commitment with BAN and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition making it clear that they prohibit the exportation of hazardous electronic waste to developing countries.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Copy of House Resolution 1395: www.ban.org/Library/HouseRes_1395.pdf
Visit websites: www.ban.org, www.electronicstakeback.com
For more information on the e-waste threat, see the recent National Geographic expose here.
For information on how lead from electronic waste sent to China has been found to come back in children’s products imported from China to the U.S., see the recent Wall Street Journal article here.
For more on disposal trends, health threats and proposed solutions contact Sarah Westervelt at www.ban.org.
The Electronics TakeBack Coalition is a national group of non-profit organizations promoting responsible recycling and green design in the electronics industry.
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