EPA chief calls for e-waste export ban

estewardrecyclingE-Scrap News
Staff Report

Speaking at last week’s 2010 Global E-Waste Crime Group Meeting, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson called for stronger legislation governing the export of scrap electronics.

The three-day meeting, hosted by INTERPOL, the U.K. Environment Agency and the U.S. and Swedish Environmental Protection Agencies, attracted more than 100 attendees from 21 countries, and over a dozen non-governmental organizations, to offer feedback on and learn about the draft project of the international law enforcement agency.

Speaking on the first day of the meeting, Jackson called for a two-pronged attack on illegal exports, saying that “through a combination of legislation and regulation, we know that we can create incentives to spur the design of better, safer electronics … [and] help limit harmful exports that are happening under the name of legitimate reuse, refurbishment and recycling.”

Representatives supporting re-use, and those seeking to ban exports of non-working electronics, both cautiously applauded the EPA chief’s statements.

“It was very good to see the enforcement agencies from Interpol begin to meet and learn the economics behind used electronics exports,” said Robin Ingenthron, president of the World Reuse, Repair and Recycling Association, in an e-mail to E-Scrap News. “Jackson’s recognition of the value of re-use was evident from her praise of a re-use program in Westerly, Rhode Island and the export of computers to Cameroon for re-use. I am confident that ‘fair trade’ — which is the continued export of working and repairable equipment without toxics along for the ride — can be a part of the solution.”

Jackson additionally noted that e-waste “too often ends up illegally overseas in developing countries, like India and Africa, where labor is cheaper and workers are often less safe,” further saying that the U.S. “can take steps toward ratifying the Basel Convention.”

“Jackson’s call for legislation to limit exports of e-waste to developing countries including those exported under the name of reuse is very promising,” Jim Puckett, executive director of Basel Action Network, told E-Scrap News. “If EPA is finally turning the corner from promoting free trade in toxic waste, and now recognizes that this trade not only outsources poisons to developing countries but outsources good green jobs from this country as well, we lend our full support and applause.”