Researchers Feel U.S. E-Waste Trade Ban Wouldn’t Be That Effective

Would putting a ban on international trade in e-waste put an end to polluting “backyard” recycling practices in developing nations? A new bill under debate in Congress seems to think so. But a new article from a researchers at Arizona State University begs to differ.

The bill, known as House Resolution 2595, would ban the export of e-waste from the United States–with the assumption that this would do a lot to curb dirty recycling practices in developing nations like China, India, Thailand. But Eric Williams, an assistant professor at Arizona State University with a joint appointment in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and one of the authors of the article, highlights this solution as short-sighted.

E_Waste

image via Pike Research

Williams and his co-authors point out that such a ban is likely to push US e-waste into the already-thriving black market–and that, in the very near future, India and China are slated to outpace the US in electronics purchases, making a ban on imports negligible in terms of environmental impact. The authors recommend alternatives to an e-waste ban that would encourage current “backyard recyclers” in these countries to first repair and reuse equipment and secondly create jobs for safe recycling.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

  • carolbaroudi

    Adopting this legislation or a standard like eStewards, developed collaboratively with the Basal Action Network, can go a long way toward quelling the flagrant flaunting of the Basel Convention that was signed in 1989 by 169 countries. The only way to stop this is by enforcing independent 3rd party audits. There ARE responsible recyclers who can document where EVERYTHING goes. We need US legislation that can be used to prosecute those willfully trading in toxins.

  • computer recycling

    @carolbaroudi: I agree. I’m reading a lot about this study lately and a lot of people are twisting it to be justification for irresponsibility. Working with TechnoCycle a computer recycler in Houston, TX who is e-Steward qualified and does not export toxic waste I can say the extra work does add overhead but it is essential. The practice of exporting toxic ewaste is so prevalent in the industry.

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