ISRI: Federal Export Ban Legislation Unnecessary for Maturing E-Scrap Industry

The 2013 E-Scrap Conference in Orlando concluded yesterday with a debate between ISRI’s Eric Harris and Neil Peters-Michaud of CAER over the legitimacy of HR 2791 (RERA), introduced in the House of Representatives recently by Congressman Gene Green of Texas.

Harris made a compelling case against the legislation arguing that the market conditions don’t support the need for such extreme trade restrictions.  He cited a March 2013 report on the export of UEPs by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), the International Data Corporation survey, as well as a green paper issued by the United Nations University, which all discuss the significant positive changes in both U.S. and foreign practices involving electronics recycling and exports – including new recycling technologies, environmental, health and safety certification standards, new regulations and greater enforcement. The ITC found that only 5.1 percent of all used electronics products (UEPs) collected each year in the U.S. are currently at risk for improper recycling and disposal.  The U.S. market is recycling over 80 of all the UEPs being collected.  And the vast majority of exports are either shipped as commodity grade materials or tested fully functioning devices.

ISRI’s government relations department has been actively meeting with members of Congress over the issue, and according to Harris, “When [members of Congress] looked at the issue, they said, ‘What’s the problem?’” The bill is currently not on any legislative calendars.  In the unlikely event the bill were to pass, Harris made the case that it would violate a number of U.S. trade obligations by discriminating against developing countries and economies in transition and move the industry into hazardous waste management.  Peters-Michaud argued the potential regulations is necessary to put domestic processors on a level playing field with less sophisticated overseas processors.  Harris challenged the assertion asking, is this about protecting the environment or about protecting certain commercial interests?  Many are starting to suspect that it is the latter.

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