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Environment

Federal recycling law for electronic waste needed

December 19, 2005 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 83, ISSUE 51

EPA should propose legislation that addresses the economic and regulatory issues that discourage the recycling of used electronic equipment, says a Government Accountability Office report released on Dec. 12. The report also recommends that EPA take steps to ensure that discarded electronic devices exported overseas are actually reused and not disposed of in a way that poses risks to health and the environment. In the U.S., more than 100 million computers, monitors, and televisions are replaced each year, and only about 10% are recycled, GAO says. Currently, the value of the materials that can be recovered when electronics are recycled is much less than the labor involved in recycling, the report notes. Some research shows that toxic materials have the potential to leach from discarded electronics in landfills. A federal law for recycling is needed because a patchwork of potentially conflicting state laws is emerging "that may ultimately place a substantial burden on recyclers, retailers, and manufacturers," GAO reports.

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