Electronic Waste Law Not Enforced | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 38 | p. 52 | Concentrates
Issue Date: September 22, 2008

Electronic Waste Law Not Enforced

Department: Government & Policy
Electronic waste in Guiyu, China.
Credit: Basel Action Network
Electronic waste in Guiyu, China.
Credit: Basel Action Network

Undercover federal investigators found that EPA has not enforced the only law restricting the export of U.S. electronic waste, resulting in hazardous materials continuing to wind up in unsafe recycling operations in the poorest parts of the developing world. The report by the Government Accountability Office provides support for international groups, some members of Congress, and a handful of electronics companies that have urged tougher recycling laws to ensure that an ever-growing wave of old electronic gear is recycled and disposed of safely. Posing as waste buyers, GAO investigators found 43 U.S. electronics recyclers willing to violate U.S. law and sell nonworking, waste cathode-ray tubes for export to developing Asian nations. CRTs hold several pounds of lead, making them valuable to recyclers but hazardous to workers removing the lead. GAO notes that several of the recyclers had collected CRTs at Earth Day celebrations and had touted their environmentalism in ads and on websites. GAO believes its study discovered only a small part of the illegal trade in electronic waste and urges EPA to toughen enforcement and broaden its oversight of electronic waste recycling.

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