Many policies have emerged at the International, Federal, local, and industrial levels to address the growing amount of e-waste, its black market trade, and environmental effects.
In the late 1980s, a tightening of environmental regulations in industrialized countries led to a dramatic rise in the cost of hazardous waste disposal. Searching for cheaper ways to get rid of the wastes, “toxic traders” began shipping hazardous waste to developing countries and to Eastern Europe where environmental oversight is weak. However, once discovered, international outrage led to the Basel Convention of which 172 countries (including the United States) drafted and ratified international regulation of hazardous waste.
The central goal of the Basel Convention is “environmentally sound management,” the aim of which is to protect human health and the environment by minimizing hazardous waste production whenever possible through an integrated life cycle approach, which involves strong controls from the generation of a hazardous waste to its storage, transport, treatment, reuse, recycling recovery and final disposal.
Recognizing that the long-term solution of hazardous waste is the reduction in the generation of waste both in terms of hazardousness and quantity, Basel members set forth the following strategic goals.
1. The prevention, minimization, recycling, recovery and disposal of hazardous and other wastes, taking into account social, technological and economic concerns.
2. Active promotion and use of cleaner technologies and production methods;
3. Furthering reduction of movement of hazardous and other wastes, and the prevention and monitoring of illegal traffic.
4. Cooperation and partnership with the public authorities, international organizations, the industry sector, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions.
5. The development of mechanisms for compliance with and for the monitoring and effective implementation of the Convention and its amendments. (Basel Convention, 2009)
Federal Regulation—Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The EPA is the regulatory agency responsible for governing all used electronics within the United States. At present there is no Federal mandate to recycle e-waste. The EPA does, however, govern how to discard some used electronics such as cathode ray tubes (CRTs) computer monitors; color CRT TV tubes, cell phones, and circuit boards.
Large contributors of e-waste:
Wastes from facilities that generate over 220 lb per month of hazardous waste are mandated under Federal law to send all e-waste (as opposed to reuse, refurbishment or recycling) as “hazardous waste” to a permitted hazardous waste landfill.
Small contributors of e-waste:
Businesses, individuals, and other organizations that dispose of (as opposed to reuse, refurbishment or recycling) less 220 pounds per month of hazardous waste are not required to handle this material as hazardous waste. These materials can go to any disposal facility authorized to receive solid waste. (EPA, 2009)
The EPA prohibits the export of broken or dismantled computers, TVs, or cell phones. Otherwise exporters only need to notify the EPA, transit country(s), and receiving country, sixty days prior to shipment, and must receive consent before shipment is delivered in order to export used electronics. Moreover, the receiving country does not need to prove the their ability to safely dispose of waste. (EPA, 2009)
Due to the lack of Federal regulation the several States have adopted their own regulation of hazardous waste. This regulation has been diverse. Some have adopted producer responsibility laws. These laws require manufacturers of TVs and computer monitors absorb the costs of processing their branded products that are delivered to consolidators. Some states have adopted consumer-based regulation. Here state law requires an Advance Recycling Fee of $6-$10 charged at the point of sale on video display devices. Other states have adopted landfill disposal fees on solid waste to support a computer and electronic equipment recycling programs, and still others have initiated an outright ban on disposal of electronic waste. (National Center for Electronics Recycling, 2009)
Creative Recycling Systems (CRS) was founded in 1994 with the mission of providing private companies, local, state and federal government and institutions with electronic recycling solutions that represent a viable, economical alternative way to recycle electronic environmentally responsibly.
The company has developed and implemented a state-of-the-art electronic recycling system throughout the southeast and mid west United States. The revolutionary process allows for the recycling of all electronic components under a single computerized process. The system dissects 24,000 pounds of recyclables per hour of which, their engineers boast, only 1% enters the waste stream and of that, all of it is 100% contaminate free. Moreover they note that their specially designed complete dust collection system ensures that the air entering the facility is dirtier than the air leaving.
Creative Recycling Systems CEO Jon A. Yob, points out that with their current capacity CRS could process 300 million pounds of electronic waste per year, and could expand to meet the United States entire recycling needs. But, unfortunately, it remains cheaper for companies to ship their waste overseas. (Creative Recycling Systems, 2009)