Wisconsin banned the disposal of many electronic devices in September, 2010 and established a system to help finance the collection and recycling of household e-waste. While the state program includes provisions requiring in-state recycling firms to register with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and be open to inspections, there is little the state can do to control the export of e-waste beyond state and national boundaries. This creates a disincentive for firms to invest in more jobs in Wisconsin because the current system allows exporters to ship unprocessed e-waste to developing countries that are not obliged to protect human health and the environment. More than 35 million pounds of electronics were collected for recycling during the second year of the E-Cycle Wisconsin program.
Investigative reports by 60 Minutes, Frontline and other news programs traced e-waste claimed to be recycled in the US to China and Africa where primitive processing technologies and methods were employed to recover metals from electronics while hazardous materials were burned off or disposed in open dumps. The US General Accountability Office led a review of the e-waste industry in 2008 and determined that “current US regulatory controls do little to stem the export of potentially hazardous used electronics.”
In its resolution, the Council cited the need to “divert as much e-waste from land disposal to responsible recycling and recovery” as a reason for supporting the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act. In passing this resolution, the Council expects the legislation to “create jobs in Wisconsin and the rest of the United States, mitigate security and counterfeiting risks from the unfettered export of unprocessed electronics, and protect the environment from uncontrolled dumping of hazardous e-waste in developing countries.”
The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act currently has 20 co-sponsors in the House and 3 co-sponsors in the Senate. It is endorsed by a wide range of organizations, including Wisconsin based recyclers (Cascade Asset Management of Madison and Universal Recycling Technologies of Janesville), manufacturers (Dell, Apple and HP), and environmental organizations. To date, no members of the Wisconsin delegation have yet signed on to co-sponsor the bills.
About the Wisconsin Council on Recycling
The Wisconsin Council on Recycling, authorized in s. 287.22 Wis. Stats., is a citizens group appointed by the Governor to advise the Governor, Legislature and state agencies on solid waste reduction, recovery and recycling policy. The Council is attached to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for limited purposes and is staffed by the DNR. Each member is appointed for a four-year term expiring on the date of commencement of the next gubernatorial term. Terms of members appointed in the interim also expire on that date. Current members include individuals representing industry, business and local units of government.
A copy of the signed resolution in support of the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act can be found on the Council on Recycling’s web page: http://dnr.wi.gov/