I've heard opponents to the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act claim that is is just another protectionist trade policy that hurts US business. Regulation can always impact businesses, but the companies that adapt to comply with these new requirements will succeed. The purpose of government regulation should not be to hurt or help business, it should be to protect the common good of the people who enact it.
Our country has historically restricted the trade of hazardous waste and the export of products/information that pose a threat to national security. That’s what this bill will do.
E-waste is generally considered a hazardous wastesince TCLP tests demonstrate that most electronics with circuit boards, fluorescent lamps, CRT screens and batteries contain sufficient concentrations of hazardous materials to classify them as a hazardous waste. In addition, there are documented cases of sensitive and classified information found on recovered media from unprocessed electronic equipment shipped from the US to developing countries. This represents a real national security risk. In the past, Commerce has restricted trade of information technology equipment to certain countries who are enemies of America.
It’s also important to recognize that in no way does the bill enact a wholesale ban on the trade of electronics or e-waste. There is a restriction on what can be exported to developing countries, but any electronic product or e-waste can be exported to other OECD countries where it is more likely there is a sound process for managing this waste and protecting our secrets.
I believe tested, working electronic products should be freely traded, and this practice is preserved by the bill. I also believe processed commodities that do not contain “restricted electronic waste” should be freely traded.
A concerned and an informed citizenry must restrict the wholesale export of untested, non-working e-waste to developing countries. It is just the right thing to do. Businesses will adapt.