In the coming months, Congress will give another go at passing a law restricting how electronic devices are recycled. Previous attempts at establishing a nationwide stance for preventing the transfer of the growing heap of TVs, cell phones and computers from the United States to developing nations haven't passed the committee stage.
Critics of sending discarded electronics overseas say the practice releases toxic substances, such as lead and mercury, into the environment and harms the people ripping apart the devices for reusable materials, under often unsafe conditions. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) is working with others in Congress to reintroduce a bill that would ban those exports, his spokesman said.
As it is, the United States lacks a nationwide mandate for the disposal of unusable electronics beyond those containing hazardous waste (only products with a cathode-ray tube or mercury fall under that category in Environmental Protection Agency regulations). Instead, state laws have proliferated at a quick clip - relative to the pace of the general legislative process - with 5 of the 25 states that have some sort of electronic waste (or e-waste) law having passed it within the past year. Five more states have introduced bills this year. The rules largely put the onus on the products' manufacturers to take on varying degrees of responsibility for getting - or at least encouraging - consumers to recycle e-waste.
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