WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today led a hearing to examine challenges facing electronic waste (e-waste) recycling and reuse, as well as opportunities to improve critical mineral recovery.
ON THE ECONOMIC VALUE LOST BY INADEQUATE E-WASTE RECYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE:
“Unfortunately, our current systems don’t always make it easy to recycle e-waste. Each year, around 50 million tons of electronic waste are discarded in landfills globally, valued at an estimated $62.5 billion—that’s billion with a ‘b.’ These figures don’t include the electronic waste, such as old smartphones and old computers, that often remain in our homes collecting dust long after we stop using them. In addition to their lost value, the electronics that end up in landfills often leach toxic chemicals into the soil, threatening the health and well-being of nearby communities.”
ON THE OPPORTUNITIES OF IMPROVING E-WASTE RECYCLING:
“Fortunately, the adversity of e-waste also presents us with some clear opportunities. For example, recycling electronics at the end of their useable life allows for the recovery of critical minerals, such as nickel, such as cobalt. Both are important components of electric vehicles, solar panels, and other clean energy technologies. Improving e-waste recycling would help us reach our climate goals, while also reducing our reliance on foreign sources for critical earth minerals. In addition, taking proper care of our electronic waste is vital to national security, as it ensures adequate supply chains and prevents the loss of sensitive information through digital files.”
ON THE NEED FOR THE UNITED STATES TO JOIN THE BASEL CONVENTION:
“The United States is the only developed country not party to the Basel Convention, an international agreement that governs the transportation of hazardous waste between nations. How has the United States’ failure to ratify the Basel Convention impacted the electronics recycling industry over the last twenty or thirty years? Also, how will the United States be affected by the new Swiss-Ghana amendment to the Basel Convention, which establishes new definitions for hazardous and non-hazardous electronic waste?”
Craig Boswell, P.E., President & Co-Founder, HOBI International, Inc.:
“So, this is the looming problem—the guillotine—that’s over the industry’s head now … On January 1, 2025, when Swiss-Ghana comes into effect … we will essentially have only one trade partner outside the U.S. and that will be Canada because we do have a bilateral [agreement] in place with Canada right now. Hopefully, we will get an agreement in place with OECD before that date…
“The example I always like to use is … phones. Apple phones are dominant in the U.S. ... Android phones are more popular in the rest of the world. I can get 22 percent more for a Google Pixel in the Middle East, in Europe, than I can in the U.S. And, come 2025 … under Basel, if you dropped your phone, it’s now a hazardous material because you cracked the screen. And, we would not be able to participate in those markets. So, I think in the short term … bilaterals with key trade partners and the OECD would make a big change. But, in the long term, it looms as a problem for the industry.”
Click here to watch Chairman Carper’s first round of questions.
Click here to watch Chairman Carper’s second round of questions.
Click here to watch Chairman Carper’s opening statement.