Legislation that would promote R&D programs to improve electronic equipment recycling and reduce the use of hazardous materials in electronics passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Dec. 10. The Electronic Device Recycling Research and Development Act aims to provide research grants to address hazardous e-waste.
Many electronic devices contain hazardous substances such as lead and cadmium, which can seep into soil and water and shouldn't be dumped into landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that Americans generated 2.9 tons of e-waste in 2006. The volume of e-waste is expected to increase in the coming years as more Americans get rid of their old televisions in the wake of the transition to digital television.
According to the EPA, only about 15 percent of discarded electronic devices in the United States are recycled.
"Technology continues to advance, but our ways of disposing of electronic equipment haven't kept up," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, co-sponsor of the bill with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, said in a statement. "Many states, including Minnesota, are leading the way on recycling electronic equipment, but we need a national solution to ensure that all unwanted electronics are discarded in a safe and responsible manner."
Gillibrand added, "For too long, too many people have been improperly dumping electronic devices without being aware of the dangerous effects on our environment. This legislation is a win-win for protecting the environment and our families. It takes the right steps to develop the best methods to change the way we dispose of outdated and unused electronics, and the hazardous materials they often contain."