Moves made by the US Government to tackle electronic waste have missed a trick and should have been led by the “high bar” set by the European WEEE Directive.
This is the view of E-Waste Systems founder Martin Nielson, whose US-based business is looking to become a global leader in WEEE recycling.
The National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship was published in the US at the end of last month, which examined what should be done with WEEE.
Nielson said: “The announcement by the administration regarding its intent to impose more rigorous standards for the end-of-life electronics discarded by the federal government is too limiting. Unfortunately, it missed an incredible opportunity to establish meaningful standards for the US’s massive WEEE problem.
“In light of the standards set by the EU and the WEEE Directive, which set the ‘high bar’ for the industry, at the very least the administration should abide by the same principles. Furthermore, the EPA [the US Environmental Protection Agency] must possess the power of enforcement.”
Nielson said the US Government’s estimate of 2.4 million tonnes of WEEE being created last year represented only about 50% of the actual amount, and “these falsities continue to perpetuate the underestimation of these global crisis”.
He added: “Bottom line, it is a good start, but the Government must seize on this opportunity to get this right. Without enforcement, unscrupulous operators will easily find ways around the rules, and well-meaning operators will continue losing business or not be able to make the capital investments needed for updated equipment and employee training.”
The national strategy did not call for a ban on exporting WEEE to developing countries as some had hoped. It recommended that the US Government incentivises the design of greener electronics; that it leads by example; increases and improves infrastructure around handling used electronics; and reduces harm from the export of its e-waste.