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E-waste regs are way too lax, GAO says

GreenpeaceA new Government Accountability Office report slams the EPA for its "low priority" on e-waste. EPA regs only cover old cathode-ray tube TVs and monitors, John Stephenson, environmental director for GAO told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, News.


Greenpeace
A new Government Accountability Office report slams the EPA for its "low priority" on e-waste. EPA regs only cover old cathode-ray tube TVs and monitors, John Stephenson, environmental director for GAO told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, News.com reports.
Not only are the EPA rules narrow, but they apparently are poorly enforced and easily circumvented. The rules covering CRTs went into effect in January 2007, and since then, only one company has been fined for violating them. However, by posing as foreign CRT buyers, the GAO says it found 43 U.S. companies readily willing to ignore the regulations.

"The EPA told us there were no plans for an enforcement strategy," Stephenson said.

Recommendations? Three:
  • expand the EPA's definition of "hazardous" materials.
  • improve identification and tracking of imports to identify used electronics;
  • implement legislation to ratify the Basel Convention.

The whole notion of giving old computers to recyclers is questionable at this point. "Nobody knows what to do with these," Stephenson said. "I have three used computers in my basement, and now I'm afraid to give them to a recycler."

The report spStephenson said the first step is to "make it easier for recyclers to do the right thing, and make it competitive with illicit recyclers taking things overseas."

Rep. Diane Watson, D-Ca., also said, "The U.S. fails to hold manufacturers responsible for the end-of-life management of their products that contain toxic materials."

Recycling through Dell and HP, though, is safe because those companies have legit recycling programs.