Handling E-waste: Comparing the U.S and the E.U.
Europe has taken a much more active approach to the disposal of E-waste. All 15 countries of the E.U. adopted the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal or "Basel Ban." The Basel Ban decision effectively banned, as of 1 January 1998, all forms of hazardous waste exports from the 29 wealthiest most industrialized countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to all non-OECD countries. The United States continues its opposition to the Basel Ban.
Internally, the European Union has also made great strides toward fulfilling the promise of producer responsibility and "Green Design." In May 2001, the E.U. Parliament approved the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, making producers responsible for the management, recovery and recycling of E-waste. The U.S. has threatened to challenge the WEEE Directive through the WTO as an unnecessary barrier to trade.
Furthermore, the E.U. has also proposed the Restriction on the Use of Certain Hazardous Wastes (ROHS) that sets a gradual phase-out of certain hazardous materials in electrical and electronic equipment by January 1, 2008.
No legislation comparable to the WEEE Directive exists in the U.S., although there are several e-waste bills before Congress this term. In fact, just this week (July 19, 2002) California Congressman Mike Thompson has introduced a bill called the "Computer Hazardous Waste Infrastructure Program" in the House. You can read a draft of this legislation here (PDF file).
The Child PACT Act recently introduced in the U.S. House seeks to direct "prematurely retired" computers from the garbage dump to the classroom. Approval of the Child PACT Act should siphon off some hazardous E-waste.
Use our E-cycling resource map to find out about E-cycling laws in your state.