Not only is exporting potentially toxic electronic waste to developing countries morally and environmentally unsound, it also works against our desire to encourage the creation of domestic green jobs.
It is no secret that Americans’ love affair with all things electronic is resulting in a glut of e-waste as items are upgraded, replaced, broken and discarded.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the amount of discarded electronics is growing two to three times faster than any other part of the waste stream. In 2011, 4.8 billion pounds of e-waste was generated in the US, but only about 25 percent of that amount was recycled domestically.
To quantify the economic impact of dumping and exporting our e-waste, a new study commissioned by the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling estimates that 21,000 full time recycling jobs could be created and $772.9 million dollars in payroll generated if the remaining 75 percent of e-waste was recycled in the US. Indirect and induced jobs could double the number of American jobs created to 42,000.
One of the greatest hurdles toward increasing the capacity of domestic electronics recycling is the financial disadvantage investors face over e-waste exporters which can operate with little infrastructure and few regulations regarding the environment and worker safety abroad. To counter this disadvantage, a federal bill, H.R. 2284, has been introduced that would place limits exporting e-waste, making the playing field more level for US companies to enter the e-cycling marketplace, creating green jobs, and eliminating environmental and worker safety concerns.
In Alaska, our opportunities to recycle electronic waste are limited by our remoteness and distance to facilities able to safely break down materials for recycling. Recently, Cook Inletkeeper developed a directory of e-cycling opportunities for communities around the Cook Inlet, to facilitate citizens and businesses willing to take responsibility for their waste.
In addition to that effort, Inletkeeper is also proud to join our partners at Total Reclaim, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Homer Chamber of Commerce, Totem Ocean Trailer Express, and Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling to host the Eighth-Annual Homer Electronics Recycling Event on Saturday, April 27th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at SBS. Check out our website to learn more about the event and how you can participate.
Dorothy Melambianakis is the community outreach assistant at Cook Inletkeeper. Cook Inletkeeper is sponsoring the Electronics Recycling Event April 27 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Spenard Builders Supply parking lot.
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