By Jeffrey Rassas, YouChange, July 20, 2011
Did you know that Arizona is one of 20 states in the country without one piece of electronic waste legislation? Living up to its reputation as the “wild west.” youchange strives to promote the education on issues like this as well as working with industry stakeholders to improve current situations and promote change so Arizona becomes a leader other states can model from and aspire to be like. With this purpose in mind, we’ve chosen to highlight the inefficiencies and hazardous risks that are a direct result of lack of electronic waste laws in our beautiful state of Arizona.
Has anyone heard of unemployment these days? The number is staggering with Arizona among the nation’s highest rates nearing 10%! I am sure the actual rate is much higher since many unemployed simply accept a lesser position out of their field just to keep food on the table as opposed to filing for unemployment and joining the statistics. So by now you’re asking, “What does lack of e-waste legislation and Arizona’s high unemployment rate have in common?” I’ll give you the short answer: fixing one can fix the other! By not having e-waste legislation, Arizona is missing out on an opportunity to create jobs in the green sector that would help stimulate the local economy. Instead of allowing hazardous e-waste to sit at dumpsites leaching into our ecosystem, or illegally shipped out of or into the state, the right legislation could lead the way for a process to refurbish, recycle and re-use these obsolete items leading the way to a “cradle-to-cradle” solution resulting in the creation of many jobs statewide. Unfortunately, the ugly happened as the University of Arizona sponsored an e-waste drive that left the state! The drive started as a valiant effort, however absent of Arizona legislation and e-waste education all 47 tons of e-waste collected were sent to California rather than keeping it in Arizona and creating Arizona jobs. Similar actions occurred by individuals and companies that smuggled e-waste out of Arizona and sold it for higher profits by fraudulently leveraging California’s e-waste recycling program only available to residents of California. The lack of legislation opens the door for Arizona to become a dumping ground for hazardous electronic waste that would pollute not only our local environment but eventually leach into our eco system (food & water supply) promoting health issues including various forms of cancer and mental illness. It also opens the door for illegal activity to occur given the money to be made from the sale of precious and rare earth metals prevalent in electronic waste.
Arizona has made efforts on a statewide electronic waste law in the past, failing most recently in 2010. In January of this year H.B. 2425 was submitted to the Arizona House of Representatives but died in committee. That bill was based on a producer responsibility take-back program in which manufacturers would have to participate in the statewide recycling program. The bill would have also included an e-waste disposal ban beginning January 1, 2013. But Arizona still is not fully committing to a proper e-waste law. The failed e-waste bill from January of this year was listed as a “large electronics recycling” bill and had limitations on what could and could not be recycled. This is contrary to the proposed federal bill, H.R. 2284, which places a nationwide export ban on all electronic waste.
Various cities across the Valley have made efforts to provide their residents an environmentally responsible option for the disposal of e-waste by hosting their own collection drives or providing drop off sites. The challenge is getting the word out given the limited resources many cities are facing in the current economic climate, and by the way, what exactly happens after the city collects the e-waste? They don’t have the resources to promote collection, let alone deal with the proper disposal of the e-waste. So they do a deal with local recyclers that may or may not do the right thing absent of legislation…remember we are in the “wild west.”
While most of the city efforts are commendable and the efforts to ratify a statewide bill seem to be gaining traction, the larger issue is being ignored. The lack of electronic waste laws in Arizona leave a gaping hole in the green job sector that could easily be filled. In a downtrodden economy that is desperate for more job creation, this is the perfect opportunity to help stimulate the Arizona economy.
Texas Congressman Raymond Green shared this same sentiment as he introduced a federal e-waste bill motivated by job creation and positive environmental ramifications. Rep. Green, with the help of Rep. Michael Thompson (CA), recently submitted H.R. 2284, or The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2011, to the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill would promote the domestic recycling industry and bring recycling jobs back into the United States. The Houston-based e-Steward certified company Technocyle said they would have to double or triple their workforce upon ratification of such a bill. H.R. 2284 is still being worked upon in committee stages. Although there are currently some domestic e-waste recyclers many of them cannot compete with the foreign recycling facilities that have few, if any, standards as well as cheaper labor. By prohibiting the export of e-waste to developing nations the bill has the proper environmental foresight and promotes jobs within the green sector for small businesses like youchange to be established across the country!
In the midst of a difficult economy it is hard to argue that Arizona’s lack of a statewide e-waste law is both environmentally and fiscally irresponsible. That is why youchange is urging you to let Governor Jan Brewer know about it! Campaign for Recycling, a national non-profit environmental advocacy organization, has given Arizonans an opportunity for their voices to be heard. Please click here to sign their online petition for a statewide e-waste recycling bill. Your voices are needed to finally push one of these bills through to ratification. Remember: “It starts with you and ends in change.” Share this on facebook and Twitter so we can all come together and make this happen!