Alcoa, WM join push for a national e-scrap bill
Alcoa, WM join push for a national e-scrap bill
By Henry Leineweber, Resource Recycling
Two more members of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries have broken with the organization's stance on e-scrap exports and joined a growing roster of companies lobbying for the passage of national electronics recycling legislation.
Both Alcoa and Waste Management have announced their entry into the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling, a group formed to push Congress to pass House Resolution 2284  and its companion bill Senate Bill 1270  which would ban the export of certain electronic scrap to developing countries. The two companies join Sims Recycling Solutions, Electronic Recyclers International and Hugo Neu as the most recent  high-profile ISRI members to voice their disagreement with ISRI's official policy toward the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act.
Despite the growing list of electronics recycling companies coming out in support of Congressional action, ISRI insists it still has the e-scrap industry on its side.
"Our position is still representative of our members' views," insisted ISRI director of communications Kevin Lawlor, speaking with E-Scrap News. "The majority of electronics recyclers are not in favor of this bill's passage and the overwhelming majority support ISRI. We hope members bring disagreements on ISRI policy to us so we can let them know why we think this bill is bad for business and what its real effects are."
Lawlor added that while he could not say whether the CAER or the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act came up in discussion during last week's ISRI Board of Directors meeting, he said the organization is committed to a strong presence on Capitol Hill and to working on a solution that will benefit the industry.
An official response from the trade body took this sentiment one-step further, challenging WM, Alcoa and others in the electronics recycling industry to develop a more comprehensive approach to responsible electronics recycling.
"[The bill] actually encourages the continued production of what CAER itself has dubbed 'dangerous toxic and hazardous substances contained in electronics' by handsomely rewarding the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who use these substances with a legislative carve-out, while criminalizing the same activity if carried out by a recycler," read ISRI's prepared statement. "Further, the legislation establishes an arbitrary line around countries and peoples, while doing nothing to promote environmentally sustainable practices where they are needed most. ISRI is committed to challenging OEMs to minimize the amount of toxic and hazardous substances they use in their products so that they can be recycled safely, responsibly and legally anywhere in the world, in a manner that protects worker health and safety."
Tim Frost, corporate communications manager for Waste Management, disagrees with ISRI's assessment.
"Our driving focus is to move the opportunity to responsibly recycle electronics across the U.S., and to develop effective solutions for this expanding resource stream," said Frost, in an email exchange with E-Scrap News. "Waste Management believes that the CAER membership shares these and other objectives, and that the core tenets of the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act provide a means to infuse the industry with additional job creating opportunities, while significantly impacting the shipment of certain hazardous materials out of the country. The support of the CAER has occurred after thorough review of the objectives and the alignment with Waste Management Recycle America objectives."
Kevin Anton, chief sustainability officer for Alcoa says the move just makes sense for the company, which became a minority investor in Electronics Recyclers International in March, 2011.
"Consumer electronics are short-lived enough where any product on the market needs to be highly recyclable and you have to have the infrastructure to handle it," says Anton. "After we entered into business with ERI, we began to do due diligence on many of ERI's activities and on its protocol with [the Basel Action Network]. This is the next logical step for us."
Anton said any lobbying or advocacy for the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act will be conducted through ERI, however, adding, "We're very supportive of John's [ERI chairman and CEO John Shegerian] activities."
Speculation that the policy disagreement had strained relationships between ISRI and its members were universally dismissed by ISRI, Alcoa and WM. CAER spokesman Paul Vetter also reiterated that the group is not in competition with ISRI.
"Our members that are also ISRI members think ISRI does a lot of things well, but this is just one issue where we disagree," Vetter said.
"ISRI continues to be a solid and impactful force in the waste and recycling industries and Waste Management Recycle America respects the vigor with which the ISRI team pursues and forwards its view on this and other issues," concluded Tim Frost. "Occasionally, informed and thoughtful organizations come to different conclusions on certain issues. That is the case in this instance."
In total, CAER now includes 48 companies that have pledged to lobby Congress for the bills' passage. Members are scheduled to begin meeting with House and Senate members next week.
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