September 9, 2019

Whitehouse, Alexander Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Address E-Waste National Security Threat, Grow Domestic Recycling Industry

Fast-growing American e-waste exports provide raw materials for foreign-made counterfeit products and unsafe environmental disposal

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced bipartisan legislation to stop the flow of electronic waste to China and other countries that counterfeit American technology.  The Secure E-waste Export and Recycling Act (SEERA) would ensure that electronic waste, or e-waste, does not become the source of counterfeit products that reenter military and civilian electronics in the United States.  The legislation would help to grow the domestic recycling industry, keep jobs in the U.S, and reduce unsafe disposal of e-waste abroad. 

“Americans are cycling through broken smartphones, computers, and televisions faster than ever,” said Whitehouse.  “We need to do a better job of keeping that electronic waste out of the hands of foreign counterfeiters who are working to sneak fake products into our military supply chain.  In addition to shoring up a national security threat, our legislation would support the domestic recycling industry, create new jobs here at home, and dispose of our electronic waste in a sustainable way.”

“As Americans increasingly use more technology, electronic waste is a growing concern not only to our environment, but also to American consumers and businesses,” said Alexander.  “This legislation will help limit the flow of electronic waste to countries who do not dispose of it properly, protect our military electronics, and preserve jobs in the U.S.”

The United States is one of the world’s largest producers of e-waste, but has few limits on its export.  As U.S. exports of e-waste grow, so too does the counterfeit chip market in China that sells fake military-grade chips into the American military supply chain.  American national security faces a grave threat from counterfeit electronics that have flooded the supply chains of defense contractors, according to a 2012 report by the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Many of the counterfeit products are actually used parts taken from e-waste smuggled into China from the United States and other countries that have been remade to be sold new.

The senators’ bill combats counterfeiters by requiring domestic recycling of untested, nonworking e-waste.  The legislation would provide a regulatory framework for creating a comprehensive national approach for the export of used electronics, bringing the United States in line with many Western nations.  The bill allows for tested, working equipment to continue to be exported to promote reuse. 

The legislation will help to preserve recycling and repair jobs in the United States.  Brokers exporting e-waste to developing nations undercut many responsible recyclers in America.  Keeping the e-waste in the country ensures American recyclers get business.  According to the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER), the bill is expected to help create up to 42,000 well-paying jobs for Americans in the e-waste industry.

The legislation is supported by the Electronic Components Industry Association, and CAER.  CAER includes more than 150 companies and supporting members operating roughly 300 facilities in 37 states as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.  

“We thank Senator Whitehouse and Senator Alexander for their leadership in introducing this important legislation,” said Bob Houghton, CEO of Sage Sustainable Electronics and a founding member of the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER), an industry group that supports passage of SEERA. “Through swift passage of SEERA, the Senate can combat counterfeiters who undermine our national security while ensuring electronic scrap is managed in an environmentally responsible way.”

“As a long-time CAER member, we appreciate the efforts of Senator Whitehouse and Senator Alexander in supporting SEERA, which will protect our military men and women who are at risk because of counterfeit electronic components,” said Stephen Rowland of Glencore. “Equally important, SEERA will ensure e-waste is processed domestically to our industry’s high standards for environmental and employee safety.”

Internationally, a United Nations report found that of the 44.7 metric tons per year of e-waste generated globally only 20 percent is properly recycled.  The other 80 percent is not documented, dumped, traded, or not recycled under responsible conditions. 

In July, Congressmen Paul Cook (R-CA) and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) introduced the bill in the House. 




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