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Study Finds Limiting Electronic Scrap Exports Could Create Jobs

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Legislation promoting domestic electronics recycling could create $1 billion in new U.S. payroll, according to CAER-sponsored study.

Recycling Today Staff February 13, 2013
Restrictions on electronic scrap exports could create up to 42,000 direct and indirect new jobs with a total payroll of more than $1 billion, according to a study commissioned by the Coalition For American Electronics Recycling (CAER).
 
“The study further documents how growing an industry with the capacity to manage the volume of e-waste generated within our borders could create tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs by promoting investment in our domestic infrastructure,” says Steve Skurnac, president of Sims Recycling Solutions and CAER steering committee member. 
 
CAER members include a number of electronics recyclers and affiliated organizations that support the passage of the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (RERA), legislation designed to promote fair and responsible e-waste trade, according to the CAER. The bill, which will be reintroduced in the current session of Congress, bans the export of certain types of unprocessed and nonworking electronics and e-waste from the U.S. to developing countries. Fair trade in tested, working electronics and processed e-scrap commodities would not be restricted, the group says. 
 
DSM Environmental Services Inc., a research and consulting firm focused on recycling, materials management and solid waste management strategies, conducted the study. It includes a survey of CAER members and estimates current employment at about 6,850 people in the U.S., with a payroll of approximately $250 million. While nearly 1.2 billion pounds of electronics were recycled by CAER members in 2012, a comparison to data in a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded report determined that another 3.6 billion pounds of electronics were exported, sent to landfills or otherwise processed. 
 
Processing this material in the U.S. would create 21,000 full-time equivalent recycling jobs with a corresponding payroll of $772 million and the potential for 21,000 additional indirect jobs, according to the study. The study says the number of jobs will further increase as e-scrap volumes rise in the years ahead. The U.S. EPA estimates that electronic scrap is growing two to three times faster than any other portion of the waste stream, fueled by the continued proliferation of electronic devices.
 
“The potential for job creation is a major reason RERA continues to attract co-sponsors from both parties at a time when bipartisanship remains rare on Capitol Hill,” says Wendy Neu, executive vice president of Hugo Neu Corp. and CAER steering committee member. “We look forward to securing passage of this important legislation during the 113th Congress.”
 
The bill has 26 House and Senate co-sponsors, including 14 Republicans and 12 Democrats. The House version is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Gene Green of Texas. In the Senate, co-sponsors include U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Lisa Murkowski of Arkansas and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.
 
Since its founding in November 2011, CAER has grown to include 82 U.S. companies operating about 158 electronics recycling and disposition facilities operations in 34 states and the District of Columbia. CAER’s steering committee includes representatives from Waste Management, Cascade Asset Management, ECS Refining, Electronic Recyclers International, Hesstech, Sims Recycling Solutions and Hugo Neu.  
 

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