A worker at E Recycling dismantles an old analog television in Hayward, Calif., on Jan. 28, 2009. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A California bill aimed at further regulating exports of electronic waste was signed into law Oct. 4 by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Senate Bill 568, authored by Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), now requires those exporting electronic waste or electronic devices to other states or foreign countries for recycling or disposal to demonstrate that such cannot be done by an in-state recycler at least 60 days before exporting.
“[SB 568] encourages the producers of electronic waste, to find appropriate ways to recycle in state,” Mr. Newman told The Epoch Times. “The goal is to help create a viable industry for the collection and recycling of electronic waste in California.”
E-waste is the world’s fastest-growing solid waste stream.
A recent study by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research estimates that over 50 million tons of electronic waste is generated worldwide each year, and only 17 percent was processed appropriately.
According to another report from the University of California–Berkeley, Americans dispose of more than 350,000 cell phones and 120,000 laptops daily.
However, the bill’s author said that much of the recycling—often done out-of-state—occurs in unprotected environments, posing potential health risks for workers and environmental hazards due to hazardous materials, including lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic.
“The companies that are reclaiming this waste … they’re using very low-cost labor, [which] is often child labor. It’s workers that are exposed, in many ways, to these materials that are incredibly dangerous,” he said.
Circuit boards from old analog televisions sit in a bin at E Recycling in Hayward, Calif., on Jan. 28, 2009. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Mr. Newman said that exploring recycling resources within the state can largely reduce such problems.
“It’ll put [California recycling companies] in a better position to receive this waste instead of going to other channels, especially outside the country, where typically, it’s not handled in ways that are safer for the environment, and for the workers who handle it,” he said.
Currently, there are over 600 e-waste recycling locations and more than 30 approved recyclers in California, according to an analysis of the bill.
Additionally, Mr. Newman said the bill will create economic value by encouraging the recycling of precious metals, meeting increasing demands as California transitions toward a market that relies more heavily on electric technologies.
He added that the majority of e-waste is currently ending up in landfills, where the materials cannot be effectively recovered or reused.
“If we can develop this industry in California, there are really large opportunities for the businesses that participate,” he said.
Electronic devices found in the ocean by divers who were volunteering to pick up trash on the beach during International Coastal Cleanup Day in Santa Monica, Calif., on Sept. 17, 2022. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)
In 2003, California enacted the Electronic Waste Recycling Act, which established a program for the proper recycling and disposal of e-waste.
The new law includes charging consumers a recycling fee, making manufacturers create recycling programs, and setting goals to reduce the amount of electronic waste in landfills.
Last year, SB 1215, also introduced by Mr. Newman, was signed into law to add battery-embedded products—devices like laptops and smartphones with embedded batteries—to existing e-waste recycling programs covered under the recycling act.
“This is kind of an extension of that work to try to find market-based solutions that solve environmental problems and do so in ways that create value for California,” Mr. Newman said.