US seeks to impose new restrictions on the export of electronic waste

THE US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has recommended regulations to boost the government's oversight of discarded electronic waste exports.

The agency's proposed rule could require some items to be disposed of domestically since it could ban certain electronic waste items from being exported altogether amid national security concerns, such as counterfeit goods with components from the electronic waste stream entering military and civilian electronics supply chains.

Permissible electronic waste exports under the proposed rule would be subject to a new license exception or other reporting requirements, as well as new record keeping and tracking requirements, reported American Shipper.

BIS' proposed definition for electronic waste encompasses a wide range of products, including discarded desktop and portable computers, data centre equipment, televisions, digital imaging devices, consumer electronics and GPS systems. 

"Electronic waste that would be exempted from the prohibition on export could include consumer appliances that have electronic features, electronic parts of a motor vehicle, tested working used electronics and recalled electronics," BIS was cited as saying. 

BIS said it also would exempt from the prohibition unusable electronic components that are "exported as feedstock, with no additional mechanical or hand separation required, in a reclamation process to render the electronic components or items recycled consistent with the laws of the foreign country performing the reclamation process".

BIS proposed to track these exempt exports through a new license exception in the Export Administration Regulations and by including a new data element in the federal government's Automated Export System (AES). 

"BIS is nevertheless considering reintroducing an electronic waste indicator in AES as an alternate means to track the export of electronic waste that qualifies for an exemption from the prohibition," the agency said.

Public comments related to the proposed rule are due to BIS by December 24. 

According to the Basel Action Network (BAN), between 22 million and 55 million tons of used computers, TVs, air conditioners, mobile phones, refrigerators, light bulbs and other electronics are generated annually worldwide. The United States and Europe often are identified as the largest exporters of electronic waste to developing countries.