GAO Releases New Report on E-scrap Export
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report on electronic waste last month during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment.
The report finds that few regulations exist to control the problem of exporting toxic e-waste to developing nations, and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fails to enforce those that do exist, which only cover old cathode ray tube TVs and monitors. To test compliance with the regulations, the GAO posed as foreign buyers of broken cathode ray tubes (CRTs) and found 43 U.S. companies willing to ignore the EPA CRT rule and export nonworking CRT monitors to foreign countries in direct opposition to U.S. regulations. Some of these are companies that promote themselves publicly as environmentally responsible companies.
The GAO’s findings (available at https://www.gao.gov/new.items/d081044.pdf) include:
- “US regulatory controls do little to stem the export of potentially hazardous used electronics.”
- “US Exports of potentially harmful used electronics flow virtually unrestricted.”
- Existing regulations focus only on CRTs, but companies easily circumvent the CRT regulations, because they are confident that they will not get caught.
- “EPA has done little to enforce the CRT rule” which went into effect in January 2007. Only one company has been fined so far, and that July 2008 penalty resulted from a problem the GAO identified.
- The EPA does not plan to enforce the CRT regulations. “They have no plans, and no timetable for developing the basic components of an enforcement strategy…”