A U.S. ban on the export of some types of e-scrap to developing countries could create as many as 42,000 new jobs — at least according to a new study commissioned by the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling.
The study, which was conducted by DSM Environmental Services, Inc., surveyed current CAER member companies and estimated employment at 6,850, with a payroll of approximately $250 million. The study estimated that 1.2 billion pounds of e-scrap were processed by CAER members in 2011, out of a U.S. EPA-estimated total of 4.8 billion pounds of e-scrap processed, landfilled or exported in 2011. Banning exports, the study says, would create an additional 21,000 recycling jobs with a payroll of $772 million.
Not everyone agrees, however.
“If one of my students turned in this report I would give them an ‘F.’ The report arbitrarily dismisses the majority of the industry,” says Willie Cade, founder and CEO of PC Rebuilders and Recyclers.
CAER includes 82 e-scrap firms, such as Alcoa, Cascade Asset Management, Covanta, Electronics Recyclers International, Sims Recycling Solutions, Waste Management and others, but the estimated 6,850 workers employed by member companies are a fraction of the estimated 30,000 total workers employed in the e-scrap recycling industry, according to a report last year from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and market research firm IDC. The CAER study estimates that one new recycling job is created for each additional 172,000 pounds of e-scrap processed in the U.S. annually, although the study’s methodology does not take into account the net effect of an export ban on total e-scrap industry jobs in non-CAER member companies.
“There may be some ‘stack and pack’ export brokers that won’t benefit from a ban on exports, but when you look at both the quality and number of jobs [an export ban] would create, there’s no comparison,” said Neil Peters-Michaud, CEO of Cascade Asset Management and CAER steering committee member.
CAER argues that greater transparency and more incentives to process material domestically are essential to the future health of the e-scrap industry and the environment.
The group was formed last year to lobby for the passage of the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (House Resolution 2284 and Senate Bill 1270), which aims to stimulate increased recycling of electronics by prohibiting the export of specific types of e-scrap to developing countries. While the bills have made little progress since being introduced in 2011, CAER has concentrated its efforts on educating lawmakers on electronics recycling and lobbying for its passage.
“We learned a lot of lessons during the 2012 session,” continues Peters-Michaud. “We met with over 60 members of Congress and their staff and it became very clear that they were most interested in the effect these bills would have on jobs, especially jobs in their districts. All of the bills’ co-sponsors in the House and Senate are very pleased with the report and I think we have a lot of momentum going into this session.”
CAER plans to continue to advocate for the legislation in the new Congress.