Exporting end-of-life devices from California has long been a heavily regulated process. This year, lawmakers added another requirement that exporters first prove in-state recycling options were unavailable.
Senate Bill 568, introduced early this year by Sen. Josh Newman, a Democrat representing Fullerton, Calif., amends the state’s longstanding e-scrap law. It was approved by the state Assembly on Aug. 31 (69-5, with another 6 lawmakers not voting) and by the state Senate on Sept. 11 (38-0, with another 2 lawmakers not voting). Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it into law on Oct. 4.
Exporters were already required to notify the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) about the type and amount of devices being shipped, and their destination. They also have to demonstrate the devices are being exported “for the purposes of recycling or disposal,” and that the importer receiving the devices will process them at facilities that follow e-scrap handling guidelines laid out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a consortium whose member nations are generally considered higher-income, developed countries.
But Senate Bill 568 adds that exporters must show regulators that “they attempted to locate an in-state covered electronic waste recycler and that the waste or device could not be managed by an in-state covered electronic waste recycler.” The bill does not detail how exporters must demonstrate their efforts to find in-state processors, but it indicates they must do so at least 60 days before exporting. The bill applies to international exports out of California, as well as shipments to another state if the devices are ultimately destined for export out of the U.S.
The bill applies to “covered electronic devices” and “covered electronic waste,” although it excludes dismantled device components, such as printed circuit boards. California statutes define covered devices to include video devices with screens greater than four inches, measured diagonally (typically TVs, computer monitors, laptops and tablets). Last year, lawmakers expanded that list to include all electronics with batteries that are embedded and not designed to be removed by a consumer. Officials at the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) have suggested the embedded-battery bill could add products to the e-scrap program that people may not immediately associate with e-scrap.
In comments in a legislative analysis covering SB 568, Sen. Newman said exporters often submit “unsubstantiated assertions that entities abroad are following OECD standards.” He described the requirement to prove in-state options were unavailable as a “common-sense export requirement which would increase the share of precious resources in the state” and would support the state’s e-scrap industry. There are 30 e-scrap processors approved to participate in the state’s electronics recycling program, according to the bill analysis.
The bill received comments in support from Californians Against Waste and the National Stewardship Action Council. No opposition comments were submitted, although regulators with the DTSC submitted comments during the bill’s development expressing concern with the bill adding onto existing difficulties with e-scrap export enforcement.
“DTSC notes there are multiple challenges in meeting the intent of existing requirements,” according to an Aug. 16 legislative analysis. “For example, DTSC does not have direct enforcement authority or any other mechanism to ensure e-waste is handled as described, and the department does not possess expertise in international import and export law. The additional requirement in this bill, absent clearer guidance for exporters or additional enforcement authority, potentially compounds these challenges.”