The export of hazardous electronic wastes, including lead acid batteries, to the developing world has irreparable public health effects in some of the most impoverished countries on earth.
Dumping-by-export of hazardous wastes is prohibited by an international treaty called the Basel Convention. Lead acid batteries and other used electronics are covered by this treaty.
While 175 countries have ratified that important treaty, three have not: Afghanistan, Haiti and the United States.
Under the guise of promoting “free trade,” lobbyists in Washington working for companies that claim to be “recyclers” but are primarily waste exporters have prevented the United States from banning the export of hazardous wastes, including electronic wastes.
And we are not only exporting poisons but jobs as well. According to a recent report from the Blue Green Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, if the United States increased its recycling rate to 75 percent, more than 1.5 million new jobs would be created.
Until the United States enacts a law banning the export of toxic wastes to developing countries, as all of Europe has done, anyone wishing to dispose of used electronics and be assured that their wastes are not poisoning children in poor countries should use only recyclers certified under the e-Stewards certification program.
New York, Dec. 9, 2011
The writer is a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
A version of this letter appeared in print on December 15, 2011, on page A38 of the New York edition with the headline: Recycling Toxic Wastes.
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