US Congress Hosts E-recycling Day

The first electronic-waste recycling day for U.S. Congress staffers was a success in terms of the amount of equipment collected, said the president of the recycling company running the event.

Redemtech, an Ohio-based recycler, had collected enough equipment to fill half of a box truck as of 1 p.m. Thursday, midway through the event, said company President Robert Houghton. "We would expect about that amount," he said.

Redemtech typically serves large corporate clients, and the first e-waste recycling events at a company are generally "successful but modest," Houghton said. Subsequent events usually draw more people, he said.

Another goal of this first e-recycling event was to raise awareness of e-waste issues, Houghton said. Redemtech takes pride in refurbishing and recycling electronic products in the U.S., but about 90 percent of e-waste sent to U.S. recyclers gets shipped overseas, often to places where crude and unsafe methods are used to break down the electronics, Houghton said.

Last week, a group of lawmakers introduced a bill intended to limit e-waste shipments overseas, but two environmental groups said the legislation includes too many exceptions. In recent years, lawmakers have raised concerns about U.S. electronics shipped to China, India and other locations, where, in some cases, electronics are dismantled with hammers and plastic burned in pits.

The U.S. "has outsourced a tremendous amount of our electronics lifecycle," Houghton said. "These costs for proper recycling have been, in effect, externalized to the detriment of people in developing countries. We need to recognize there is a cost to proper recycling and make that part of the expense of using electronics."

Much of the equipment turned in Thursday appeared to be functional, Houghton said. Whenever possible, Redemtech refurbishes computers and other devices, and works with charities to give the devices to needy families. Redemtech often works with Habitat for Humanity, and Thursday's event benefited Washington, D.C., charity Horton's Kids.

In the current recession, it's more important than ever for poor families to have computers and Internet access, Houghton said. The Internet gives them access to job boards, education and training, he said.

Redemtech refurbishes the equipment itself in U.S. plants. It recycles some material and uses U.S. processors to break down and recycle materials such as lead, Houghton said.

Thursday's event was organized by Representative Mike Thompson, a California Democrat, and Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat.

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