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Committee Clears Bills To Improve Electronics Recycling and Coordinate Critical Water Research

Mar 25, 2009
Press Release

(Washington, DC) Today, the Committee on Science and Technology approved bills to help to encourage nationwide recycling of electronic devices and to address water shortages plaguing communities across the country.

The Committee approved H.R. 1580, the Electronic Devices Recycling Research and Development Act. The bill aims to reduce the amount of electronic waste through more efficient recycling, better materials selection, and designing products to be easily disassembled.
“Billions of cell phones, computers, televisions, and other electronic products, once the latest technology, are now being thrown into landfills,” said bill author and Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “This is a waste of valuable resources, and it is a growing environmental problem. We need to do more to make recycling easy and affordable and to make sure the electronic products manufactured in the future are as environmentally sound as they can be. We need research and development, and we need to train present and future designers of this equipment to think about the entire life-cycle of their products. That is what this bill is all about.”
H.R. 1580 will decrease the burden of used electronic devices on the environment by:
·         establishing an electronic device recycling engineering research, development, and demonstration program at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify ways to manage electronic waste through reduction, reuse, and recycling;
·         directing the EPA to arrange a study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to look at the barriers and opportunities available to reduce electronic waste, reduce the use of hazardous materials in electronic products, and enable product design for efficient reuse and recycling;
·         establishing curriculum to introduce engineering students to topics related to recycling electronic devices and incorporating environmentally friendly designs, as well as establishing a continuing education program for professionals in the electronics manufacturing, design, refurbishing and recycling industries to provide education about best practices for design and recycling of electronics; and
·         directing the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to establish a physical property database for green alternative materials for use in electronic products.
The Committee approved amendments from Chairman Gordon; Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI); Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX); Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA); and Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R - TX).
“As a social scientist by training, I feel strongly that social science research has an important role to play in helping us develop solutions to many problems within the energy arena,” said Baird.  “We need to take a closer look at the social, behavioral, and economic barriers that are keeping people from recycling and reusing electronic waste, and this amendment will ensure that we do just that.”
The following groups have endorsed the legislation: Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition; Best Buy; Consumer Electronics Association; Electronics Take Back Coalition; Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries; National Center for Electronics Recycling; CTIA – The Wireless Association; National Association of Manufacturers; and AT&T.
The Committee also approved H.R. 1145, the National Water Research and Development Initiative Act of 2009. The bill addresses the need for a coordinated federal approach to water research and development to help communities that are facing water shortages.
“There is no resource more valuable than water. It is essential to all of us, everyday, for everything we do. For too long we have ignored the warning signs that our water supplies are in trouble,” said bill author Gordon. “We must do more to conserve water and maintain its quality. We must take a more strategic approach at the federal level and we must ensure the federal government supports our state, local and tribal governments—the entities that are the stewards of these resources on a day-to-day basis.”
H.R. 1145 coordinates national research and development efforts on water and, in the face of predicted droughts, works to ensure adequate water supplies for generations to come.  The legislation builds on previous efforts to coordinate federal research on water resources by establishing an interagency committee—the Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality (SWAQ) of the National Science and Technology Council. H.R. 1145 codifies this subcommittee and provides it explicit congressional authorization.
The Committee adopted amendments from Chairman Gordon; Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE); Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX); Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD); Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA); Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT); Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D - AZ), Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL); and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY)
“Our nation’s water supply is one of our most precious natural resources,” said Edwards.  “This amendment will help make a concerted effort, at the federal, state, and local levels, to standardize data on water usage.  The data collected will unify the information the federal government receives and will help the government to create policies that target efforts to increase the efficiency and conservation of water.” 
“The water and the wastewater industry are fundamental to our nation’s physical and economic well-being.  It’s an industry that faces tough challenges on many fronts. My amendment seeks to provide the first-ever data repository on customer use, security measures and best practices that will provide critical information for water managers as they attempt to meet these challenges,” said Matheson.
“The availability of clean water is critical both for America’s families as well as our nation’s economic interests,” said Dahlkemper.“The development of 21st century technologies that improve water treatment, purification, pollution prevention, and water reuse is an important step to ensuring that this precious resource is both abundant and high quality.”
“My amendment explores the idea of a national smart water grid as well as creating a National Water Pilot Testing Facility. The bill offered by Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) is a forward bit of progressive thinking and I believe my amendment enhances that thought,” said Tonko. “We must not wait until water becomes even more scarce and even more costly before the government helps address this issue. We must offer forward thinking, progressive solutions to ensure that our citizens always have access to affordable, reliable and clean water – one of the most important and fundamental natural resources on Earth. This legislation puts us on a path towards a national water policy – one that maximizes water efficiency while ensuring that we are cognizant and mindful of our environment and surroundings.”
The following groups have endorsed the bill: Water Innovations Alliance; Natural Resources Defense Council; Water Environment Research Foundation; Council of Scientific Society Presidents; Food & Water Watch; Water Research Foundation; Alliance Environmental; Clean Water Action; American Beverage Association; and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
Today’s action by the Committee cleared both bills for consideration by the full House.
For more information, including on the Committee’s work on e-waste or water issues, please see the Committee’s website.
111th Congress