The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has toughened its regulations for the shipping of hazardous waste – including e-waste – for recycling between the United States and other countries. The new measures increase the level of regulatory oversight, and provide stricter controls and greater transparency, according to the federal agency.
Transboundary movement of hazardous waste shows an e-waste accumulation of roughly 6 billion tons, which has exposed some workers in developing countries to dangerous chemicals, according to a report from the Basel Convention.
The final rule aligns EPA’s hazardous waste import/export/transit shipment regulations with the procedures of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international consortium that comprises 30 countries including the United States. It also strengthens U.S. regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that governs the shipment of hazardous waste within the United States, says the EPA.
This rule revises existing RCRA regulation regarding the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes for recovery among OECD countries.
The revisions include the addition of provisions to ensure that hazardous wastes are returned to the country of export in a more timely and documented manner, and new procedures for imported hazardous wastes that are initially managed at U.S. accumulation and transfer facilities in order to better track and document the subsequent recovery by a separate recycling facility.
The new rule also now requires that U.S. recovery facilities submit a certificate after recovery of the waste has been completed.
Other changes address spent lead-acid batteries (SLABs), which include the addition of export notification and consent requirements to provide stricter controls and greater transparency for exports of SLABs to any country. The EPA says this should ensure that the batteries are sent to countries and reclamation facilities that can manage the SLABs in an environmentally sound manner.
In addition, U.S. hazardous waste management facilities must confirm that individual import shipments comply with the terms of EPA’s consent.