Two heavy-hitters have joined the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling to fight for passage of the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act.

Waste Management Recycle America, Waste Management Inc.’s recycling division, and Alcoa, one of the world’s leading aluminum producers, signed on with CAER, a group pushing to pass the bill, in January.

The bill, introduced in June, would prevent certain U.S. electronic waste products from being exported to developing countries and, its supporters say, create jobs in the U.S. recycling industry.

John Shegerian, a CAER steering committee member and president of Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), said a consensus is building on Capitol Hill in favor of the bill and that the support of two recycling leaders will only add to that momentum.

“Alcoa is a 124-year-old iconic brand and Waste Management is the largest waste company in the world. They aren’t just two companies, these are the companies,” Shegerian said. “… Everyone listens when Waste Management and Alcoa are on your side. Everyone listens.”

Alcoa’s move was the next logical step in its relationship with ERI, said Kevin Anton, vice president and chief sustainability officer of the company. Alcoa purchased a $10 million stake in ERI in March and Anton joined its board of directors.

Shegerian said interest in joining the 48-company coalition has risen since the Waste Management and Alcoa announcement.

“Everyone wants to get on board and do the right thing now,” Shegerian said. “It’s very exciting and very encouraging for not only the future of the recycling industry, but the future of America as a whole given how many jobs this will create.”

Like Waste Management, Alcoa is a member of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI), which is opposed to the bill.

However, anyone looking for a squabble between the companies and the organization won’t find one, Anton said.

“When you join an organization – and ISRI does a lot of good work – it doesn’t necessarily mean on every issue you’re going to have complete alignment,” Anton said. “We’re mature enough to understand that, and ISRI is mature enough to understand this, so we will have a polite disagreement on this point.”

Richard Abramowitz, director of public affairs for Waste Management Recycle Services, concurred with Anton’s point.

“We don’t always agree on everything with every group that we participate in,” Abramowitz said.

Robin Wiener, president of ISRI, said she’s disappointed in the development.

One of ISRI’s main issues with the bill, Wiener said, is that it creates a distinction between countries affiliated with the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), a group consisting of 34 nations including the U.S, and those who aren’t.

Lawmakers behind the bill seek to prohibit e-waste from being sent to non-OECD countries such as China and Brazil.

Wiener said there are responsible companies in non-OECD countries that are just as capable of handling e-waste as those in member nations.

“I personally have been to electronics recycling facilities in China and Singapore, both non-OECD countries, that are as good if not better than anything I’ve seen in the U.S,” she said.

Neil Peters-Michaud, a CAER steering committee member and CEO of Cascade Asset Management, said he and other CAER representatives have met with lawmakers in recent months.

“Some people are supporting it for boosting American jobs; others believe national security interests are important for not dumping unprocessed electronics into developing or unfriendly countries,” said Peters-Michaud, who joined CAER in August. “Some talk about the environment. … We found that people from both sides of the aisle have an interest in it for one reason or another.”

Contact Waste & Recycling News reporter Vince Bond at vbond@crain.com or 313-446-1653.

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