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Reintroduced Bill Takes Aim at Counterfeit Electronics in a New Way

April 27, 2022
SEERA would address and minimize a key root cause of counterfeit electronics: e-waste that’s being sent overseas.

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A reintroduced bill that’s currently making its way through the U.S. Senate is taking aim at electronics counterfeiting in a unique way: by thwarting the flow of waste products that are being sent to China and other regions of the world. Bipartisan legislation, the Secure E-waste Export and Recycling Act (SEERA) would also help expand domestic recycling activity, versus just shipping discarded electronic parts overseas.

SEERA’s origins date back to 2019, when H.R. 3559 was introduced to “help control the export of electronic waste (“e-waste”) in order to ensure that such waste does not become the source of counterfeit goods that may reenter military and civilian electronics supply chains in the US, and for other purposes.” The last reported action on the bill happened in June of 2019, when it was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Doing Better

By reintroducing SEERA, its sponsors want to ensure that e-waste doesn’t become the source of counterfeit products that reenter military and civilian electronics in the U.S. The legislation would also help grow the domestic recycling industry, keep jobs in the U.S. and reduce unsafe disposal of e-waste abroad, according to Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), the bill’s sponsors.

The legislation was included in the version of the America COMPETES Act of 2022, which was recently passed by the House of Representatives. This bill addresses U.S. technology and communications, foreign relations and national security, domestic manufacturing, education, trade and other matters.

The COMPETES Act’s provisions include (but aren’t limited to), providing funding to support U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, research and development, and supply chain security; providing funding for wireless supply chain innovation; and establishing a Directorate for Technology and Innovation in the National Science Foundation.

With rapid improvements in technology sending Americans cycling through smartphones, laptops and televisions faster than ever, Whitehouse said the U.S. needs to do a better job of keeping all that recyclable e-waste out of landfills and out of the hands of foreign counterfeiters.

“In addition to defending against a national security threat,” he stated in a press release, “our legislation would support the domestic recycling industry, create new jobs at home, and dispose of electronics in an environmentally friendly way.”

Combating Counterfeiters

The reintroduced bill tackles counterfeiting by requiring domestic recycling of untested, nonworking e-waste. The legislation would provide a regulatory framework for creating a national approach for the export of used electronics, but would also allow tested, working equipment to continue to be exported to promote reuse.

According to the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER), the bill may help create up to 42,000 well-paying jobs for Americans in the e-waste industry.

“We thank Senator Whitehouse and Senator Tillis for their leadership in introducing this important legislation,” said CAER Founding Member Bob Houghton, CEO of Sage Sustainable Electronics. “Through swift passage of SEERA, the Senate can combat counterfeiters who undermine our national security while ensuring electronic scrap is managed in an environmentally responsible way.”

Keeping it Out of their Hands

American Recycling says SEERA is important because counterfeit microchips, primarily from China, threaten the reliability of a wide range of technology essential to daily life—and our national security. “Experts say fake electronic components can be found in everything from the airbags in our cars to our critical domestic infrastructure and even our military hardware,” the publication points out.

SEERA requires domestic recycling of untested, nonworking e-waste. By processing and securing e-scrap in the U.S., it may keep these components out of the hands of counterfeiters in China and around the world.

“Counterfeiters often start by stripping used microchips from e-waste—much of it legally exported from the US,” it adds. “Counterfeiters rely on our exports because the US is the world’s largest producer of e-waste and one of the few countries that allows unrestricted exports of untested, nonworking e-scrap.”

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About the Author

Bridget McCrea | Contributing Writer | Supply Chain Connect

Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers business and technology for various publications.