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Used Electronic Products: An Examination of U.S. Exports

USITC Publication 4379
Investigation No. 332-528

Summary

U.S. sales of used electronic products (UEP) in 2011 were valued at $19.2 billion, and U.S. exports of such products in 2011 made up 7 percent of total U.S. UEP sales, reports the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) in its new publication.

Completed at the request of the U.S. Trade Representative, the report is based on data collected through a nationwide survey of 5,200 refurbishers, recyclers, brokers, information technology asset managers, and other UEP handlers. The report covers the year 2011 and focuses on audio and visual equipment, computers and peripheral equipment, digital imaging devices, telecommunication equipment, and component parts of these products. The Commission's findings include:

  • UEPs are collected from consumers and businesses, sorted by value, then either refurbished and resold as working electronic equipment or disassembled into working parts or scrap commodities (metals, plastics, and glass) that are resold as manufacturing inputs in the United States and abroad.

  • The top five destinations for U.S. UEP exports in 2011 were Asia-Pacific countries (primarily Korea and Japan), Mexico, India, Hong Kong, and China, accounting for 74 percent of exports. Just over half of U.S. UEP exports were shipped to countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

  • Whole equipment for reuse accounted for the largest share of U.S. exports by value in 2011, and tested and working products represented the majority of U.S. exports of whole UEPs.

  • Refurbishing and repair enterprises accounted for the largest share of U.S. exporters of UEPs by value, followed by enterprises involved in wholesaling, brokering, or retailing.

  • Measured by end-use of the products, commodity materials intended for smelting or refining accounted for the largest share of U.S. exports by weight (43 percent) in 2011.

  • U.S. regulations in place in 25 states generally reduce exports by requiring electronics manufacturers to collect used products for recycling. Industry certification programs also likely serve to limit U.S. exports of UEPs. In contrast, limited U.S. capacity to process UEPs in two segments of the industry: cathode ray tube (CRT) glass and final smelting – create incentives to export CRT monitors, CRT glass, and circuit boards destined for smelting to retrieve precious metals.

  • In developing countries, demand for UEPs exported from the United States is strong, but the Basel Convention and some country regulations may limit such exports, since many developing countries agree not to import nonworking UEPs from OECD member countries.

View the report at: http://www.usitc.gov/publications/332/pub4379.pdf