July 20, 2011
| by Steven Castle
Have a lot of old electronics you’d like to get rid of but aren’t sure how? Join the club.
But there is hope for our piles of e-trash.The Obama Administration has released its “National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship” to promote responsible electronic design, purchasing, management and recycling.
The first electronics manufacturing partners in the program will be Dell, Sprint, and Sony, which have committed to the program’s environmentally sound management of used electronics.
According to the EPA, the responsible management of electronics provides an opportunity to create economic development and jobs by developing a strong domestic electronics recycling market while preventing pollution at home and abroad. Every year, Americans generate almost 2.5 million tons of used electronics, which are made from valuable resources such as precious metals and rare earth materials, as well as plastic and glass. Many discarded electronics are exported to developing countries where they are disassembled unsafely, burned in pits and result in severe hazards to human heath and the environment.
As outlined in the strategy report, the federal government will:
• Promote the development of more efficient and sustainable electronic products.
• Direct federal agencies to buy, use, reuse and recycle their electronics responsibly.
• Support recycling options and systems for American consumers.
• Strengthen America’s role in the international electronics stewardship arena.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) applauded the government’s efforts on electronics stewardship.
“Electronics recycling is a national problem that deserves a national solution. Today’s announcement from EPA, GSA and CEQ echoes the principles our industry laid out this spring with the eCycling Leadership Initiative,” said Walter Alcorn, CEA vice president of environmental affairs and industry sustainability.
The eCycling Leadership Initiative, an industry-led effort launched in April to recycle one billion pounds of electronics annually by 2016, is aims to bolster consumer education of eCycling and increase the number of recycling locations and infrastructure needed to reach the one billion pound annual target.
Also as part of the program:
- The EPA will initiate an outreach program to encourage purchasing of green electronic by consumers.
- The EPA will launch a Greener Products website to help consumers more easily find information on greener products.
- A series of prize competitions will award innovations in technology and design to be applied across the lifecycle of electronics.
- The EPEAT program, which currently only covers laptops, desktops and monitors, may expand and become more robust.
- The EPA is exploring the possibility of expanding its Energy Star specifications of products to include energy outside the use phase and other environmental aspects as appropriate.
- Electronics manufacturers will be encouraged to expand their product take-back programs, and use certified recyclers as a minimum standard in those programs, by expanding the use of manufacturer take-back agreements in Federal electronics purchase, rental and service contracts. Currently, there are two voluntary systems certifying electronics recyclers: R2 and eStewards.
- Launch of voluntary partnerships with the electronics industry to increase collection of used electronics that is safely managed by certified recyclers., develop tools and materials that encourage the Americans use certified recyclers, and increase consumer awareness about the importance of electronics recycling, as well as the tools and services available to do so.
- The EPA will propose changes to the CRT Rule to better track exports of CRTs for reuse and recycling.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates