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How can EPA help consumers increase their donations of used electronics to 3rd-party-certified electronics recyclers? How can EPA leverage its partnerships with manufacturers and recyclers to encourage the use of certified recyclers that use the best Environmental Sound Management (ESM) practices and create domestic jobs?

2012 January 30

Americans recycle 34% of the 250 million tons of trash they produce in a year. While this represents progress, there are many more opportunities to recycle and conserve resources – including recycling of used electronics.

Americans discard more than 2 million tons of obsolete electronic products annually, such as cell phones and computers. While 27% of the discarded electronics are recycled, 73% ends up in our landfills (Read the full report, Electronics Waste Management in the United States through 2009, PDF). The rapid growth of the consumer electronics sector presents unique new challenges and opportunities for increasing recycling of these products. EPA encourages Americans to donate their used electronics to 3rd-party certified recyclers or drop them at collection points including retailers and municipalities that work with 3rd-party certified recyclers. Using 3rd-party-certified recyclers helps to ensure that used electronics are recycled under safe and environmentally protective conditions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. Miles Kuntz of WA State Dept. of Ecology permalink
    February 1, 2012

    From my perspective as the manager of the E-Cycle Washington program for electronics recycling there are two keys to get people to use such a program. Recycling options have to be free and convenient. Not exactly new concepts, but they are tried and true.

    To encourage consumers to use reputable recyclers, EPA will need to provide easy access to information about drop-off sites in the consumer’s “neighborhood.” This should include sites approved by the many state administered programs like Washington’s. Currently, the link on EPA’s Discussion Forum web page “3rd party certified recyclers” is not at all user-friendly. Without a good resource to provide consumers the info they need to find “certified” recyclers, you won’t be able to accomplish the goal of encouraging them to use those recyclers.

    Of course, if there is a fee for recycling that will be a disincentive no matter how convenient it may be.

    One final comment, EPA will also need to conduct an on-going education campaign to encourage the public to use this one-stop database with info about where they can recycle their electronics responsibly.

  2. John Schweizer of John W. Schweizer, P.E. permalink
    February 6, 2012

    Perhaps EPA could support businesses such as GreenCitizen http://www.greencitizen.com/index.php with acknowledgeent similar to the “energy star” program for energy efficient appliances. Besides recycling all kinds of electronic devices free of charge, this for-profit business provides services for extending the life of electronic devices by repairing them; provides data security services by destroying hard drives, copier data, and media; and provides remote pc repair services. Perhaps an “eco-star” for such businesses would help.
    Many of the electronic devices manufactured these days can be replaced or upgraded more cheaply than repairing them. When I took a printer in to GreenCitizen in Berkeley for repair, they told me there was no place to get the repair done because it is so much cheaper to get a new one. They also told me that their company was gathering data in order to encourage manufacturers of electronic devices to make repairable equipment, and advised me to replace my old ink jet printer with a laser printer to avoid the high cost of ink jet ownership that is caused by the short life and high cost of replacement cartridges. Perhaps locally repairable/upgradable devices with long service lives and recyclable parts could also be awarded an “eco-star.”

  3. rbassler permalink*
    February 9, 2012

    Thank you for your comment Miles. While EPA’s web page about 3rd Party Recyclers could use more information, we are working to encourage this effort and will hopefully be able to provide specifics in the future. In the interim, we can provide what we are looking for in a certified recycler as I share with you below:

    The EPA estimates that, in 2009, 438 million electronic products were sold in the United States, and 2.4 million tons were ready for end-of-life management. Responsible end-of-life electronics management is an opportunity to prevent pollution, conserve valuable resources, create green jobs, and invest in our national economic development. Under the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, EPA is committed to increasing the safe and effective management and handling of used electronics in the United States through activities such as:

    · Working with electronics industry leaders to develop safe, transparent, and measurable recycling strategies;
    · Encouraging public and private organization to use recyclers who are certified to an accredited management standard, such as R2 or eStewards; and
    · Encouraging recyclers to become certified.

    Today, EPA is engaging electronics industry leaders to create a voluntary partnership program that will increase opportunities for the public and private organizations to responsibly manage used electronics.

    Eileen Naples, US EPA

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