Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Administration's National Strategy For Electronics Stewardship

Jul 20: At an event in Austin, Texas, at a certified electronics recycling center, U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, General Services (GSA) Administrator Martha Johnson, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley were joined by the CEOs of Dell Inc. and Sprint, and senior executives from Sony Electronics to release the Obama Administration's "National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship" -- a strategy for the responsible electronic design, purchasing, management and recycling which the Administration says "will promote the burgeoning electronics recycling market and jobs of the future here at home."
    The announcement includes the first voluntary commitments made by Dell, Sprint and Sony to EPA's industry partnership aimed at promoting environmentally sound management of used electronics. The Administration's strategy also commits the Federal government to take specific actions that will encourage more environmentally-friendly design of electronic products; promote recycling of used or discarded electronics; and advance a domestic market for electronics recycling that will protect public health and create jobs.

    According to a release from EPA, 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. From computers and cell phones, to portable communication and music devices -- United States is, and will continue to be, a global leader in designing and developing new and improved electronic technologies. 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.

    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; and strengthen America's role in the international electronics stewardship arena.

    Under the strategy, GSA will remove products that do not comply with comprehensive and robust energy efficiency or environmental performance standards -- from its information technology purchase contracts used by Federal agencies, and will ensure that all electronics used by the Federal government are reused or recycled properly. In addition, EPA and GSA will promote development of new environmental performance standards for categories of electronic products not covered by current standards. Several Federal agencies will work together to identify methods for tracking used electronics in Federal agencies to move toward reuse and recycling.

    A key component of this strategy includes the use of certified recyclers and increasing safe and effective management and handling of used electronics in the United States and working with industry in a collaborative manner to achieve that goal. As a first step in this effort, Administrator Jackson signed a voluntary commitment with Dell Inc. CEO Michael Dell and Sprint CEO Dan Hesse to promote a U.S. based electronics recycling market. Sony Electronics Inc. representatives were also present and also committed to improving the safe management of used electronics.

    The collaboration with industry aims to encourage businesses and consumers to recycle their electronics with certified recyclers, and for electronic recyclers to become certified. There are two existing domestic third-party certification recycling entities, R2 (independent nonprofit affiliated with Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and E-Stewards (operated by the Basel Action Network). The electronics recycling industry is increasingly embracing these certification programs. Certified recyclers are regularly audited by these certification entities to ensure that electronics are recycled in a manner that is safe for human health and the environment. As the next steps in this collaborative effort, EPA will continue to work with industry to encourage other companies to voluntarily commit to help grow the domestic recycling market, create the green jobs of the future in the United States and educate consumers. 

    Administrator Jackson said, "A robust electronics recycling industry in America would create new opportunities to efficiently and profitably address a growing pollution threat. The participation of industry leaders like Dell, Sprint and Sony is absolutely essential to this effort, and will help ensure that the work of the federal government -- the largest electronics consumer around -- is protecting our people from pollution at the same time we support savings and job creation through e-cycling and re-use of valuable materials."

    Nancy Sutley, CEQ Chair said, "Through a strong federal partnership, and coordination with manufacturers, retailers, recyclers, State and local governments, and other stakeholders, the actions outlined here will help address the potential health and environmental problems caused by the mismanagement of discarded electronics. This strategy will encourage the recycling of these valuable resources and allow the U.S. to take advantage of the economic opportunities of remanufacturing and create jobs of the future here in America." GSA Administrator Martha Johnson said,
"The Nation's largest single consumer of electronics, the Federal Government, will now be the Nation's most responsible user of electronics. The steps outlined in the report will ensure that government leads by example and that the billions of dollars in IT equipment the government cycles through annually will be either reused or recycled properly."
    According to the Strategy report, it provides four overarching goals. Action items under each goal are identified and the projects that will implement each action item are listed. These recommendations are summarized described in more detail in the main body of the report. The four major goals are:
  • Build Incentives for Design of Greener Electronics, and Enhance Science, Research and Technology Development in the United States
  • Ensure that the Federal Government Leads By Example
  • Increase Safe and Effective Management and Handling of Used Electronics in the United States
  • Reduce Harm from US Exports of E-Waste and Improve Safe Handling of Used Electronics in Developing Countries

    An on-line annex of benchmarks of projects under each of the goals is posted on Internet and lists each of the projects, the primary agency responsible for the project and any agencies supporting the primary agency in that effort, and the target date for completion of the project. As the National Strategy is developed in further detail by the departments and agencies, and as the Strategy is implemented, the annex will be updated. As appropriate, action items and projects under them may be realigned as efficiencies and opportunities for further improvement are identified.

    The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) issued a release applauding the Obama Administration "for taking concrete, practical steps to address how the U.S. Government will manage its used and end-of-life electronics while refuting an effort to ban such legitimate international trade, a move that would deliver a serious blow to the vibrant U.S. scrap recycling industry." ISRI President Robin Wiener said, "the Administration's announcement closely mirrored ISRI's position for stepped up enforcement of the federal CRT [Cathode Ray Tubes] rule to stop illegal exports, increased third-party certifications of responsible recyclers and continued exchange of U.S. technology and best practices to help strengthen the environmentally responsible processing of electronics globally."

    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access the 34-page National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship (click here). Access the  Agency Benchmarks to the Federal National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship (click here). Access the Federal Government Electronics Stewardship website for extensive information (click here). Access EPA's Electronics Stewardship website for additional information (click here). Access the GSA's electronic stewardship goals and promoting Federal agencies' purchasing Environmentally Preferable Products (click here). Access the e-Stewards website (click here). Access the R2 website (click here). Access various WIMS articles regarding electronic waste, e-Stewards and R2 (click here). Access the release from ISRI (click here). [*Haz, *Toxics, *P2]