On Wednesday EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson held a press call with top names in the electronics industry to announce a new strategy for responsible design, purchasing management and recycling for electronics.
The Obama Administration’s “National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship” will put more of a burden on the federal government to monitor the United States’ manufacturing of more efficient electronics and its handling of its mounting e-waste. As the world’s largest electronics consumer, the U.S. generates almost 2.5 million tons of used electronics annually.
Under the new strategy, the federal government will promote more sustainable electronics and direct federal agencies to buy, use, reuse and responsibly recycle their electronics.
Jackson noted one of the biggest components of the strategy is the exportation of defunct electronics – a prevalent problem she has personally witnessed while traveling abroad.
According to Jackson, exportation not only puts the receiving country in danger – as much of the e-waste is dumped in developing areas, leading to health issues – but it also takes away potential revenue from American recyclers that miss out on recovering rare earth metals and valuable plastics.
The responsible management of electronics provides an opportunity to create economic development and American jobs while strengthening relations abroad by adopting a more structured stewardship plan, which has reportedly been in the works for years.
Jackson said monitoring the domestic recycling of electronics will be the first step in bettering the country’s mounting e-waste issues. There are two existing domestic third-party certification recycling entities, R2 and E-Stewards. Along with Wednesday’s announcement, the EPA also signed a voluntary commitment with Dell Inc. CEO Michael Dell and Sprint CEO Dan Hesse to promote a U.S.-based electronics recycling market.
“A robust electronics recycling industry in America would create new opportunities to efficiently and
profitably address a growing pollution threat,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “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.”
But while the government will shift much of its attention on American recyclers, Jackson said quantifying just how much the U.S. is exporting overseas will be as equally important in promoting better e-cycling. She said the government plans on tapping into its longstanding relationships with other countries to achieve this “fundamental first step” in dealing with international waste issues.
The country’s e-waste battle is far from over, but the federal government’s much-anticipated move is big victory for the industry.