The U.S. generates three million tons of e-waste a year, second only to China, where much of the e-waste ends up. A report by the EPA lists recommendations to reduce e-waste, which include building incentives for designing greener electronics, and enhancing research and technology.
The report also lists recommendations on what the federal government can do:
- Establish a comprehensive and transparent government-wide policy on used Federal electronics that maximizes reuse, clears data and information stored on used equipment, and ensures that all Federal electronics are processed by certified recyclers.
- Encourage electronics manufacturers 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.
- Require and enable recipients of former Federal equipment that has been sold, transferred, or donated for reuse to use certified recyclers and follow other environmentally sound practices to the greatest extent possible.
- Improve tracking of used Federal electronics throughout the lifecycle and post comprehensive data sets on Data.gov and other publicly accessible websites.
- Support ratification of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.
The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2011
The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2011 (HR 2284), introduced into the House in June, would ban sending toxic e-waste to developing nations. It has a good chance of passing as it has bipartisan support. Big manufacturers support the bill, including Dell, HP, Samsung, Apple and Best Buy.
Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, stated, “This is the most important step our federal government can take to solve the e-waste problem – to close the door on e-waste dumping on developing countries.” She also notes that this could bring much-needed jobs to the US in the recycling sphere.
“As an industry leader in product lifecycle improvements, HP does not allow the export of e-waste from developed countries to developing countries. We support the work of Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) to pass the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, and we encourage other companies to join the effort and promote responsible recycling,” said Ashley Watson, vice president and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer for HP.