How the U.S. Should Deal With Its Piles of E-Waste

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 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.

Related stories:

Bill To Ban E-Waste Export Introduced

Recycling E-Waste Harms Developing Countries

Finding Loopholes in California’s Electronic Waste Recycling Act

Photo: U.S. Army Environmental Command


Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran5 years ago


Guy Kimble
Guy Kimble6 years ago

The United States needs to do more in providing recycle programs for e-waste and help create jobs at the same time.

Art Henschen
Art Henschen6 years ago

I am appalled that the vast majority of e-waste ends up in China. They know how to recover any and all intellectual property contained internally on hard drives and memory boards. Besides international espionage efforts where do you think they get their information.E-WASTE

Elena B.
Elena Belikova6 years ago

In general, I see it as greed&pride problem. Manufactures are not interested in producing something very long lasting. If they do, what would they win when everyone has got their products? They need to "improve" them every time to make us buy new and new models. And we (many of us) like to have the latest model. Many people buy just because they see there is something biger, more beautiful, etc. than what they have. Besides, for many it's the matter of prestige (pride again). So, even when we have something still working, we buy something new anyway.
To resolve all our problems we would need to change as human beings, to grow up as souls.

Lilithe Magdalene

Time for legislation to make electronic last longer! No more quicky WalMart gadget shopping trips!

I LOVE my technology - I am on disability, and it is my connection to the world. But I would see it be appropriate tech, and I am sorry for the way I have contributed, but I pray that our global connection will bring us all together to shift the balance of decision making, wisdom and a new way of being on the earth!

Pamela Snook
Pamela Snook6 years ago

As I type this on my laptop which at this time is essential for communication because that's what so many require for "keeping up" or communicating in both professional and personal areas I feel I am hypocritical in stating how much I resent the planned obsolescence in the electronic industry. I love this article. Don't know what all the answers are. But, I wish that when I buy a communication device I could expect it to last indefinitely instead of breaking down or becoming outdated by an industry that is motivated by the bottom line.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

We've become too much of a throw-away society. Our electronic gadgets should be upgradable and repairable. It is greed on the part of the manufactures and retailers that they are not upgradable or repairable. They only way they will change their attitudes and greed if we do it first. Supply and DEMAND.

Joellen G.

i think everyone has said it all. we're all responsible for purchasing it, and not pressuring the stores where we shop for longer-usable computers with reasonably priced replacement parts. your local gov't is going to have to force responsible recycling, just as they have with yard waste. run for local gov't seats, or form a small group to visit yours regularly and be a dog with a bone until they come up with a solution. this is an easy local project.

the federal gov should have fed laws, but d.c. can get little done these days, nor do they seem to want to, re the environment. our children and grandchildren will curse them, and blame them (and us for allowing it) and rightly so.

sondra oppedisano

I agree with Randi, Carol and Lisa. Honestly, we should have the appropriate place to deal with our "garbage" and the easiest solution is for manufacturers to reuse the older equipment. Make it look snazzy if you prefer, but don't make new "garbage". Manufacturers should be fined if they do not accept and recycle old equipment.

Lisa L.
Lisa L6 years ago

While many of us would have great difficulty abandoning the technology that generates e-waste, largely due to the way it has come to dominate so many workplaces, we ALL have the capacity--and the responsibility to the planet and the future--not to indulge ourselves in mere playthings. That includes tablet computers, and, perhaps especially, Kindle, Nook, etc. They serve no unique or necessary function for anyone!