EPA Hails E-Recycling Progress and Opportunities to Improve

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report showing progress in e-recycling (electronic waste recycling) on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 in Washington D.C. Additionally, EPA representatives identified opportunities for the EPA to advance G7’s recognition of circular economy through efficient use throughout the lifecycle of natural resources.

The Advancing Sustainable Materials Management Facts and Figures Report

The EPA released a report titled Advancing Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Facts and Figures that shows growing consumer recycling of electronics in the U.S.

Consumer electronics recycling rose to over 40 percent in 2013, compared to 30.6 percent in 2012. This was the year that the EPA first launched their electronics challenge designed to promote the more responsible recycling of used electronic items. SMM (tdhe EPA’s electronics recycling initiative introduced in 2013) is a systematic approach to using and reusing materials more productively over the entire lifecycle. This allows the EPA to identify opportunities to conserve resources, reduce costs, and reduce environmental impacts.

The EPA is providing science and information to the public to promote the management of sustainable materials. The EPA is also creating challenges aimed at specific sectors to achieve shared goals, and holding discussions with key SMM stakeholders.

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The SMM and the G7 Natural Resources Commitment

Through the SMM, the EPA seeks to use materials in the most productive and sustainable method throughout their lifecycle, while it minimizes the amount of materials involved and the associated environmental impacts. Earlier in June 2015, the G7 Alliance made a commitment to ambitious action advancing efficient use throughout the lifecycle of natural resources.

The Alliance on Resources Efficiency will also foster innovation on a voluntary basis with businesses and other stakeholders, including the public sector, civil society, academia and research institutions, and consumers.

50 Million Tons of Electronic Waste Each Year

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in America’s cities. Existing space in landfills is quickly being used up. Between 20 and 50 million tons of electronic waste is disposed of each year, including CRT and LCD monitors, LCD televisions, plasma television, portable DVD players with LCD screens, computers, laptops, printers, cellphones, and other portable electronics. While many of these items include materials that could be reclaimed and reused, instead it is left to degrade in landfills where it will become a dangerous environmental pollutant as toxic chemicals leak into the ground, contaminating land and water with substance harmful to plant, animal, and human life.

Recycling Progress and Challenges

The EPA’s SMM Electronics Challenge promotes responsible recycling of electronics through retailers and equipment manufacturers. Challenge participants agree that by the third year of their Challenge participation, they will send 100% of used electronics to a certified recycler. The certified recycler is a recognized third-party organization, and the Challenge participants agree to publicly report their electronics recycling progress. This helps in ensuring that e-recycling is performed diligently and with the maximum benefit to the planet and our industry.

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