News Brief

Obama Administration Plans for Greener Electronics

By Evan Dick

This electronics recycling drive sponsored by the City of West Hollywood netted old and broken consumer electronics. A new federal interagency task force has several goals aimed at safely dealing with e-waste, including increasing consumer access to certified recycling centers.

Photo: Joshua Barash
With millions of tons of used electronics going to landfills every year, electronic waste, or “e-waste,” is the fastest-growing waste stream in the U.S. When disposed of improperly, it is far more hazardous than most other trash, with toxic heavy metals and flame retardants that can leach into groundwater.

A federal interagency task force is attempting to address these issues with a strategy designed to increase the environmental sustainability of the entire life cycle of electronic devices. Key recommendations of the “National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship,” released in July 2011, include offering incentive programs for the development of more efficient electronic products; instructing government agencies to buy, use, reuse, and recycle electronics responsibly; and creating more recycling options for consumers.

The strategy also recommends an increase in stewardship in developing countries, where many used electronic devices are sold cheaply. These electronics are often recycled by people living in or near dumps and working as scavengers, collecting and breaking down electronics into recyclable components.

According to the interagency task force, the strategy will not only protect public health and the environment but will also create new jobs in electronics recycling. For more information, see www.epa.gov/electronicsstrategy.

Published August 30, 2011

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