How We Can Build on EPA E-Waste Strategy
The EPA has finally provided helpful e-waste direction, despite the fact that A National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship has received mixed reviews from the environmental community, as Bart Porter reports in his blog. So how can we now increase the amount of e-waste recycling in the United States, while still ensuring that discarded electronics are managed safely and with the proper business practices?
The first step is to add more value to low- and mid-range electronics, by means of additional recyclable resources. (Learn more in my previous blog). Next, we must execute broad buy-back resource recovery programs and other effective reimbursement mechanisms to create wider incentives to collect this material for proper disposal. All of this must be done in a fully transparent fashion.
These days, many electronic items are made with cost-cutting measures as their primary goal, resulting in e-waste being discarded, due to a lack of recycled content and/or the unfeasibility of extracting the high-value constituent materials. We must change that dynamic.
Electronics manufactures might also look at the following suggestions to ease their recycling costs:
- Extend the life of the items by supporting repairs, upgrades and resale
- Provide tech support for resold and refurbished products
- Provide refurbished equipment with a warranty program
- Provide take-back programs for all new and refurbished consumer units
- Increase overall resource value in electronics, by avoiding use of non-standard or heat set, coated polymers
- Develop a “safe plant” e-waste processing infrastructure
- To promote investment, eliminate unfair Third World e-waste business practices
- To promote investment, eliminate prison labor and uncontrolled e-waste processes
- Eliminate uncontrolled Third World export of e-waste
- Provide e-waste toxin accountability, with documented chain of custody
- Require full domestic e-waste-to-resources conversion/treatment
- Control processes that fractionalized and then “co-mingle” e-waste components lacking mill or smelter-ready recyclables
- Mandate that e-waste processes must generate U.S.-grade smelter/mill-ready e-metal products
- Require U.S. e-waste processes to generate RCRA exempt scrap from all e-waste
- Properly manage e-waste fractions containing toxins or those with a potentially negative environmental impact
- Assess the U.S. e-waste processing environment and make environmental health & safety improvement as required
I’m encouraged that the EPA is making the right moves, at the right time. Proper handling of e-waste is a potential generator of Green IT jobs, in addition to the obvious beneficial environmental impacts. These are two good reasons for our country to have a green position on e-waste.