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Environmental Protection Agency News

Recycling Electronics

If donation for reuse or repair is not a viable option, households and businesses can send their used electronics for recycling. Recyclers recover more than 100 million pounds of materials from electronics each year. Recycling electronics helps reduce pollution that would be generated while manufacturing a new product and the need to extract valuable and limited virgin resources. It also reduces the energy used in new product manufacturing.

One thousand or more municipalities offer computer and electronics collections as part of household hazardous waste collections, special events, or other arrangements. In addition, public and private organizations have emerged that accept computers and other electronics for recycling. Depending on where you live and the amount of equipment you have, the best recycling option might be a county recycling drop-off center, TV repair shop, charitable organization, electronics recycling company, or even your local electronics retailer, which might collect used products and send them to a recycler. You can learn more about local electronics recyclers and collection events at EIA Environment - Consumer Education Initiative and at My Green Electronics .

Many electronics manufacturers are accepting used household electronics for recycling. In some cases, these services are provided free-of-charge. Asset management and recovery programs have been available to major corporations and large purchasers of electronic equipment for quite some time. Now, electronics manufacturers are beginning to offer similar services for households and small businesses. The consumer pays to mail the product back. Fees keep changing, but generally range from seven dollars up. Some manufacturers and retailers are offering free or for-a-fee events in communities.

Buying Green

Environmentally responsible electronics use involves not only proper end-of-life disposition of obsolete equipment, but also purchasing new equipment that has been designed with environmentally preferable attributes. Think about this when purchasing new equipment, and ask your retailer or electronics supplier about environmentally preferable electronics. Households, companies, and governmental organizations can encourage electronics manufacturers to design greener electronics by purchasing computers and other electronics with environmentally preferable attributes and by requesting takeback options at the time of purchase. Look for electronics that:

- Contain fewer toxic constituents.
- Use recycled materials in the new product.
- Are energy efficient (e.g., showing the Energy Star label).
- Are designed for easy upgrading or disassembly.
- Use minimal packaging.
- Offer leasing or takeback options.
- Meet performance criteria showing they are environmentally preferable.

Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a procurement tool to help institutional purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. EPEAT also provides a clear and consistent set of performance criteria for the design of products, and provides an opportunity for manufacturers to secure market recognition for efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its products.

Reuse, Recycling, and Greener Purchasing of Electronics

The Plug-In To eCycling Campaign is one of many efforts EPA is using to increase the national recycling rate to 35 percent, among other goals. The campaign aims to get the word out about opportunities to reuse and recycle your old computers, TVs, and cell phones, and to build momentum for even more reuse and recycling programs. Under the RCC, EPA is working with electronics manufacturers, retailers, and government agencies to reduce the environmental impacts of electronic products during their production, use, and disposal. The Agency will also establish partnerships and alliances with industry, states and environmental groups; provide training, tools and technology assistance for businesses, governments and citizen groups and get the word out through outreach and assistance to the general population, especially to youth and minority groups.

Overall, EPA's goal is to promote greater electronics product stewardship. Product stewardship means that all who make, distribute, use, and dispose of products share responsibility for reducing the environmental impact of those products. EPA intends to work towards this goal in three ways:

Foster a life-cycle approach to product stewardship, including environmentally conscious design, manufacturing, and toxics reduction for new electronic products.
Increase reuse and recycling of used electronics; and
Ensure that management of old electronics is safe and environmentally sound.

EPA is currently working with stakeholders in both the public and private sectors to meet these goals. The aim is to make it easier and more cost-effective for consumers, retailers, recyclers, manufacturers, and governments at all levels to help divert these products into environmentally sound reuse and recycling outlets, as well as reduce the environmental footprint of electronic product use.

EPA's Product Stewardship supports multistakeholder dialogues, collection pilots, public education, and international cooperation to foster greater awareness and coordination of electronics reuse and recycling issues.

EPA's Design for the Environment Program works with electronics manufacturers to incorporate environmental considerations into product design.

EPA's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program helps federal agencies purchase environmentally preferable products and services, including electronics.

Energy Star Program promotes energy-efficient products through its labeling and education program.

EPA's WasteWise Program challenges its partners to set goals for reducing electronics waste.