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Mixed reactions to US e-waste strategy

USA – In the USA, an Interagency Task Force – chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the General Services Administration (GSA) – has released a national strategy document for electronics stewardship.

From left: Dell CEO Michael Dell, Lisa Jackson, and Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint

This outlines the federal government’s aims of: promoting the development of more efficient and sustainable electronic products; directing federal agencies to buy, use, reuse and recycle their electronics responsibly; supporting recycling options and systems for American consumers; and strengthening America’s role in the international electronics stewardship arena.
A key component is use of certified recyclers as well as increasing safe and effective management and handling of used electronics in the USA. As a first step in this effort, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has signed a voluntary commitment with Dell Inc.’s CEO Michael Dell and Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse to promote a US-based electronics recycling market. 
The GSA’s Administrator Martha Johnson says: ‘The nation’s largest single consumer of electronics, the federal government, will now be the nation’s most responsible user of electronics. The steps outlined in the report will ensure that government leads by example and that the billions of dollars in IT equipment the government cycles through annually will be either reused or recycled properly.’ 
Reactions elsewhere have been mixed. The US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), a prominent stakeholder in the R2 e-waste processing certification programme, has praised the Obama Administration for taking ‘concrete, practical steps’. According to ISRI’s President Robin Wiener, the Administration’s announcement closely mirrors her organisation’s position for stepped up enforcement of the federal CRT rule to stop illegal exports, increased third-party certifications of responsible recyclers and continued exchange of US technology and best practices to help strengthen the environmentally responsible processing of electronics globally.
But Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator of the Electronic TakeBack Coalition, a national environmental grouping which promotes responsible recycling of e-waste, laments: ‘We are very disappointed that the task force missed the opportunity handed to them by President Obama’s mandate to truly lead by example and ensure that all federal agencies do the right thing and not export obsolete used electronic equipment unless it is fully functional. We have other companies like Dell, HP, Apple, Samsung that have set the leadership bar there, so I don’t understand why our own federal government can’t do the same with its own e-waste.’

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