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International Programs

Cleaning Up Electronic Waste (E-Waste)

New Report on E-Waste Exit EPA disclaimer

In December 2013, the United Nations University’s Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative published “Quantitative Characterization of Domestic and Transboundary Flows of Used Electronics: Analysis of Generation, Collection, and Export in the United States,”Exit EPA disclaimer a report produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Center for Electronics Recycling, funded by EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs as a commitment under the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship (NSES).

EPA has recognized the need for a scientific-based approach to getting better information on e-waste flows from the United States. Partnering with UNU’s StEP Initiative has moved us closer to that goal. Specifically, EPA committed to “improve information on trade flows and handling of used electronics,” which this report accomplishes.

From computers and cell phones, to portable communication and music devices
-- the United States of America is a global leader in designing and developing new and improved electronic technologies. With this vibrant innovation, however, comes the increasing challenge of protecting human health and the environment from the potentially harmful effects of poorly managed manufacturing, use, recovery, recycling and disposal of these products.

Currently, most discarded consumer elctronics end up in our landfills. While accurate data on the amount of e-waste being exported from the U.S. are not available, the United States government is concerned that these exports are being mismanaged abroad, causing serious public health and environmental hazards, and representing a lost opportunity to recover valuable resources effectively. U.S. laws and regulations are limited in their ability to prevent harmful exports of used electronics to developing countries.

While EPA continues to build upon its domestic efforts of improving management of discarded used electronics to minimize the growing stream of e-waste and to increase the recycling and reuse of these materials, EPA’s international efforts focus on addressing the problems caused when used electronics are exported to developing countries that lack the capacity to manage them safely, causing human health and environmental impacts amongst workers and communities. EPA efforts support the United States government's National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, which details the federal government’s plan to enhance the management of electronics throughout the product lifecycle

EPA collaborates with the United Nations University - Solving the E-waste Problem Initiative (StEP) Exit EPA disclaimer to jointly address the e-waste problem in developing countries. EPA and StEP signed a cooperative agreement on this topic in November 2010. EPA and StEP are working collaboratively on tracking global flows of e-waste, strengthening Ethiopia's efforts to manage e-waste and engaging with China on e-waste management practices. EPA is a founding member of StEP and serves on the StEP Steering Committee.

Multilateral Cooperation

In addition to country-specific capacity building, EPA engages in longer-term multilateral cooperation with key international organizations to address the export of used electronics from one country to another and its ramifications.

Basel Convention and the Basel Secretariat: Although the U.S. is not party to the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, Exit EPA disclaimer EPA continues to be engaged in Basel activities, including the Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE). Exit EPA disclaimer PACE develops guidance on key policy issues and supports capacity-building to developing countries on used electronics and e-waste issues and a variety of capacity-building programs, including programs in West Africa (PDF) Exit EPA disclaimer, through a public-private stakeholder process.

Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP): StEP, Exit EPA disclaimer part of the UN University, is a multi-stakeholder initiative to better understand and "solve" the global problem of e-waste. EPA is a partner in StEP and is a member of the Steering Committee.

Interpol: Interpol Exit EPA disclaimer is an international police force, with 188 member countries. Interpol has established a Global E-Waste Crime Group to develop a multi-national enforcement strategy to control the illegal trade of e-waste Exit EPA disclaimer and EPA is a partner in that group. In May, 2010, Interpol held a meeting of the Global E-Waste Crimes Group Exit EPA disclaimer in Alexandria, VA, co-hosted by EPA.

INECE: The International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) Exit EPA disclaimer is a global environmental enforcement and compliance network. EPA has been involved in INECE since its inception.

North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC): Canada, Mexico and the United States are collaborating on the sound management of e-waste in North America through the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC). One project involves describing the transboundary movement, or flows, of used and end-of-life computers, monitors and other electronic equipment both within, and exported from, North America. A second project involves enhancing the capability of small and medium-sized enterprises to recycle and refurbish e-waste using sound environmental practices.

Back to: International Priorities - Electronics Waste


For additional information on EPA's international work on e-waste, contact:

Stephanie Adrian
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
E-mail: adrian.stephanie@epa.gov
(202) 564-6444

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