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National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship
Frequent Questions



Overall Questions


What is the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship?

In proclaiming November 15, 2010, “America Recycles Day,” President Obama called on all Americans to manage our resources more sustainably through recycling and directed the Federal government to create a framework enabling it to protect public health and the environment from the negative impacts of the unsafe or improper handling of used electronics and take advantage of economic development opportunities associated with sustainable materials management. Recycling not only preserves our environment, but also contributes to job creation and economic development.

The National Strategy (34 pp, 559K, about PDF) carries out the President’s directive by identifying a leadership role for the US Government, creating incentives for the design of greener electronics and increased domestic electronics recycling, and promoting more responsible management of used electronics with our trade partners. The National Strategy results from collaboration among 16 Federal departments and agencies, as well as consultation with stakeholders from the electronics, retail and recycling industries, environmental organizations, state and local governments, and concerned citizens.

What are the main actions in the National Strategy?

The National Strategy is organized around achieving four goals. The departments and agencies implementing the National Strategy have committed to 20 specific projects in support of achieving the goals.

The National Strategy’s overarching goals are to:

Accomplishments as of July 2014 are detailed in Moving Sustainable Electronics Forward: An Update to the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship (PDF) (25 pp, 522 Kb)

Are the goals of the National Strategy being met?

The National Strategy continues to serve as the unifying framework for federal agencies to purchase greener electronics and to sustainably manage used electronics. Federal agencies have embraced the National Strategy, completing projects that make electronics purchasing, management, and disposal more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly. The National Strategy has also led to successful collaboration between all levels of government, the electronics industry, non-governmental organizations and academia has dramatically altered electronics stewardship in the United States in a short period of time.

In July 2014, the Task Force released Moving Sustainable Electronics Forward: An Update to the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship (PDF) (25 pp, 522 Kb), an accomplishments report highlighting some of the key achievements made under the National Strategy. A few of the key achievements include:

Other efforts led by non-governmental stakeholders are also highlighted in this report along with actions that are led by the federal government. Though not an exhaustive list, the section “Complementary Electronics Efforts” highlights a few key efforts that were not specific recommendations from the NSES but have helped contribute to enhance national stewardship overall. Some efforts are led by federal agencies but others are driven by the private sector and other stakeholders.

In addition, an annex of benchmarks is available online, listing each of project, the primary agency responsible for the project, any supporting agencies, and the target date for completion of the project.

Why do we need the National Strategy?

The EPA estimates that, in 2009, 438 million electronic products were sold in the US, and 2.4 million tons were ready for end-of-life management; both numbers are increasing substantially each year. As President Obama has stated, the United States must increase its capacity to responsibly recycle our used electronics. This can create green jobs, lead to more productive reuse of valuable materials, and support a vibrant American recycling and refurbishing industry. If done properly, we can increase our domestic recycling efforts, reduce the volume of e-waste that are managed unsafely both domestically and abroad, strengthen domestic and international markets for viable and functional used electronic products and prevent health and environmental threats at home and abroad. As discussed in the National Strategy (PDF) and in the 2014 accomplishments report (PDF), federal agencies are working together on various initiatives that will further our progress towards these goals.

How was the National Strategy developed?

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) established the Interagency Task Force to develop the National Strategy and recommendations for areas of Federal agency operational and managerial improvement associated with electronics stewardship. The Task Force is co-chaired EPA, GSA and CEQ, and comprised of representatives from pertinent Agencies from across the Federal Government. The Task Force also requested and received input from electronics stakeholders by holding a public comment period and soliciting written comments, as well as holding a series of in-person and by-phone listening sessions. Comments were reviewed in the development of the recommendations and are also being considered during implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations. The National Strategy includes recommendations for a number of departments and agencies across the Federal Government.

Which Federal departments and agencies are involved in the National Strategy?

The National Strategy was developed by the Interagency Task Force on Electronics Stewardship, which consisted of 16 Federal departments and agencies:

White House Council on Environmental QualityDepartment of Energy
Environmental Protection AgencyDepartment of Labor
General Services AdministrationDepartment of Justice
Office of Management and BudgetDepartment of State
Office of the US Trade RepresentativeDepartment of Veterans Affairs
Department of CommerceFederal Communications Commission
Department of DefenseCustoms and Border Protection
Did state and local government, tribes, other stakeholders, or the public provide input?

Yes, during the development of the National Strategy the Task Force solicited and obtained input from stakeholders and the public. In particular, the Task Force invited public and stakeholder comments by publishing a Federal Register notice that described the issues and the efforts to develop the National Strategy, and provided a website for comments submittal. About 130 unique sets of comments were received in response to the notice, including 2,050 letters from a mail-in campaign. The Task Force also conducted three listening sessions, with State and local governments, with the electronics industry (manufacturers, retailers, and recyclers), and with nonprofits.

Why should we manage used electronics more sustainably?

Electronic products are made from valuable resources and highly engineered materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, all of which require energy to mine and manufacture them. Reusing and recycling consumer electronics conserves our natural resources and avoids air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions that are caused by manufacturing virgin materials. For example:

Please visit EPA's eCycling page for more information on the benefits of electronics recycling.

Why is accredited third-party certified electronics recycling a key component of the National Strategy and what does it mean?

Responsible electronics recycling provides important benefits, such as: reducing environmental and human health impacts from improper recycling; increasing access to quality, reusable and refurbished equipment to those who need them; and reducing energy use and other environmental impacts associated with mining and processing of virgin materials — conserving our limited natural resources. Two accredited certification programs are widely used in the United States: the Responsible Recycling Practices (R2) and the e-Stewards® standards. These certification programs share common elements that help to maximize reuse and recycling, minimize exposure to human health or the environment, ensure safe management of materials by downstream handlers, and require destruction of all data on used electronics. To become certified, electronics recyclers must demonstrate to an accredited, independent third-party auditor that they meet the specific standards of the particular program to safely recycle and manage electronics. Once certified, recyclers are held to the particular standard by continual oversight by the independent, third party accredited certifying bodies.

Please visit EPA's third-party certified electronics recyclers page for more detailed information. A map of certified electronics refurbishing and recycling facilities is available online as well.

How can companies work with EPA to improve recycling?

Under the National Strategy, the EPA launched the Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Electronics Challenge. The SMM Electronics Challenge is a national effort under EPA's Sustainable Materials Management Program. The objective of the SMM Electronics Challenge is to advance the responsible management of used electronics by challenging manufacturers and retailers to voluntarily commit to sending 100 percent of used electronics collected for reuse and recycling to third party certified recyclers, increasing the total amount of used electronics collected for reuse and recycling, and publically posting information and data.

By challenging participants to committing to send 100 percent of used electronics collected to certified recyclers and refurbishers, challenge participants are helping to ensure that the used electronics they collect will be responsibly managed by recyclers that: maximize reuse and recycling; minimize exposure to human health or the environment, help ensure the safe management of materials by downstream handlers and require destruction of all data stored on used electronics.

What makes an electronic device 'greener'?

Greener and more sustainable electronics may include the following characteristics:

The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) has more information on sustainable electronics design.

What is the General Services Administration doing with regard to how the Federal government should manage its used electronics?

GSA issued a Proposed Rule to revise Federal Management Regulation (FMR) 102-36. Most of this change deals with how the Federal government should handle its used electronics. The comments received on the proposed rule will be addressed and incorporated into a Final Rule regulation FMR 103-36. Further information on GSA’s electronics stewardship efforts is available online at www.gsa.gov/electronics.

Are manufacturers or recyclers required to comply with any aspects of the National Strategy?

Manufacturers and recyclers who seek business with the Federal Government will have to comply with certain requirements. These manufacturers will have to use certified recyclers to handle Federal electronics they collect through take-back agreements with Federal agencies, and recyclers who handle used Federal electronics will have to seek third-party certification.

How does GSA encourage companies to adopt greener designs?

GSA will begin to represent the Federal consumer in the EPEAT development process and help to expand EPEAT to cover additional product types and environmental impacts. At the same time, it will remove non-EPEAT and non-ENERGY STAR products from standing Government-wide information technology acquisition contracts, improve training for Federal IT and procurement professionals on green electronics requirements, and encourage manufacturers to expand and improve product take-back programs by incorporating them in more government acquisition contracts.

 

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