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National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship
Frequent Questions – July 20, 2011


Overall Questions

What is being announced?

White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Nancy Sutley, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, and General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Martha Johnson announced today the issuance of the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship (National Strategy).

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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 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.

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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 implementing 20 specific projects in support of achieving the goals.

The National Strategy’s overarching goals are to:

Several of the National Strategy’s key projects are as follows:

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How can I get a copy of the National Strategy?

On Wednesday, July 20th, the National Strategy (PDF) (34 pp, 559K, about PDF) was posted on the websites of CEQ, EPA and GSA. The National Strategy was also posted on FedCenter, the Federal government’s home for comprehensive environmental stewardship and compliance assistance information, in that website’s Electronic Stewardship section.

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Why does this matter?

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, increase the value of American exports, and support a vibrant American recycling and refurbishing industry. If done properly, we can increase our domestic recycling efforts, limit the volume of exported e-waste being handled unsafely in developing countries, 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, federal agencies are working together on various initiatives that will further our progress towards these goals.

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How was the National Strategy developed?

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Nancy Sutley established the Interagency Task Force to develop a national strategy and recommendations for areas of Federal agency operational and managerial improvement associated with electronics stewardship. The Task Force was co-chaired EPA, GSA and CEQ, and was 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. This National Strategy includes recommendations for a number of departments and agencies across the Federal Government.

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Which Federal departments and agencies were involved in the drafting of the National Strategy?

The National Strategy was developed by the Interagency Task Force on Electronics Stewardship, which consisted of 16 Federal departments and agencies. The Task Force was convened by CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, and GSA Administrator Martha Johnson.

The following Federal Government departments and agencies contributed to the National Strategy and participated in drafting the recommendations:

White House Council on Environmental Quality Department of Energy
Environmental Protection Agency Department of Labor
General Services Administration Department of Justice
Office of Management and Budget Department of State
Office of the US Trade Representative Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Commerce Federal Communications Commission
Department of Defense Customs and Border Protection
Department of Education US Postal Service

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Did state and local government, tribes and other stakeholders or the public provide any input?

Yes. 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 where comments could be submitted. About 130 unique sets of comments were received in response to the notice, including 2050 letters from a mail-in campaign. The Task Force also conducted three listening sessions, with State and local governments, with industry (manufacturers, retailers, and recyclers), and with nonprofits.

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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:

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Why is accredited third-party certified electronics recycling a key component of the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship 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. Currently two accredited certification standards programs exist in the United States: the Responsible Recycling Practices (R2) and the e-Stewards® standards. These certification programs are based on strong environmental standards that 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. For more information about third-party certified electronics recyclers.

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How can companies work with EPA to improve recycling?

EPA is advancing an action item under the National Strategy by launching collaboration with the electronics industry to increase its use of recycling certification programs. Dell, Sony and Sprint — companies that use recycling certification programs — demonstrate leadership and social responsibility through shared principles on the responsible stewardship of used electronics, including the belief that:

As the next steps in this collaborative effort, EPA will work with industry and other stakeholders to help grow the domestic recycling market, create the green jobs of the future in the United States, and educate consumers.

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What makes an electronic device ‘greener’?

Greener and more sustainable electronics may include the following characteristics:

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Will the changes to the Federal Management Regulation go through the full regulatory process as opposed to being issued in guidance documents?

The National Strategy calls on GSA to update its regulations for managing electronics used by the Federal government. GSA will propose draft regulations through a public process.

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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.

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How will 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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What are the implications for the Computers for Learning Program?

By improving the way Federal agencies separate functional and non-functional equipment, the revised Federal Electronics Stewardship Policy will make more computers available for schools to re-use. And by developing resources for schools to dispose of computers at the end of their useful life, Federal agencies will help those schools improve their electronics stewardship practices.

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General Qs & As on Electronics, Recycling, and Certification

How can I find a certified electronics recycling program?

EPA encourages owners of electronics they no longer need but are unable to sell or donate, to consider recyclers that have been certified by an accredited, independent certification auditor to standards that require safe and environmentally protective handling of used electronics. To obtain a list of R2 and e-Stewards certified recyclers, contact R2 Solutions Exit EPA and e-Stewards Exit EPA respectively. Homeowners and renters should check with local municipality or solid waste district to learn if there are electronics collection programs or events in their community. TheElectronic Industries Alliance Exit EPA, and Earth 911 Exit EPAwebsites identify electronic equipment recycling programs in many areas around the country.

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How can a company or an individual find out if a local electronics recycling program uses recyclers that are certified?

Each recycler may follow different practices, and users will need to decide which electronics recycler will do the job they need done, offer the services they require, and minimize their environmental and informational liability at an acceptable cost. Firms and organizations should seek recyclers that are third-party certified to an accredited electronics recycler certification program. EPA encourages use of electronics recyclers certified to standards that require safe handling of used electronics and adherence to high environmental standards. See EPA’s eCycling Certification page for more information.

EPA encourages firms and individuals to find out if a recycler they are considering has been certified by an accredited, independent certification auditor to standards that require safe and environmentally protective handling of used electronics. The ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) Exit EPA provides a list of organizations that certify electronics recyclers to the R2 and e-Stewards recycling standards.

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Does EPA prefer one or the other of these electronics recycling certification programs?

EPA is aware of both of these programs, and does not have a preference for either one. Using recyclers that have been certified to either of these programs will significantly advance environmentally sound recycling where ever it is managed.

As part of the National Strategy, GSA will issue a revised Federal Electronics Stewardship Policy to bring Federal management of used electronics in line with current best practices, and EPA will develop baseline criteria for electronics recycling standards for managing the Federal Government’s used electronics. GSA will then determine which certification programs satisfy agencies’ requirements to use certified recyclers under the revised Federal Electronics Stewardship Policy. GSA will re-evaluate that determination at least once every three years.

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