SMM Electronics Challenge Questions and Answers
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- What are the benefits of the SMM Electronics Challenge?
- What does it mean to be a certified electronics recycler?
- What are the goals of the SMM Electronics Challenge?
- Are the Dell, Sony, and Sprint commitments made in July 2011 part of the SMM Electronics Challenge?
- How does the SMM Electronics Challenge relate to EPA’s Plug-In to eCycling program?
- What is the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship?
- How is the SMM Electronics Challenge tied to the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship?
- Is electronics recycling a robust, growing industry?
- Why should we reuse and recycle used electronics?
- How can I find out if my electronics recycling program uses certified recyclers?
The EPA estimates that, in 2009, 438 million electronic products were sold in the US, and 2.5 million tons were ready for end-of-life management; both numbers are increasing substantially each year. As President Obama has stated, Americans must increase our 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 used electronics being handled unsafely in developing countries, strengthen domestic and international markets for viable and functional used electronic products, conserve natural resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent health and environmental pollution threats at home and abroad.
By committing to sending 100% of used electronics collected to certified recyclers and refurbishers, challenge participants are ensuring 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, ensure the safe management of materials by downstream handlers, and require destruction of all data on used electronics.
Certified electronics recyclers have demonstrated through audits and other means that they continually meet specific high environmental standards and safely manage used electronics. Currently two accredited certification standards exist: the Responsible Recycling Practices (R2) and the e-Stewards® standards. Both certification programs share common elements that ensure responsible recycling of used electronics. These programs advance best management practices and offer a way to assess the environmental, worker health, and security practices of entities managing used electronics. Once certified, recyclers are held to the particular standard by continual oversight by the independent, third party accredited certifying body. A certification accreditation board accredits certifying bodies and oversees certifying bodies to ensure that they meet specific responsibilities and are competent to audit and provide certification. EPA supports and will continue to push for continuous improvement of electronics recycling practices and standards.
SMM Electronics Challenge goals are to:
- Ensure responsible recycling through the use of third-party certified recyclers;
- Increase transparency and accountability through public posting of electronics collection and recycling data; and
- Encourage outstanding performance through awards and recognition.
On July 2011, with the roll out of the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, Dell, Sony and Sprint publically committed to go above and beyond current recycling standards by using third-party certified recyclers and implementing comprehensive and transparent used electronics management strategies. Due to the valuable experience of working with the Dell, Sony, and Sprint commitments, EPA shaped a program that allows electronics manufacturers and retailers to commit to different levels of participation without compromising the overreaching goal of safe management of used electronics. Consequently, the SMM Electronics Challenge goes beyond the Dell, Sony and Sprint commitments in a number of areas and is a more rigorous and comprehensive program. More on current participants
The SMM Electronics Challenge reflects an evolution of EPA’s former Plug-In To e-Cycling program, which offered consumers easily accessible used electronics recycling opportunities through leading manufacturers and retailers. Today, the SMM Electronics Challenge builds on the Plug-In To eCycling program by strengthening commitments to responsible used electronics management by participating manufacturers and retailers.
With the SMM Electronics Challenge, EPA is advancing the responsible management of used electronics by challenging manufacturers and retailers to voluntarily commit to sending 100% of used electronics collected for reuse and recycling to third-party certified recyclers, and increasing the total amount of used electronics collected. Importantly, through this voluntary challenge EPA is providing for a transparent and measurable way for electronics manufacturers to show publically the degree of progress they make towards reuse and recycling goals.
This new program allows for participants to determine the appropriate level of participation for their company and gradually increase their commitment to a level that shows outstanding leadership in ensuring responsible management of used electronics during reuse and recycling.
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. The National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship carries out the President’s intentions 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 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.
On July 20, 2011, a presidential taskforce released the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, which details the federal government’s plan to enhance the management of electronics throughout the product lifecycle. The National Strategy ensures Federal agencies will: (1) promote the development of more efficient and sustainable electronics products; (2) buy, use, reuse and recycle their electronics responsibly; (3) support safe and effective recycling options and systems for American consumers; and (4) strengthen America’s role in international electronics stewardship.
Under the National Strategy, EPA committed to launching voluntary partnerships with the electronics industry to ensure that responsible electronics recycling is easily accessible and available to those who make decisions regarding disposal of unwanted electronics products. The SMM Electronics Challenge supports this effort and will help to achieve the broad and important goal of providing safe and effective electronics reuse and recycling to anyone who uses electronics products such as governments, businesses, and the public across the United States.
Yes. A survey conducted by the Institute of Scrap Recyclers Industry (ISRI) reports that the electronics recycling industry is a robust and actively growing industry. ISRI reports that in 2002 there were approximately 6,000 full time employees in electronics recycling which has grown to approximately 30,000 full time employees in 2011 – a growth of 400%.
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 electronics conserves our natural resources and avoids air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions that are caused by manufacturing virgin materials.
- Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used about 3600 US homes in a year.
- One metric ton of circuit boards can contain 40 to 800 times the amount of gold and 30 to 40 times the amount of copper mined from one metric ton of ore in the US.
There are a number of ways that you can find out if the electronics recycling program uses electronics refurbishers and recyclers that have been certified. There are a number of online resources including the following:
- Both e-Stewards® and R2 Solutions websites have maps of the recyclers and refurbishers that have been certified to their programs. Please contact e-Stewards® and R2 Solutions for more information.
Additionally, you can contact the electronics facility directly and enquire as to their certification status.
If you are using an electronics collection program, you can contact the collection program directly and inquire about the certification status of the electronics recycling services they are using.