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Frequent Questions about the Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Electronics Challenge

On September 22, 2012, EPA launched the SMM Electronics Challenge. The Challenge encourages electronics manufacturers, brand owners and retailers to strive to send 100 percent of the used electronics they collect from the public, businesses and within their own organizations to third-party certified electronics refurbishers and recyclers. The Challenge’s 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.
  • Encourage outstanding performance through awards and recognition.

On this page:

What are the goals of the SMM Electronics Challenge?

The goals of the SMM Electronics Challenge are to:

  • Ensure responsible recycling through the use of third-party certified recyclers;
  • Increase the amount of used electronics collected by participants annually;
  • Increase transparency and accountability through public posting of electronics collection and recycling data;
  • Encourage outstanding performance through awards and recognition; and
  • Highlight best practices that can be scaled up and transferred both within the electronics sector and across other sectors.

SMM Electronics Challenge participants may be recognized in two ways. The Tier Awards recognize participants for their robust used electronics collection programs and are given at the Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels. The Champion Awards recognize participants for unique contributions to electronics sustainability throughout the life cycle and are given in the Product, Non-Product, and Cutting Edge categories.

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Have there been any changes to the SMM Electronics Challenge from 2016 to 2017?

Yes. EPA evolved the Challenge from focus on end-of-life activities to sustainability activities throughout the life cycle of electronics products (material extraction, design, production, use, reuse, recycling and disposal). Three changes were made to the Challenge's Tier Award requirements. First, there is now a requirement to provide short descriptions of upstream activities and innovations for the Silver and Gold Tiers. Silver Tier participants answer one of the three questions and Gold Tier participants answer two of the three questions. The upstream questions are as follows:

  • How do you influence supplier behavior (e.g. in the areas of materials selection, design for product longevity, reuse and recycling, energy conservation, end-of-life management and corporate performance)?
  • How have you helped customers reduce their electronics packaging waste (e.g., through creative packaging design, innovative material choices, and better logistics)?
  • How do you encourage customers (including large purchasers) to buy sustainable or “green” electronics products?

Second, EPA now requires Gold Tier participants to provide data in two states without a take-back law (instead of one state) in which they achieved an increase in recycling from the previous year. Silver Tier participants will now be required to provide data from one state without a take-back law in which they achieved an increase in recycling.  The rationale for these change is to help ensure consumer access to electronics recycling in all parts of the United States, not just in those areas with take back laws.

Finally, EPA simplified reporting in the Challenge by eliminating Silver Tier and Gold Tier requirements for Mass Balance/Tracking Throughput and Beyond 3rd Party Certification Standards. These Challenge requirements proved redundant because participants were already fulfilling the mass balance requirement through certification with either the R2 or e-Stewards® standards and were going beyond these standards by doing their own internal audits.

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What are the 2017 SMM Electronics Challenge results?

In 2016 SMM Electronics Challenge participants collected a total of 227,467.72 tons of electronics. Of this, 100 percent– was sent to third-party certified recyclers. This prevented the emission of more than 597,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which is equivalent to taking over 116,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year, or generating enough electricity for more than 81,000 U.S. homes for one year, or replacing over 18.1 million incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs. Based on these results, Gold Tier awards are being given to Dell, Samsung, Staples, and Xerox; Silver Tier awards are being given to Best Buy, LG, and VIZIO; and the Bronze Tier award is being given to Sony.

SMM Electronics Challenge Champion Awards are being given in the following categories:

  • Product category: The Champion Award in the Product category is given for new products or changes to the way that existing products are used that contribute to electronics sustainability throughout the life cycle. This year’s Champion Award in the Product category goes to LG for continually replacing and reducing use of hazardous materials in electronics products by developing an OLED TV that is mercury-free, uses PVC-free internal cables and BFR-free housing and standing parts.
  • Non-Product category: The Champion Award in the Non-Product category is given for strategies, plans, and policies implemented by a company that address electronics sustainability throughout the life cycle. This year’s Champion Award in the Non-Product category goes to Staples for its outreach and public education initiative, which not only increased the amount of e-waste collected per store, but also ensured 100 percent of e-waste collected was sent to a third party recycler. Staples also provided information on electronics recycling to over six million consumers.
  • Cutting Edge category: The Champion Award in the Cutting Edge category focuses on bold ideas with the potential to make a huge impact on the future of sustainable electronics management across the life cycle. These bold ideas can include products, services, and policies. This year’s Champion Award in the Cutting Edge category goes to Samsung for its unique Galaxy Smartphone Upcycling program, a visionary web-based solution to the millions of mobile phones currently in use or sitting in storage.
  • Honorable Mention, Product Category: This year an Honorable Mention was awarded to Best Buy for its unique partnership with HP to deliver a "first of its kind" closed loop recycled content printer.
  • Honorable Mention, Cutting Edge Category: This year an Honorable Mention was awarded to Dell for its ingenuity to create demand for marine litter plastics through its initial pilot project, which takes plastics collected from beaches, waterways and coastal areas and uses them in the packaging of the XPS 13 2-in-1 computer. This prevents 16,000 pounds of plastics from washing into the ocean

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What was the contribution of SMM Electronics Challenge participants to the national electronics recycling total in 2014 (the most recent national data)?

SMM Electronics Challenge participants contributed 17.2% of total U.S. electronics recycling by weight in 2014 (which is the most recent national data). The 2014 Challenge total was 240,289.12 tons collected, and the 2014 national total was 1,400,000 tons.

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Why should we reuse and recycle used electronics?

An important part of the Sustainable Materials Management approach is reducing our consumption of raw materials by maximizing product lifespans and recycling materials from one product to another. 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. If not properly managed, some of the materials in our electronics may pose a risk to human health and the environment.

For example:

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Does EPA post the data for each participant in the SMM Electronics Challenge? What information does EPA publicly post?

EPA does not post individual participant’s baseline data or annual data on the EPA website. EPA will post aggregate data from all SMM Electronics Challenge participants on its website. However, EPA does require participants to publicly post almost all baseline and annual data elements (with the exception of the names of certified recyclers used, which may be kept private) on their respective websites. EPA may choose to link to Challenge participants’ websites, particularly for awards and recognition.

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Does EPA plan to involve new OEMS, brand owners and retailers in the Challenge?

EPA is always open to additional original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), brand owners and electronics retailers joining the Challenge. We applaud the efforts by our current participants and look forward to continuing to work with them. If other OEMs, brand owners and retailers are interested in joining the Challenge, they should contact Janice Johnson (, 703-308-7280).

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