Frequent Questions about the Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Electronics Challenge
We are grateful for the dedication of our Electronics Challenge partners and their efforts to reduce and divert waste. EPA is planning to evolve our Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) partnership programs to align with our new priorities. At this time, we are no longer accepting Electronics Challenge partners.
On September 22, 2012, EPA launched the SMM Electronics Challenge. The Challenge encouraged 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 were to:
- Increase collection of electronic equipment for reuse and recycling using third-party certified recyclers;
- Promote data transparency and accountability through public posting of electronics collection and recycling data; and
- Reduce environmental impacts across the entire life cycle of electronic products.
On this page:
- What kinds of awards did EPA give out to SMM Electronics Challenge participants?
- What are the 2021 SMM Electronics Challenge results?
- What was the contribution of SMM Electronics Challenge participants to the national electronics recycling total in 2018 (the most recent national data)?
- Why should we reuse and recycle used electronics?
- Did EPA post the data for each participant in the SMM Electronics Challenge? What information did EPA publicly post?
- Does EPA plan to involve new OEMs, brand owners and retailers in the Challenge?
You can find information about the kinds of awards that the EPA SMM Electronics Challenge distributed on our SMM Electronics Challenge: Recognition and Awards webpage.
The results of the 2021 SMM Electronics Challenge can be found on the Recognition and Awards webpage.
What was the contribution of SMM Electronics Challenge participants to the national electronics recycling total in 2018 (the most recent national data)?
SMM Electronics Challenge participants contributed 19 percent of total U.S. electronics recycling by weight in 2018 (which is the most recent national data). The 2020 Challenge total was more than 158,000 tons collected. In 2018, the United States generated some 2.7 million tons of electronics waste. Of that amount, 38.5 percent was recycled, with the remainder combusted with energy recovery or landfilled.
An important part of the SMM approach is reducing our consumption of raw materials by maximizing product lifespans and recycling materials from one product to another. If not properly managed, some of the materials in our electronics may pose a risk to human health and the environment. 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.
- 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 U.S.
- Recycling facilities can recover 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium for every one million cell phones (PDF)(4pp, 324K).
Did EPA post the data for each participant in the SMM Electronics Challenge? What information did EPA publicly post?
EPA did not post individual participant’s baseline data or annual data on the EPA website. EPA posted aggregate data from all SMM Electronics Challenge participants. However, participants commit to publicly post most baseline and annual data elements on their respective websites.
We are grateful for the dedication of our SMM Electronics Challenge participants and their efforts to reduce and divert waste. EPA is planning to evolve our Sustainable Materials Management partnership programs to align with our new Circular Economy Strategy Series. At this time, we are no longer accepting SMM Electronics Challenge participants. EPA does encourage interested parties to get involved, take actions, and stay engaged to help us create a stronger, more resilient, and cost-effective U.S. municipal solid waste recycling system and to create a circular economy for all. To learn about engagement opportunities, please visit our website.