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Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Electronics Challenge: Recognition and Awards

Recognition is a key element of the EPA's Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Program and the Electronics Challenge. EPA is providing public recognition and awards to SMM Electronics Challenge participants for their commitment to sustainable materials management and recycling electronics responsibly.

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Electronics Challenge Awards are offered in two categories: Tier and Champion.    Tier Awards are given to those who complete the requirements under a Gold, Silver or Bronze Tier.

Champion awards are given in three categories: Product, Non-Product, and Cutting-Edge. The Product Award recognizes innovative and sustainable products designed for sale in the marketplace. The Non-Product Award recognizes participants that have employed an innovative plan, strategy, or policy to use materials in a more environmentally responsible way throughout the life cycle. The Cutting-Edge Award recognizes participants for a new, game-changing idea in electronics sustainability.

Apply for an Electronics Challenge Champion Award

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2018 Challenge Results and Award Winners

In 2017, the combined efforts of the Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Electronics Challenge participants achieved notable environmental results. By rethinking business as usual and committing to innovative and responsible end-of-life electronics management, Electronics Challenge participants collectively:

  • Diverted nearly 276,000 tons of end-of-life electronics from the landfill, 99.9% of which was sent to third-party certified recyclers, and;
  • Avoided the equivalent of more than 724,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

This is equal to any one of the following:

  • Taking more than 140,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year;
  • Generating enough electricity for nearly 100,000 U.S. homes for one year; or
  • Replacing more than 22 million incandescent lamps with LEDs.

Environmental benefits calculated using the following tools:

EPA is pleased to announce the 2018 Electronics Challenge Tier Award winners and Champion Award winners:

Active Participants Tier Award
Dell, Inc. Gold
HP, Inc. Gold
LG Electronics USA, Inc Gold
Samsung Electronics Gold
Sony Electronics Inc. Gold
Sprint Gold
Staples, Inc. Gold
TCL North America Gold
Xerox Gold
Best Buy Co., Inc. Silver
VIZIO, Inc. Silver
Company Champion Award
Dell, Inc. Product
Xerox Non-Product
Best Buy Co., Inc. Cutting Edge

Details on the 2018 Champion Award Winners

Dell, Inc., Winner, Product Category

This year's Product Category Awards goes to Dell for its Closed Loop Gold Recycling Program. ExitBy using gold reclaimed from used electronics, Dell is reducing its demand for mining of gold ore, resulting in a decrease in associated environmental impacts from gold mining. In this effort, Dell is leveraging its existing partnerships with Wistron GreenTech, which processes and recovers the gold and Goodwill through Dell’s Reconnect Partnerships to collect used electronics. Wistron GreenTech, a recycling division of Taiwan-headquartered original design manufacturer Wistron Corp, processes electronics and refines precious metals using a hydrometallurgical process. The gold recovered at the facility will be used in motherboards in the Latitude 5285 w-in-2s (combination laptops and tablets).

Through the creation of innovative partnerships, Dell overcame the challenge of sourcing gold for their products by reusing gold from their recycled electronics in new computer motherboards. Dell invested heavily in the use of recycled gold content in its notebooks and was able to reduce the cost of gold from several dollars per product to a few cents per product. In addition, the impact of using recycled content in electronics products and reducing the use of energy-intensive mining practices for virgin ore for gold and other virgin resources to create new plastics is significant. According to Dell, there is 800 times more gold in a ton of motherboards than in a ton of ore from the earth.

Dell states that a Trucost study shows the Dell’s gold reclamation process, created by Dell partner Wistron GreenTech, has a 99% lower environmental impact than traditional mined gold. The Trucost study also found that gold mining causes 41-times the social impact (negative) as gold recycling. Dell’s goal is to use a total of 100 million pounds of recycled content in its products by 2020, and the company cited the gold project as helping it achieve that goal.

To raise awareness of the value of used electronics and the precious metals they contain, Dell partnered with a jewelry maker to provide recycled gold recovered from Dell’s recycling programs for the creation of an upcycled jewelry collection. In addition, Dell partnered with an environmental “artivist” to demonstrate how recycled content from used electronics could be used as content to produce new electronics.

Xerox, Winner, Non-Product Category

Xerox developed a strategy for take-back and remanufacturing of their toner cartridges and other imaging products. Remanufactured cartridges contain an average of 90 percent reused or recycled parts, which saves up to 80 percent of the energy that would be required to produce a new cartridge and keeps an average two pounds of used materials from winding up in landfills. With millions of tons of cartridge waste disposed of each year, Xerox maintains that remanufacturing is an important environmental solution.

Customers can easily return used supplies for free and, on average, Xerox reports that they remanufacture about 50 percent by volume of the used cartridges that are returned to them. Xerox partnered with Close the Loop, a remanufacturer of toner cartridges and imaging supplies, to ensure the raw materials in the returned toner cartridges are recovered and reused. After separation and cleaning, the components are returned to the market as usable raw materials, with zero waste to landfill.  Toner powder is converted into a product called LC Black and reused as a colorant in plastic manufacturing. Metal components are reused as raw materials to create new parts and products. Plastic components are reused as raw materials to create new plastic products.

In 2017, the takeback program reused 725 tons of material, recycled 1,050 tons, sent 134 tons to waste-to-energy facilities, and kept all material out of the landfill. Xerox’s calculated GHG benefits are equivalent to:

  • taking more than 300 vehicles off the road for one year; or
  • providing electricity to more than 200 homes for one year; or
  • switching more than 50,000 incandescent bulbs to LEDs according to this calculator.

Best Buy Co., Inc., Winner, Cutting Edge

Best Buy has partnered with certified electronics recyclers to create TeenTech Centers.Exit These centers contribute to Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education for underserved youth in the United States through the reuse of older electronics and new equipment that gives these youth the opportunity to learn about STEM related disciplines such as coding, digital music and film production photography, and 3D design. According to Best Buy, in 2016, the United States had three million more STEM jobs available than it had skilled workers to fill them. Moreover, there are 5.5 million 16-24 year olds who are neither working nor enrolled in school.

Best Buy piloted the tech program in 2017 and expanded it to 40 Geek Squad Academies nationwide in 2018. Best Buy provides used electronics that the electronics retailer and its partners have identified are products that would support the education programs.  The partnerships that Best Buy formed with their two certified recyclers, Electronics Recycling International (ERI) and Regency Technologies, can make this project replicable in low-income communities across the United States. In addition, by partnering with certified recyclers, the “fuel” to run the program, reusable electronics, are readily available to the three partners. Best Buy has set an ambitious, but achievable goal to educate one million underserved youth by 2020.

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