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 recycling electronics responsibly.

 

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Public Recognition

Participants will be publicly recognized on EPA's website as a registrant, new participant or active participant.

Stage Participation Status Posted on EPA website
Completion of SMM Electronics online registration Registrant
Baseline data submitted New Participant
Annual data submitted and reviewed by EPA Active Participant

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Awards

Electronics Challenge Awards are offered in two categories: Tier and Champion. Tier Awards are given in recognition of achieving of all the requirements under a Gold, Silver or Bronze Tier. Champion Awards are given in three categories: Product, Non-Product, and, new in 2016, Cutting Edge. For the purposes of the Champion awards, a product is an item that is manufactured, developed or refined for sale and is in the marketplace; a non-product is an internal or external plan, strategy or policy for an organization or a service, program or item that is intended for individual sale to a consumer. The Cutting Edge award recognizes participants for their new, game-changing ideas in electronics sustainability

Apply for an Electronics Challenge Champion Award

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2016 Challenge Results and Award Winners

In 2015, 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 256,822 tons of end-of-life electronics from the landfill;
  • Sent 256,614 tons of end-of-life electronics to third-party certified recyclers; and
  • Avoided the emission of more than 673,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

This is equal to any one of the following:

  • Taking over 129,000 passenger vehicles off of the road for one year;
  • Generating enough electricity for more than 90,000 U.S. homes for one year; or
  • Replacing more than 21.6 million incandescent lamps with LEDs.

Environmental benefits calculated using the following tools:

EPA is pleased to announce the 2016 Electronics Challenge Tier Award winners and Champion Award winners:

  • Tier Awards

    Electronics Challenge Tier Awards are given in recognition of achieving all the requirements under a Gold, Silver or Bronze Tier. Participants join at the level that best suits their organization, experience and ability. By meeting Tier requirements, participants receive Gold, Silver or Bronze award designations. We are pleased to recognize the following companies for their outstanding efforts in 2015 to advance the responsible management of used electronics through third-party certified recycling. The companies listed received the following Tier Awards.

    Active Participants Tier Award
    Best Buy Co., Inc. Gold
    Dell Inc. Gold
    LG Electronics USA, Inc. Gold
    Samsung Electronics Gold
    Sony Electronics Inc. Bronze
    Sprint Gold
    Staples, Inc. Gold
    VIZIO, Inc. Bronze
  • Champion Awards

    Champion Awards are given to Electronics Challenge participants who demonstrate the highest level of vision, coalition-building, and execution of programs and policies related to responsible used electronics management. Electronics Challenge Participants must apply for Champion Awards, which are given in three categories: Product, Non-Product, and, new in 2016, Cutting Edge. For the purposes of the Champion Awards, a Product is an item that is manufactured, developed or refined for sale and is in the marketplace, while a Non-Product is an internal or external plan, strategy, or policy for an organization, or a service, program or item that is intended for individual sale to a consumer. The Cutting Edge award recognizes participants for their new, game-changing ideas in electronics sustainability. EPA is pleased to announce the following recipients of the 2016 Electronics Challenge Champion Awards:

    Company Champion Award
    Dell Inc. Product
    Staples Non-Product
    Samsung Electronics Cutting Edge
  • Details on the 2016 Award Winners

    Dell Inc., Winner, Product Category

    Dell Inc. is recognized for the use of post-industrial recycled (PIR) carbon filled polycarbonate in the Latitude E7450 laptop, the first laptop to use this material. By using PIR material, it has kept 170,000 pounds of carbon fiber from being landfilled in 2015. This material was developed in response to a specific technical challenge: to maintain strength and reliability of enclosures as mobility products become thinner and lighter. The design solution also needed to be in line with Dell’s Legacy of Good goals without adding cost. In the end, the choice of PIR recycled carbon fiber proved an ideal fit, showing there does not need to be a compromise between design and sustainability – the two can be integrated and mutually serve each other. Life cycle assessment (LCA) results show that reclaimed carbon fiber has approximately a 10% smaller carbon footprint than that of virgin carbon fiber weave and 76% smaller carbon footprint than magnesium alloy – two industry-standard notebook enclosure materials.

    To continue to decrease their products’ environmental footprint, Dell is working to develop a post-consumer recycled (PCR) polycarbonate-based carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. Also, with Dell’s closed loop recycling program, products containing these resins can be recovered and recycled again as they come back into Dell’s consumer and commercial recycling programs in the future.

    Staples, Winner, Non-Product Category

    Staples is recognized for an outreach and public education initiative, which reached over 6 million consumers with information on their Technology Recycling Program. Through their efforts, Staples attained a significant increase in the tons collected per store from 2014 to 2015 and then ensured that 100% of the e-waste collected from consumers was sent to a certified recycler. Staples global goal is to recycle 40 million pounds of e-waste each year by 2020.

    Staples has made a commitment on behalf of its customers to ensure their electronics are recycled to the highest environmental standards. The strategic alignment of program partners has bridged their entire value chain for customers by aligning Staples’ retailer program with original equipment manufacturer support and responsible electronics recycling.

    Staples understands that U.S. consumers and businesses across the country are in need of opportunities to recycle their electronic devices. By effectively marketing the Staples programs to consumers, Staples has provided current and future customers with a direct link between easy purchasing and easy recycling.

    Samsung, Winner, Cutting Edge

    Samsung is recognized for the Cadmium-free Quantum Dot ultra-high definition televisions, an industry first. The resulting TVs are free of cadmium – a hazardous heavy metal – and use less materials and energy than other HDTVs, with properties that allow for better light efficiency and improved durability.

    Cadmium has unique electrical, optical, and performance properties. Without the use of cadmium, the optical efficiency of a device is typically reduced. In order to make up for this, LED control circuitry usually must be added which increased the price as well as the energy consumption. Therefore, manufacturers pushed to have exemptions in environmental regulations to continue using cadmium in these types of applications. Samsung has overcome that technical difficulty by developing a new, more environmentally friendly approach in delivering better performance and value than the cadmium-containing devices. Samsung’s Quantum Dots are based on indium and (according to Samsung) are the only company that produces Cadmium-free Quantum Dot displays.

    To further the technology and expand the scientific impact, Samsung has brought together top academic and R&D institutions for the continued performance improvement of cadmium-free Quantum Dot material and application development. Most recently, in 2016, Samsung hosted a Quantum Dot forum and invited international scholars to share the innovation direction of Cd-free Quantum Dot technology. This has strengthened further their ties to the academic world and is helping them scale other green innovations.


2015 Challenge Information

In 2014, the efforts of the SMM Electronics Challenge participants resulted in the following achievements:

  • Diverted 224,263 metric tons of end-of-life electronics from the landfill;
  • Sent 223,743 metric tons of end-of-life electronics to third-party certified recyclers; and
  • Avoided the emission of more than 588,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2014.

This increase is equal to any one of the following:

  • Taking over 112,000 passenger vehicles off of the road for one year;
  • Saving enough energy to power more than 73,000 U.S. homes for one year; or
  • The amount of carbon sequestered annually by more than 437,000 acres of U.S. forest.
  • 2015 Challenge Results

    Tier Awards

    Electronics Challenge Tier Awards are given in recognition of achieving all the requirements under a Gold, Silver or Bronze Tier. Participants join at the level that best suits their organization, experience and ability. By meeting Tier requirements, participants receive Gold, Silver or Bronze award designations. We are pleased to recognize the following companies for their outstanding efforts in 2014 to advance the responsible management of used electronics through third-party certified recycling. The companies listed received the following Tier Awards.

    Active Participants Tier Award
    Best Buy Co., Inc. Gold
    Dell Inc. Gold
    LG Electronics USA, Inc. Gold
    Samsung Electronics Gold
    Sony Electronics Inc. Bronze
    Sprint Gold
    Staples, Inc. Gold

    Champion Awards

    Champion Awards are given to Electronics Challenge participants who demonstrate the highest level of vision, coalition-building, and execution of programs and policies related to responsible used electronics management. Electronics Challenge Participants must apply for Champion Awards, which are given in two categories: Product and Non-Product. For the purposes of the Champion Awards, a Product is an item that is manufactured, developed or refined for sale and is in the marketplace, while a Non-Product is an internal or external plan, strategy, or policy for an organization, as well as a service, program or item that is intended for individual sale to a consumer. EPA is pleased to announce the following recipients of the 2015 Electronics Challenge Champion Awards:

    Company Champion Award
    Dell Inc. Non-product
    Samsung Electronics Product

    Details on the 2015 Award Winners

    Dell Inc., Winner, Non-Product Category

    Dell Inc. is recognized for its development of a closed loop program that uses plastics recovered from the Dell Reconnect recycling partnership with Goodwill in the U.S. to make new computers through the company’s manufacturing partner, Wistron. Wistron uses state-of-the-art technology to mix the recycled plastics with virgin materials that are then used for plastic parts in select Dell computers. This project is part of Dell’s long-term sustainability plan to achieve a waste-free packaging stream by 2020.

    Dell brought together worldwide recycling, logistics, and manufacturing partners for this program. Dell has partnered with Wistron to develop closed loop plastics, Goodwill to collect e-waste, YFY Jupiter to create wheat straw packaging, and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to identify sustainable solutions for e-waste management. Using recycled resin is not always as easy as expected since recycled resin is not a direct substitute for a virgin resin. Dell set an ambitious goal to use 50 million pounds of recycled content and other sustainable materials in its products by the year 2020 and has recycled 11 million pounds of closed loop plastics in displays and OptiPlex desktops in 2014.

    Best Buy also implements a number of internal and external communication efforts about the value of recycling. Best Buy trains and motivates employees through its Standard Operating Procedures and through a video entitled, "Why Best Buy Recycles." These programs ensure that all employees understand Best Buy's recycling program and can communicate it to its customers. The recent launch of the video "Why Best Buy Recycles" to the public has received more than 800,000 views to-date, indicating the message about the importance of recycling is being widely distributed. In addition, Best Buy's web page not only makes it easy to find collection points, but also notes how much material was collected in each state.

    By closing the loop for plastics, Dell achieved the following environmental benefits in 2014:

    • Avoided 198,776 kilograms of CO2 equivalent or about 500,000 miles driven by an average passenger car;
    • Reused 2.89 million pounds of materials taken from the e-waste stream;
    • Collected 230.9 million pounds of used electronics from residential and business programs globally; and
    • Reduced costs, as a result of lower logistics and operations costs of processing plastics from e-waste.

    Dell demonstrated that this program is replicable by other electronics manufacturers. Not only does it provide easy take-back solutions for consumers through Goodwill, but it also helps to create jobs for people in need of work. For every computer donated, 6.8 hours of job training are provided to Goodwill employees. Dell’s leadership extends to closing the digital divide by building positive e-scrap collection in Africa. For example, Dell finances a woman entrepreneur who employs 27 trained women to safely collect e-waste from local businesses and homes in Nairobi’s Mukuru informal settlement.

    Samsung Electronics, Winner, Product Category

    Samsung Electronics is recognized for its vision to make the Galaxy S6 mobile phone, its packaging, and its accessories meet high environmental standards while maintaining its status as a high-end product. Samsung has reduced the carbon emissions in each consecutive S Series phone by an annual average of 14%. This aggregates to 58 billion kg CO2 since 2011— the equivalent of planting 4.7 million trees. The S6’s environmental features are highlighted below:

    Packaging made with recycled materials

    While many of today’s electronics come in packaging made from non-recyclable plastics, Samsung found a simple solution to the problem by making 100% of its packaging from recycled cardboard, from the box to the user’s manual. This feature is anticipated to prevent the logging of 77,000 trees (based on 2014 sales numbers).

    Labels printed with soy ink

    Instead of using petroleum-based inks, Samsung uses soy-based inks in their packaging labels. Soy-based inks are:

    • Made from a renewable resource
    • Biodegradable
    • Easier to remove before recycling paper

    Battery chargers partially made of recycled plastic

    Samsung took an important stride by making the S6’s battery charger with 20 percent recycled plastic. Due to the research and development team’s perseverance and ingenuity, the charger’s durability was not compromised and Samsung was able to overcome an “engineering preference for virgin materials.”

    Features for longer life

    Samsung’s design team worked to overcome a hurdle in the battery capability of the phone that resulted in greater innovation and improved battery charging. The Galaxy S6 allows users to conserve power when they want by using the Power Saving Mode and Ultra Power Saving Mode, which disables most apps and changes screen colors to gray scale. Increasing the warranty to two years is also a clear signal to consumers that cell phones do not have to be replaced annually. Since the most common reason for replacing a mobile phone is a cracked screen from impact damage, Samsung used the new Gorilla Glass 4, which is more durable and resistant to scratches. This will further extend the life of the phone.

    Responsible End of Life Management

    Samsung’s Recycling Direct program ensures that waste processed will not be exported to developing countries, will not use forced child or prison labor in processing, and will not be dumped in municipal landfills. In addition to supporting a responsible network of recyclers, Samsung developed the Galaxy S6 with a recyclability rate of 99.9% and provides an online prepaid cell phone return option for customers to ship the phone back to Samsung for responsible recycling free of charge.

    Samsung achieved its vision by collaborating with a diverse group of internal and external stakeholders, and through a wide variety of approaches including forums, inquiries, surveys, advisory groups, and specialized internal communications departments that address the needs and expectations of each stakeholder.

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