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Electronics Giants Push to Recycle Billions of Pounds of E-Waste

<p>The effort, launched with big-name companies that include Panasonic, Best Buy, Sony and Toshiba, would triple the amount of e-waste recycled in 2010.</p>

The Consumer Electronics Association, along with manufacturers and retailers such as Panasonic, Best Buy, Sony and Toshiba, launched an industry-wide initiative yesterday to boost electronics waste recycling to one billion pounds a year by 2016.

That translates to roughly three times the amount of e-waste recycled in 2010, the year to be used as the baseline for the eCycling Leadership Initiative. The effort will focus on consumer education on electronics recycling, increasing the number of facilities to collect e-waste, reporting progress, and supporting a shift toward third-party recycler certification.

"This unique industry-led approach transcends the patchwork of current state recycling regulations with an aggressive set of industry goals and standards," Walter Alcorn, CEA's vice president of environmental affairs and industry sustainability, said in a statement. "Through the eCycling Leadership Initiative, the consumer electronics industry is moving toward a national solution and away from the costly and confusing patchwork of state regulations."

The initiative will continue working with President Barack Obama's Taskforce on Electronics Stewardship. Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Committee on Ways and Means who has previously introduced e-waste legislation, hailed the development.

"I am pleased that major leaders in the consumer electronics industry are taking concrete action to address the e-waste crisis," said Rep. Thompson. "While there's been progress in the recycling of old electronics equipment, much more work needs to be done. The 'Billion Pound Challenge' will help accomplish our goals by making the electronics industry part of the solution to e-waste. This isn't just smart environmental policy -- it's corporate responsibility and accountability at its finest."

Not everyone, however, is applauding the initiative. Barbara Kyle, executive director of the Electronics Takeback Coalition, called the announcement "seriously underpowered."

"CEA gave almost no other information about the program or how they are going to meet their goal," Kyle wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "They won't even say which companies are participating. What will each company be responsible for? What products will they take back -- everything they make? A big announcement of a new program should have included at least some details."

Kyle pointed out the initiative doesn't guarantee that electronics won't be exported to developing countries. A map of 5,000 industry sites provided by CEA also includes sites not connected to the CEA effort. She was critical of CEA's effort to make the program the basis for a national program.

Kyle recommended a series of steps that could strengthen the eCycling Leadership Initiative, including a policy forbidding the export of toxic e-waste to developing countries and going beyond state-level compliance to creating robust recycling programs in all states.

The Basel Action Network similarly called for CEA members to "leapfrog" the eCycling Leadership Initiative and support tighter standards, namely the stringent e-Stewards Certification program.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user ▌ÇP▐.

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