Firms Partnering with EPA Recycle More Than 66.5M Pounds of Electronics in 2008

Firms Partnering with EPA Recycle More Than 66.5M Pounds of Electronics in 2008

Major manufacturers and retailers recycled more than 66.5 million pounds of used consumer electronics last year in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Plug-In To eCycling program.

In reporting the tally yesterday, the EPA said the haul for 2008 is 30 percent greater than the amount recycled in 2007. The EPA program, launched in 2003, now involves more than two dozen firms.

Several companies were recognized for their recycling efforts in the EPA's announcement of the program's progress. The firms singled out for mention included Dell, Staples, Best Buy, Sony, LG, Samsung, Wal-Mart, Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba.

The goods recycled in the agency program last year prevented the release of greenhouse gases equivalent to the annual emissions of an estimated 15,500 cars, the EPA said.

The EPA's progress report follows a year of increasing scrutiny of e-waste regulation and recycling programs in general, as well as growing calls for more vigorous efforts in both areas.

In September, the Government Accountability Office issued a 63-page report sharply criticizing the EPA for seldom enforcing the few regulations on the books applying to e-waste and, in effect, fostering a situation that enabled electronic waste, which is laden with toxic materials, to be shipped out of the country for unregulated handling, harvesting and disposal.

In October, two of the world's more influential e-waste NGOs, the Electronics TakeBack Coalition and the Basel Action Network, withdrew from EPA-led efforts to develop e-waste recycling guidelines and declared that the most important issues weren't being addressed: the need to bar incineration of e-waste, forbid its export and prevent it from being sent to domestic or foreign prisons for recycling.

The EPA, government and industry groups and other stakeholders continued their work on the guidelines, which were issued in November. The 13-point list of Responsible Recycling Practices is intended to ensure that e-waste is handled in compliance with U.S. laws and foreign countries' regulations. The principles are also intended to supplement existing laws, and adherence to the guidelines is voluntary. The guide forms the basis for accredited certification programs that assess e-waste recycling practices.