Much attention has been given in recent years to the proper management of used electronics nearing the end of their lifecycles. Used electronics contain heavy metals and other toxic materials that may cause them to be regulated as hazardous wastes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) when discarded. Additionally, numerous states – including California, New York, Washington and Oregon –have adopted “take back” programs for consumers, establishing recycling requirements for certain electronic devices and banning certain electronic devices from disposal in landfills.
Against this backdrop, EPA announced the Sustainable Materials Management (SSM) Electronics Challenge on September 20, 2012. This is a cooperative, voluntary program for electronics manufacturers and retailers that aligns them with two basic EPA goals: (1) improve management of used electronics by increasing the amount of used electronics that are collected and recycled through certified third-party refurbishers and recyclers; and, (2) increase transparency and accountability through public posting of electronics collection and recycling data.
Program participants commit to:
- Send 100% of used electronics collected to recyclers or refurbishers that have been certified by a recognized third-party certification program no later than the end of the third year of participation.
- Submit baseline data on used electronics collected and recycled within 90 days of registration.
- Submit annual data to EPA.
- Post commitments, policies and data on the participant’s website using the EPA-provided templates.
- Build incentives for design of greener electronics, and enhance science, research and technology development in the United States;
- Ensure that the federal government leads by example;
- Increase safe and effective management and handling of used electronics in the United States; and
- Reduce harm from U.S. exports of e-waste and improve safe handling of used electronics in developing countries.