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Electronics Giants Pledge to Recycle a Billion Pounds

Executives from Best Buy, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba have helped to launch an industry-wide initiative to recycle one billion pounds of electronics a year by 2016, in a move they say will trump state-level recycling mandates.

The eCycling Leadership Initiative, launched today by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), aims to more than triple the amount of e-waste recycled each year.

The initiative will support the voluntary use of third-party recycler certification systems, with the aim for the entire billion pounds to be recycled in certified facilities. That is enough electronics to fill a 71,000-seat NFL stadium, the CEA said.

“This unique industry-led approach transcends the patchwork of current state recycling regulations with an aggressive set of industry goals and standards,” said Walter Alcorn, CEA’s vice president of environmental affairs and industry sustainability. “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.”

Such state-level initiatives have included a Wisconsin electronic waste recycling law that shifts the financial burden from local governments to manufacturers.

On April 1, a New York law took effect, requiring manufacturers to accept used electronics from consumers. The law was passed last June.

The Electronics TakeBack Coalition (ETBC), which has been grading companies’ electronics takeback programs with a yearly Recycling Report Card, said: “It’s hard not to be skeptical that this new industry-wide voluntary effort will suddenly generate meaningful results.  We want assurances from CEA that this effort will be an ongoing, permanent one, and not just a PR announcement aimed at discouraging states from passing takeback laws.”

The coalition said that most company takeback programs are underperforming, except in states with strong recycling laws.

The eCycling Leadership Initiative will increase collection opportunities and seek to improve consumer awareness of the more than 5,000 collection sites sponsored by the industry, the CEA said.

A major component of the initiative will be consumer education, including new online tools and mobile apps, to help make recycling used electronics as easy as buying new ones, the association said. The initiative will also seek to bolster the number of collection sites by working with charities and state and local governments.

CEA said will issue an annual national progress report that will measure e-cycling growth, using 2010 as a baseline. The association said it will also report on the capacity and performance of third-party certification systems, providing the basis for future industry commitments regarding third-party certified recyclers.

The CEA said it is also looking at ways to continue to work with the Obama administration’s Taskforce on Electronics Stewardship, co-chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and General Services Administration (GSA). The taskforce is developing a national strategy for responsible electronics recycling.

“The billion pound challenge is about both the quality and quantity of electronics recycling,” Alcorn said.  “But we won’t stop at a billion pounds. The eCycling Leadership initiative is an ongoing, permanent initiative that will follow the best practices and commitment of industry, including practices that prohibit the use of recyclers and downstream processors who dump end-of-life electronics in developing nations.”

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2 thoughts on “Electronics Giants Pledge to Recycle a Billion Pounds

  1. Is this an example of mistaking the relocating of ewaste for actually recycling ewaste? The intentions of “proper disposal” are great, but it really comes down to the last entity which handles the material. If ewaste is passed downstream through 3 levels of handling and sorting, final “proper disposal” is only at the final destination. Where it is going? In landfills or off shore? This seems to me to be like a lumberjack who fells a tree and dumps it in the river heading for the mill and then says he is resonsible for the wood you buy for building your home. There seems to be no true appetite for ewaste recovery systems among the environmental or recycling communities.

  2. This is an admirable objective. Our group has dealt with e-waste management through our engagements in the telecom & broadband spaces in Southeast Asia. Without a doubt, creating an economically viable framework for collecting consumer electronics and incentivizing the public to participate has been amongst the toughest of the initiatives we’ve worked on.

    It’s great to see the major retailers and manufacturers collaborating in the US to improve customer access and awareness. The wag to emerging extended producer responsibility policies in WI & NY is also exciting; we are looking for effective ways to advocate for such policies in Asia.

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