EPA says US is making progress on consumer electronics recycling

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the Advancing Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Facts and Figures report showing progress in consumer electronics recycling in the United States. Consumer electronics recycling went up from 30.6 percent in 2012 to 40.4 percent in 2013, the same year EPA launched the SMM Electronics Challenge to promote responsible donation and recycling of used electronics.

Through EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management program, the agency seeks the most productive and sustainable use of materials across their life cycle, minimizing the amounts of materials involved and all associated environmental impacts. Earlier this month, the G7 committed to ambitious action to advance the efficient use of natural resources throughout their life cycle.

“For the first time, the leaders of the G7 have officially recognized the importance of the link between materials recovery and the global economy, and established the G7 Alliance on Resource Efficiency,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, said in a statement. “Building on the progress on sustainable materials management, EPA is engaging the business, government and NGO sectors to leverage this new report and G7 Declaration to identify and act on opportunities for resource efficiency.

Sustainable materials management is a systemic approach to using and reusing materials more productively over their entire lifecycles in order to identify opportunities to reduce environmental impacts, conserve resources, and reduce costs. EPA is advancing sustainable materials management by convening dialogues with key SMM stakeholders, providing sound science and information to the public, and establishing challenges to specific sectors to achieve shared goals.


In the Annex to the G7 Leaders’ Declaration, it’s noted that establishing a G7 Alliance on Resource Efficiency will provide a forum to exchange, promote best practices and foster innovation together with business and other stakeholders, including from the public sector, research institutions, academia, consumers and civil society, on a voluntary basis. Unsustainable consumption of natural resources and environmental degradation translates into increasing business risks through higher material costs, as well as supply uncertainties and disruptions. Resource efficiency offers opportunities to reduce the burden on the environment while strengthening the sustainability, competitiveness and growth of the economy. The G7 Alliance on Resource Efficiency aims to promote an exchange of concepts on how to address the challenges of resource efficiency, to share best practices and experience, and to create information networks.

For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. Through EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge, equipment manufacturers and retailers are promoting responsible electronics recycling. Challenge participants send 100 percent of their used electronics to a recognized third-party certified recycler by the third year of their participation, and publicly report this information.

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