Federal Government to Require Contractors to Recycle E-Waste

Date: March 22, 2012

Source: General Services Administration

The US government is crafting a rule that would bar contractors who use computers or other electronics devices bought with federal dollars from dumping them in landfills. The new rule is part of a broader Obama Administration effort to lead by example and encourage the responsible recycling of scrap electronics (e-waste). E-waste, which contains some toxic materials is one of the fastest growing segments of the waste stream and often ends up in landfills or developing countries where it poses a threat to human health and the environment. The EPA estimates that in 2009, 2.37 million tons of computer equipment were thrown away, but only a quarter of it was recycled. The new rule would require government contractors to send old electronics equipment to recyclers certified through federally recognized programs, said Stephen Leeds, senior sustainability officer at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). Earlier this month, the GSA with an annual IT budget of nearly $80 billion, applied the e-waste dumping ban to its own agencies. The Obama administration's e-waste push began last summer when the Environmental Protection Agency released a National Strategy for Electronic Stewardship.

March 1, 2012

GSA Announces New E-Waste Policy for Federal Government

  • Government electronics will now have to be reused and recycled.

PHILADELPHIA – Today, at E-Force Recycling in Philadelphia, U.S. General Services Administrator Martha Johnson announced new guidelines banning all federal agencies from disposing of electronic waste in landfills. The policy will ensure that the federal government is leading by example and that all of its electronics are managed effectively in the disposal process. The policy will also direct electronics to certified recyclers, creating more opportunities for the e-waste industry.

"The federal government as a whole is the nation's largest consumer of electronics, and through this policy it will now be a more responsible user of electronics," said Administrator Martha Johnson. "We are ensuring that electronics from federal agencies will be reused or sent to certified e-waste recycling plants. These steps are protecting human health and the environment, while supporting jobs in the growing e-waste industry."

The new policy, outlined in a bulletin to federal agencies this week, directs federal agencies to reuse electronics to the maximum extent possible and then direct non-functioning products to certified e-waste recyclers. As electronics reach the end of their utility, asset managers will offer these products to be reused at other agencies, schools, state and local governments, or offer them for sale. Federal agencies are being banned from disposing of these materials in landfills or incinerators, and instead they will now send them to third-party certified e-waste recyclers—under R2 or eStewards—when reuse is not an option. Additionally, recipients of used government electronics are being encouraged to follow the same reuse and certified recycling standards as the federal government.

"As a compliant and certified e-cycler, we are excited to see the government partnering with us in the responsible disposal of electronic waste," said Jay Segal, President of E-Force Recycling.

The policy also incorporates transparency and accountability into this process by requiring federal agencies to track the volume and destination of electronics they send out for reuse and recycling and report that data online annually, which GSA will make available to the public on Data.gov.

In October of 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13514 that set sustainability goals for federal agencies to improve their environmental, energy and economic performance. This executive order called for GSA, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and the Environmental Protection Agency to create the National Strategy on Electronic Stewardship. The National Strategy, released last summer, tasked GSA to develop policies for federal agencies to responsibly purchase, manage, and recycle electronics. This week's announcement is the first policy that will bring the goals of the National Strategy across the federal government.

Electronics such as mobile phones, computers, monitors, and copy machines are made from valuable and reusable resources such as rare earth materials, precious metals, plastic, and glass. These devices also contain hazardous and toxic materials, and they must be disposed of properly in order to prevent pollution and risks to public health.

For more information, contact:
Dan Cruz; dan.cruz@gsa.gov.

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