Commerce Department Issues Report on Recycling Electronic Products

Federal Study Moves Toward Consensus on Managing Discarded Electronics

Press Release from the Technology Administration, July 18, 2006

Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology Robert Cresanti today released a new, comprehensive report titled, "Recycling Technology Products: An Overview of E-Waste Policy Issues," that highlights diverse issues facing manufacturers, retailers, recyclers, environmental organizations and others as they adopt policies and practices to manage discarded electronics. The report also identifies possible areas of consensus among industry and other stakeholders on managing discarded electronics.

Speaking to the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc., (ISRI) governance meeting in Washington, D.C., Cresanti highlighted the importance of the issue and the potential benefits if managed properly.

"Federally, we're committed to help fashion a balanced, equitable solution so that we can not only preserve our environment but also our nation's economic strength for our children," said Cresanti. "Removing unnecessary burdens from the technology sector in order to enable them to compete in today's global market remains critical for the industry and our nation."

Cresanti also pointed out that:

  • In addition to conserving our natural resources, recycling also employed more than 30,000 people in the United States in 2005.
  • Recycling represents national savings in energy use, with recycled iron and steel resulting in energy savings of 74%, recycled paper 64% and recycled plastic, more than 80%, according to EPA - facts that become more meaningful everyday.
  • Recycling policy for electronic products also affects the competitiveness of U.S. industry, as more than 10 countries have laws on recycling discarded electronics and more are developing legislation.
  • In the United States, five states have banned the disposal of cathode ray tubes from television and computer monitors in landfills.
  • Four states have passed statewide electronics recycling laws, yet each with different requirements for manufacturers, retailers, local governments and consumers.
  • Such a patchwork of disparate requirements among government entities can lead to uncertainties, inefficiencies and high compliance costs for companies.

"We hope this report will help policymakers and legislators to make well-informed decisions and assist them in developing a common-sense approach to the e-recycling challenge - one that provides certainty, consistency, and clarity for consumers, governments and all stakeholders," added Cresanti.

The report presents stakeholder recommendations for an electronics recycling system including:

  • Goals for a national system
  • Defining product coverage
  • Collection methods
  • Recycling guidelines
  • Financing mechanisms
  • Minimizing compliance costs and maximizing participation
  • Consumer education
  • Incentives for a market-driven solution

The report, an executive summary and the Under Secretary' remarks are available at the Technology Administration's Web site, http://www.technology.gov.