President Signs America Recycles Day Proclamation
On November 15, America Recycles Day, President Obama signed a proclamation celebrating the strides the country has made in recycling generally, while also highlighting the need for greater attention to addressing electronic waste (e-waste). Last week, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the General Services Administration (GSA) formed a task force, under the Executive Order on Federal Sustainability, charged with helping the federal government lead by example in responsibly managing used electronics.
Electronic waste from old cell phones, computers and other devices often contains toxic chemicals and heavy metals. Most of this waste is landfilled, which creates potential health and environmental hazards throughout the U.S., and a significant part of the rest is shipped to developing countries that lack the capacity to manage these wastes safely, threatening the health and environment of those communities. Reusing and recycling e-waste reduces the risks from these hazards and also provides opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint and conserve valuable natural resources.
“Used electronics represent the fastest growing segment of local solid waste in our country. Far too many used electronics end up in landfills or are exported to nations where there is little capacity for safe management. Rather than benefiting from the reuse and recycling of valuable components, we see increased exposure to the toxic chemicals and other harmful substances in electronic devices,” said EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “EPA has made the handling of used electronics and e-waste one of our top priorities, and through this task force the U.S. can become the world leader in sustainable electronics management. There are cost-effective and potentially profitable methods to better manage these materials and prevent health and environmental threats at home and around the world.”
“The federal government has a responsibility to ensure that its own waste is properly managed and recycled,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “Identifying opportunities to reuse the valuable resources contained in most disposed electronic devices is an important part of our obligation to protect human health and the environment.”