Despite challenges, EPA says recycled electronics programs are growing

We sure do throw out a lot of electronic junk. The Environmental Protection Agency today said its recycling program, eCycling, collected and recycled close to 67 million pounds of used electronics in 2008, nearly a 30% increase over 2007.

In 2008, eCyclings's Plug-In partners prevented the release of greenhouse gases equal to the annual emissions from approximately 15,500 cars, the EPA said.

The agency pointed to a number of initiatives developed in 2008 that helped increase the recycling trend, including:

  • Dell/Staples partnership, where consumers can recycle any Dell-branded computer product for free at any Staples store in the U.S.;
  • Best Buy's pilot program at 134 stores to test in-store take back of selected consumer electronics;
  • Sony's expansion of its partnership with Waste Management to more than 160 drop off locations in the US, where consumers can recycle any Sony-branded products, including televisions, at no cost;
  • LG's launch of its partnership with Waste Management, also offering free recycling of LG, Zenith and Goldstar brands;
  • Samsung's Recycling Direct program, available at more than 170 U.S. locations and its partnership with Walmart, in which Durabrand and Ilo electronic products (two private brands formerly sold by Walmart) can be recycled at Samsung's Recycling Direct locations;
  • Partnership between Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba (via their recycling platform, the Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Company) and Goodwill Industries of Central Texas to pilot television collection and recycling;
  • Toshiba's free online takeback services for any brand of selected consumer electronics;
  • Free in-store takeback or mail-in recycling programs for cell phones and other mobile devices available from all Plug-In carriers or cell phone manufacturers.

Not all the electronics recycling news is good of course. In November, just over half of 17 major television makers in the US scored an "F" grade when it came to recycling old television sets, according to a survey carried out by recycling pressure group the Electronics TakeBack Coalition.

Among the nine companies that were ranked "F" were Vizio, which held fourth place in LCD (liquid crystal display) TV sales in the third quarter, and Sanyo was ranked fifth in plasma TV shipments in the same period. The other companies -- all scored F because they have no voluntary takeback program -- were Funai, Hitachi, JVC, Mitsubishi, Philips, Thomson and Target, said the ETBC which is a group of non-profit organizations promoting responsible recycling and green design in the electronics industry.

Not to mention the fact that the Government Accountability Office late last year lambasted the EPA and electronics recycling efforts in general saying many US companies are dumping everything from cell phones and old computers to televisions in countries such as China and India where disposal practices are unsafe to people and dangerous to the environment. Controlling the exportation of all of the e-waste plops on the doorstep of the US Environmental Protection Agency which is doing a woeful job, according to a scathing 67-page GAO report.

At the time the EPA said the GAO report may not offer a "complete and balanced picture of the agency's electronic waste program."

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