E-waste tracking and tracing

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) starts tracking and tracing of e-waste. According to the EPA website the EPA is taking part in a national task force to address e-waste in addition they are also taking action on an international level:

“Increasing waste from electronics (e-waste) is a significant problem.  To address this problem, President Barack Obama has established a task force to develop a national strategy for responsible electronic stewardship.

  • Over the next six months, the Task Force will develop a national framework for sustainable management of electronics, including an action plan directing Federal agencies to exercise all appropriate authorities to achieve its goals.
  • This Task Force will build upon and integrate existing programs, such as the Federal Electronics Stewardship Working Group and the Federal Electronics Challenge.
  • The Task Force includes senior-level policy officials from CEQ, EPA, GSA, U.S. Department of State (State), the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), and other agencies as appropriate

One important objective of this cross-government effort – and of the task force – is to reduce exports of used electronics to developing countries that lack capacity to properly manage them, and assess how we can improve our ability to deter these exports. Our goal is to support capacity building and sharing of best practices so that developing countries, which are facing their own challenges managing used electronics, can improve their ability to safely handle used electronics, while promoting economic development.

In addition to our efforts domestically, to address the e-waste problem internationally, EPA has begun to track e-waste flows, and to promote sustainable recycling efforts in developing countries.

  • EPA recently signed a cooperative agreement with UN University’s Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative to begin to gather data on e-waste flows from the US to other countries, and internationally, that can be used by governments, enforcement officials and others to make decisions regarding management of the exports/imports of used electronics.
  • EPA and UN University-StEP are also exploring how to best support Africa as it deals with its e-waste problem. This includes support for developing appropriate regulations and legal infrastructure in developing countries, identifying best management practices, and demonstrating environmentally sound practices that can be shared with the entire region.”

With a current recycling rate for computer products in the US below 20% this is definitely a good step forward.

StEP is an initiative of various UN organizations with the overall aim to solve the e-waste problem. This is done together with prominent members from industry, governments, international organizations, NGOs and the science sector and is using the following 5 guiding principles

  1. StEP’s work is founded on scientific assessments and incorporates a comprehensive view of the social, environmental and economic aspects of e-waste.
  2. StEP conducts research on the entire life-cycle of electronic and electrical equipment and their corresponding global supply, process and material flows.
  3. StEP’s research and pilot projects are meant to contribute to the solution of e-waste problems.
  4. StEP condemns all illegal activities related to e-waste including illegal shipments and reuse/ recycling practices that are harmful to the environment and human health.
  5. StEP seeks to foster safe and eco/energy-efficient reuse and recycling practices around the globe in a socially responsible manner.

StEP works with five Task Forces to get things done:

Policy

The analysis of existing approaches and policies for e-waste in order to issue recommendations for future developments.
Details

ReDesign

Efforts to support the design for better reuse, repair, refurbishment and recycling.
Details

ReUse

The development of a replicable and sustainable global reuse system to minimize environmental impacts.
Details

ReCycle

The enhancement of global recycling infrastructures to realize sustainable e-waste recycling systems.
Details

Capacity Building

The documentation of all results achieved by the Task Forces in order to make them globally accessible and increase awareness.
Details

It looks like e-waste finally is taken seriously.

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