Toxic Trade News / 14 April 2011
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CEA seeks to triple e-scrap recycling
by Resource Recycling
14 April 2011 – Backed by some of the world's largest electronics manufacturers, retailers and a host of elected officials, the Consumer Electronics Association has unveiled an ambitious plan to triple the amount of electronics recycling in the U.S. by 2016.

The eCycling Leadership Initiative kicks off with a goal of recycling one billion pounds of electronics by 2016. To reach this target, the CEA plans to focus on 5,000 e-scrap collection sites across the country currently sponsored by member companies. The CEA says it will field consumer surveys of electronics recycling awareness to develop and refine consumer education resources for members and will also focus online resources and social marketing. Additionally, organizers of the new program say it will comply with all existing state e-scrap programs, but the effort is designed to be national in scale and will try to remain as consistent as possible between states.

Beyond the sharing of information and the development of recycling goals, the coordination program relies mostly on the efforts of individual member companies.

"Our members are implementing and enhancing national operational plans, and some operational plans will be more customized than others," explains Walter Alcorn, vice president for environmental affairs and industry sustainability for the CEA.

The organizational nature of the new program has caused some to question its effectiveness, however.

"Despite the CEA statement that 'the use of recyclers and downstream processors who dump end-of-life electronics in developing nations' should not be allowed, they continue to offer no concrete commitment to abide by the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment, which make such exports illegal," said Basel Action Network executive director Jim Puckett in a prepared statement.

"We’re disappointed in the announcement by CEA. It was simply an announcement of a goal, with no details on any program to reach this goal," says Barbara Kyle, national coordinator for the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. "We are really shocked that this industry 'leadership' effort isn’t making a clear commitment to recycling without exporting e-waste to developing countries. That should be a cornerstone of any leadership effort on recycling. Not including it undermines the companies who actually do have strong policies on export."

The official announcement from the CEA states the organization "supports the movement toward third-party recycler certification" and encourages members to use such facilities. Walter Alcorn explains the CEA's position further:

"The companies that developed the eCycling Leadership Initiative are all using recycling facilities that are currently third-party certified – or that are pursuing third-party certification. As an industry association, the CEA could run afoul of anti-trust laws if it categorically excluded recyclers not third-party certified who are otherwise operating legally. But we support the broader movement toward third-party certified recyclers as a step towards ensuring that all electronics recycling, particularly recycling arranged by entities outside the consumer electronics industry, is done responsibly. We encourage more recycling in such facilities."

R2 Solutions, the housing body for the Responsible Recycling (R2) standard, released a statement in support of the announcement, welcoming the CEA's support of both the R2 and e-Stewards certifications.

"Setting ambitious recovery goals for consumer electronics while also promoting best practices in electronics recycling creates a win-win for consumers and environment," said R2 Solutions executive director John Lingelbach in an accompanying release. "Promoting responsible recycling is a huge undertaking, with many facets and objectives. The eCycling Initiative is helping with this undertaking. And it is raising awareness among consumers – something that I hope we can all agree is critical to improved management of the electronics recycling stream."

For its part, the CEA says the new program will release annual progress reports on electronics recycling growth, which will include information on the capacity and performance of third-party certification systems used by partnering processors.

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