Recycling can get a bad rap in sustainability circles for being too fundamental. As in, “They say they’re doing sustainability, but they just have a recycling program.” So when is recycling a big deal? When the biggest electronics consumer in the United States announces a landmark electronics recycling program that moves the whole market forward.
The new plan from the General Services Administration (GSA) commits them to recycling all electronics responsibly, using their presence in the market to encourage major manufacturers like Dell, Sprint and Sony to create recycling options for all consumers. They will also use their hefty purchasing power to encourage the design of more efficient electronics by cutting ENERGY STAR and EPEAT non-compliant items from their purchasing contracts. Large purchasers and markets can often use their leverage to move industries forward faster than individual consumers. The green building movement continues to cause similar shifts in building material marketplaces, like the rise in responsibly managed, FSC-certified forests.
Piper Kujac of Sustainable Industries spoke with James Kao of e-Stewards, a third party certification system for responsible electronics recyclers, to get insight into the new policy. “Kao anticipates that we will see a lot more restrictions and recycling components, as well as consumer reports aimed at rating the recyclability of a product, not just its performance during use.” While we wait for electronics manufacturers to rise to the GSA’s elevated standards, e-Stewards is a great resource for individuals trying to recycle their electronics with a clear conscience. Many of their approved recyclers also repair items to keep them in use and out of the waste stream entirely, such as Portland’s Free Geek. Take a look at e-Stewards’ interactive map of responsible electronics recyclers the next time you make an upgrade at your home or office.