Public Interest Groups Unveil 'Electronics Take It Back!' Campaign
Washington, DC - A new national campaign unveiled its platform to reduce health and environmental impacts from electronic products. Groups forming the Electronics Take it Back! Campaign -- including the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, GrassRoots Recycling Network, Mercury Policy Project and Clean Water Action -- have developed a producer responsibility campaign "road map" that they will present this week at three national electronic forums in Virginia.
Discarded electronic equipment -- particularly computers -- is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the industrialized world, due to growing sales and rapid obsolescence of these products. Up until now, little attention has been paid to the growing mountains of electronics junk and its hazardous impacts on people and the environment.
"Electronic equipment is one of the largest known sources of heavy metals and organic pollutants in municipal trash," said Michael Bender, a consultant to SVTC. "Without effective recycling and phase-outs of toxic substances, electronics junk will increasingly pollute the environment, threatening people and wildlife."
Government, industry and public interest groups are coming together to address concerns related to the manufacturer, use, storage, and disposal of electronics at three forums:
Several forums were held in April on electronic recycling. One of the key issues under discussion at all of the forums is the critical need to implement responsible electronic recycling and management programs- and to determine who will pay for them. Currently, most "obsolete" electronic products are not recycled, and the expense of collecting, managing and disposing of discarded electronics- including special collections, household hazardous waste programs and hazardous waste site cleanup- is usually borne by taxpayer-funded government programs, primarily at the local level.
"The campaign is working to end the requirement that taxpayers bear financial, environmental, and health burdens of toxic electronics waste," said Jeremiah Baumann, environmental health advocate for U.S. PIRG. "Instead, we support the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility -- which means requiring manufacturers who make products with toxic materials to take full responsibility for the products through their entire lifecyle."
The campaign's ultimate aims are pollution prevention and waste avoidance through a hierarchy of practices, including source reduction, reuse, re-manufacturing and recycling.
"Many companies in countries throughout Europe and Asia are implementing extended producer responsibility programs in response to government regulations," said Bill Sheehan of the Grassroots Recycling Network. "Having producers assume responsibility results in internalization of costs. It also creates a powerful incentive to reduce such costs by designing products that are cleaner and safer, more durable and reusable, and easier to disassemble and recycle."