Dialogue begins for Used Electronic Reuse, Recycling

San Francisco, CA - Representatives from electronics manufacturers, government agencies, environmental groups, and others met formally in San Francisco to develop a joint plan in the United States for managing used electronics. This "product stewardship" initiative involves a sharing of responsibility for the reuse and recycling of electronics by those who produce, sell, and use these products.

With the growing number of obsolete electronics, there continues to be an increased demand for facilities that manage used electronics. The infrastructure for collecting, reusing, and recycling electronics in the United States has not kept pace with this growing concern and all parties involved - federal, state and local governments, manufacturers, retailers, recyclers, and environmental groups - are working together to address this issue.

The National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative (NEPSI), which was organized in late April of this year, consists of 45 participants, split evenly among industry, government, and a third group that includes environmental groups, recyclers, and retailers. The NEPSI group's main goal for the dialogue, agreed to in San Francisco, is "the development of a system, which includes a viable financing mechanism, to maximize the collection, reuse, and recycling of used electronics, while considering appropriate incentives to design products that facilitate source reduction, reuse and recycling; reduce toxicity; and increase recycled content." NEPSI participants also reached agreement on the types of electronic products to be included in this system, as well as a number of general attributes that a national system should contain to effectively collect, reuse, and recycle electronics.

The group has agreed to meet six times over the next year, while rotating meetings around the country to acknowledge the unique regional circumstances faced by state and local agencies. Participants hope that this dialogue will result in a voluntary national agreement that will obviate the need for regulatory or statutory action, and will lower the cost of recycling by coordinating state efforts. Over 20 state environmental agencies are actively engaged in the dialogue.

The University of Tennessee's Center for Clean Products and Clean Technologies (CCPCT) is coordinating the NEPSI process under a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. CCPCT Director, Gary Davis, who is facilitating the meetings, says this series of meetings "is a unique process for bringing stakeholders together to address this important problem. This group is extremely knowledgeable about the issues and is highly motivated. In fact, members are already discussing possible product stewardship models for the system of collection, reuse and recycling."

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