Mar 21 - GAO Report Finds Action Needed on E-waste Management

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) just released a report that found federal agencies still have a long way to go in managing their own e-waste responsibly. The report, "Electronic Waste: Actions Needed to Provide Assurance That Used Federal Electronics Are Disposed of in an Environmentally Responsible Manner," noted that while federal agencies have made some improvements in how they are managing their e-waste, agencies still can’t show what’s ultimately happening to their used products.

As we previously reported, the Federal General Services Administrator announced new guidelines banning all federal agencies from disposing of electronic waste in landfills. However, as the world’s largest purchaser of IT equipment, spending $80 billion in 2010 and disposing of 10,000 computers each week, the federal government needs to establish more control over the disposition of e-waste.

For example, there are challenges associated with determining agencies’ responsibility for used electronics sold through auctions. Currently, neither the agency nor the auction entities are required to determine whether purchasers follow environmentally sound end-of-life practices. Not having controls over the ultimate disposition of electronics sold through these auctions creates opportunities for buyers to purchase federally generated e-waste and export them to countries with less stringent environmental and health standards.

There is federal bill in both houses of Congress, the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (RERA), that would restrict the export of toxic e-waste (including that coming from the federal government) to developing countries.

California also has their own e-waste export bill with AB 960 by Assembly Member Bonnie Lowenthal. The measure will help reduce the amount of e-waste exported overseas from California by mandating that recyclers reform their exporting practices in order to receive payments.

 

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