September 26, 2011

Feds weighing new rules for 'e-waste'

WASHINGTON - How the federal government dumps half a million worn-out computers and countless other electronic devices every year may help expand the $5 billion electronics-recycling industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency and General Services Administration are considering new rules for contract recyclers as it starts requiring agencies to dispose of old computers, monitors and other "e-waste."

The agencies said they will decide next year on which third-party certification it will apply to its electronics recyclers under the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship unveiled this summer.

Green recyclers and traditional scrap haulers are at odds over the certification standards, one of which would ban exporting computer trash along with other restrictions. Both sides agree that the federal agency mandate could transform the industry.

"By some estimates, the federal government goes through 10,000 computers a week," GSA Administrator Martha Johnson said in an Aug. 9 statement. "Requiring that each of those machines end their useful lives at a certified recycler could mean big business."

The EPA/GSA strategy could have indirect consequences for how the electronics-recycling industry is structured if it picks one certification over another for its vendors, said David Daoud, personal-computing analyst for International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass.

The U.S. electronics-recycling industry employs 30,000 people and accounts for $5 billion in annual revenue, Daoud said. That amount could double if consumers follow the lead of federal agencies and companies, he said.

Kenny Gravitt, chief executive officer at Global Environmental Services, an e-waste recycler in Georgetown, Ky., that reclaims copper and aluminum from circuit boards and other components, says the entire U.S. economy would benefit from the export ban.

"I would like to see an edict come out that there will be no more exporting of electronic waste," he said. "When that happens and the GSA opens up the playing field to qualified and serious recyclers, it'll create jobs."

Gravitt's three-year old company has added 100 employees to process electronics for companies including Japan's Canon Inc. and Konica Minolta Holdings Inc., attracting GSA's Johnson for a visit last month, he said. The company plans to pursue a GSA multiple-award schedule contract for environmental services.

by Nishad Majmudar Bloomberg News Sept. 26, 2011 12:00 AM

Feds weighing new rules for 'e-waste'

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