Advances in technology have led to rapidly increasing sales of new electronic devices. With this increase comes the dilemma of managing these products at the end of their useful lives. Some research suggests that the disposal of used electronics could cause a number of environmental problems. Research also suggests that such problems are often exacerbated by the export of used electronics to countries without protective environmental regulations. Given that millions of used electronics become obsolete each year with only a fraction of them being recycled, GAO was asked to (1) summarize information on the volumes of, and problems associated with, used electronics; (2) examine the factors affecting their recycling and reuse; and (3) examine federal efforts to encourage recycling and reuse of these products.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Environmental Protection Agency||1. Given the numerous and varying legislative proposals for nationwide financing systems, the Administrator, EPA, should direct the Offices of Solid Waste and Pollution Prevention and Toxics to bring its expertise to bear on the issue by drafting a legislative proposal including, but not limited to, recommendations for a consistent, nationwide financing system that addresses the barriers to recycling and reuse.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||2. As EPA finalizes its proposed rule regarding cathode ray tubes (CRT), the Administrator of EPA should ensure that the final rule reflects the concerns of numerous commenters that it will not constrict EPA's regulatory authority to oversee the exportation of CRT televisions and monitors (many of which exhibit the traits of hazardous wastes currently regulated by EPA) to countries that do not have the environmental protections in place to ensure their safe disassembly.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||3. In addition, to establish a national recycling infrastructure and encourage environmentally preferable management of used electronics throughout their life-cycle, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Solid Waste to take necessary action (in collaboration with the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive) to require federal agencies to participate in the Federal Electronics Challenge and to procure electronic products that meet or exceed the minimum performance criteria set by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool.|