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Policy Positions

From time to time, the NERC Board of Directors adopts a policy position to guide the organization and to inform the recycling community. Over its lengthy history, this has happened relatively few times. As such, the policies that have been adopted represent not only the position of the organization, but highlight a topic of particular sensitivity and concern.

Amended NERC Used Electronics Recycling Market Development Policy Statement

Adopted May 23, 2001

Preamble: The Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) is a regional non-profit organization representing certain recycling and economic development officials in the Northeast, working collaboratively to promote recycling market development.

The goal of this policy statement is to promote an economically and environmentally sustainable recycling system for used electronics in the region, and to support reductions in the volume and toxicity of materials used to make electronic products (i.e., source reduction). For purposes of this policy statement, used electronics are defined as personal computers, computer monitors, and televisions, and recycling is broadly defined to include source reduction, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and demanufacturing. This policy statement also supports a hierarchy of integrated waste management strategies that places source reduction and reuse above all other strategies, followed by recycling and disposal.

This policy statement reflects the growing concern of NERC members over the volume and toxicity of used electronics in the waste stream, their potential impacts on the environment if not managed properly, their demand on limited disposal capacity in the region, and the cost to local governments and small to medium sized businesses for proper management of these products. This policy statement also reflects the opportunity that NERC members see for creating new businesses and jobs in the reuse and recycling industry by promoting the development of a system to efficiently and effectively reuse and recycle used electronics.

NERC acknowledges that the computer and television sectors of the electronics industries are rapidly changing and dynamic. To effectively sustain an economically viable and environmentally sound recycling system, flexibility and creativity in policy development and implementation will be required, along with the active participation of an ongoing dialogue among all stakeholders in electronics manufacturing, distribution, and marketing, and reuse and recycling of used electronics. In addition, NERC recognizes that different strategies may be required to promote an economically and environmentally sustainable management system for electronic products that have already been manufactured and sold to consumers and those that will be designed for and sold to future customers.

In addition, NERC recognizes that there are other public, private and non-governmental organizations at the regional, national and international levels that are working on used electronics issues. If any of the Guiding Principles or Action Steps in this policy statement reflects projects or activities that are being undertaken by other organizations, then the Principles and Action Steps should be construed as a statement of support for those efforts. However, the notion that responsibility for resolving the myriad of issues surrounding recycling of used electronics should be shared among all stakeholders, is a fundamental premise of this policy statement.

It is assumed that the Guiding Principles and Action Steps in this policy statement can only be implemented where it is technically and economically feasible to do so.

The NERC Board of Directors and staff will work to identify appropriate roles for NERC states and NERC as a regional organization to take in order to advance electronics recycling market development in the Northeast and to inform the broader national discussion about these issues.

Policy Statement

Guiding principle:efforts should be directed toward strategies that lower the costs and increase the efficiencies of reusing and recycling used electronics equipment with a goal of increasing its economic value.

Action Steps

  • Provide economic assistance to support the development of economically viable used electronics reuse and recycling businesses and programs, including, but not limited to, financial incentives for capitalizing processing equipment and developing new technologies that will increase the cost effectiveness and sustainability of reuse and recycling.
  • Promote the decreased use of toxic materials in electronic products where it results in a net environmental benefit.
  • Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of techniques for identifying and separating the types of materials, particularly plastic materials, used in making electronic products. This may include sorting technologies, permanent component labels that do not impede the recyclability of those products, and other information tools.
  • Support design for the environment efforts by manufacturers that include design for durability (including design changes that make upgrades of equipment and components easy and cost-effective), source reduction, reuse and recyclability, toxics reduction, and increased use of recovered materials.
  • Support market development for recycled feedstock by encouraging the use, purchase, and identification of products using recycled content derived from used electronics.
  • Build sustainable partnerships with reuse organizations, repair businesses, and charitable organizations involved with electronics recycling. Explore sustainable partnerships with job training entities to promote and expand the repair and reuse infrastructure.
  • Encourage uniform purchasing standards for obtaining backup operating software, including all necessary drivers that would be provided at the time of purchase. (NOTE: Backup operating software, including all necessary drivers, would eliminate the need for reuse or repair businesses to purchase these items and would make the resale of computers more economical, expand such sales and increase the lifespan of computers.)
  • Implement mechanisms to help cover costs associated with the recovery, reuse, and recycling of used electronics. Options could include, but not be limited to, advance disposal fees, reverse distribution systems, customer rebate programs, deposit and return systems, or mechanisms that capture the costs of managing used electronics through the pricing of new electronic products, and utilize the funds generated to cover those costs.

Guiding principle: Efforts should be targeted toward strategies that minimize the negative environmental impacts associated with electronics products throughout their lifecycle.

Action Steps

  • Encourage uniform environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP) standards for computer equipment among public and private entities, which are developed with input from all stakeholders.
  • Create forums for better communications between trade associations, manufacturers, recycling and recovery facilities, and state and local officials about product design changes that would affect the economics and environmental impacts of used electronics recycling.
  • Support and promote certification programs for organizations that reuse or recycle used electronic equipment, which include criteria incorporating environmental and worker safety best management practices, requiring compliance with all relevant federal, state, and local regulatory requirements, and end-of-life management needs of manufacturers. In addition to minimizing environmental impacts, certification programs can promote quality assurance and public confidence in the reuse and recycling of used electronics.
  • Promote the leasing of electronics where the lessor receives returned electronics and is thereby responsible for the proper disposition of the leased equipment through reuse, recycling, or other management methods that ensure protection of public health, the environment and worker safety.
  • Consider policy options, including bans, to keep CRTs from landfills and incinerators in conjunction with the development of an infrastructure for recycling or reusing them.

Guiding principle: Efforts should be made to eliminate unprocessed electronic waste disposed at landfills or incinerators.

Action Steps

  • Consider policy options, including bans, to keep CRTs from landfills and incinerators in conjunction with the development of an infrastructure for recycling or reusing them.

Guiding principle: Roles and responsibilities for each stakeholder group in support of shared product responsibility should be clearly defined.

  • Promote a regional model electronics stewardship policy that states may adopt, which is developed with input from stakeholders.
  • Maintain an ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders to define, articulate, and implement roles and responsibilities for used electronics reuse and recycling systems. This dialogue should involve consumers, government officials, manufacturers, software manufacturers, transporters, retailers, recyclers, waste management officials and other relevant industries.

Guiding principle: The regulatory structure in the region should support and encourage reuse and recycling.

Action Step

  • Evaluate regulations, where appropriate, to see if rules impede recycling, and revise or promulgate regulations that enhance and encourage reuse and recycling.

Guiding principle: Efforts should be directed toward maximizing participation in used electronics reuse and recycling programs.

Note: education is key to maximizing participation and promoting an economically and environmentally sustainable reuse and recycling system.

Action Steps

  • Support multiple forms of consumer education and notification about the need to recycle and about appropriate end-of-life management for used electronics. Consumer education may include labeling systems on products or components, which do not impede recyclability, or other consumer education programs.
  • Provide a clearinghouse of information for consumers on how to recycle or properly dispose of used electronics.
  • Evaluate the current collection infrastructure in the Northeast, identify gaps or deficiencies in the infrastructure that impede or prevent collection of used electronics, and take action to remedy the problems identified.
  • Increase access to low-cost backup operating software, repair manuals and device drives to individuals and organizations that reuse, refurbish, and remanufacture used electronics.
  • Support programs, including educational efforts that provide quality assurance to customers of electronic products that have been remanufactured or refurbished in order to expand electronics quality assurance systems and other programs to encourage public acceptance of these products. If successful, these programs could increase demand for and expand the reuse and remanufacturing industries.

Guiding principle: Implementation and impact of this policy statement should be regularly monitored and updated.

Action Steps

  • Promote collaboration among stakeholders to establish a current baseline for used electronics recovery in the Northeast, set realistic goals for used electronics recycling, and create a system for measuring progress and re-evaluating recycling goals.

Review, and revise as necessary, this policy statement for its consistency with emerging national policies and strategies that seek to achieve similar goals and objectives. Watch international developments to provide insight into potential future directions and options.