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GSA Leading the Charge for Reusing and Recycling Electronics

The General Services Administration (“GSA”) is reviewing comments on proposed regulations to reuse and recycle electronics. The proposed regulations identify a variety of methods for disposing of functional and nonfunctional electronics owned by federal agencies. Besides the obvious options of reusing them within the agency, transferring them to other agencies, or recycling them with certified recyclers, another option, which GSA has already begun using, is manufacturer take-back programs.

The manufacturer take-back programs allow federal agencies to return used electronics to the original seller. In April 2014, Kevin Kampschroer, Deputy Senior Sustainability Official for GSA, reported to a Congressional committee on the proposed regulations, saying, “Additionally, if electronics are not transferred or donated, the agency may sell, or, if a take-back provision exists, return the electronics to the original vendor. GSA is incorporating these provisions into many of our contracts, and is also developing government-wide guidance about incorporating take-back requirements into all contracts.”

These regulations are part of GSA’s participation in federal leadership for sustainable electronics. GSA is a Co-Chair of the Interagency Task Force on Electronics Stewardship, which recently issued its update to the national strategy for electronics stewardship entitled, “Moving Sustainable Electronics Forward.” The update focuses on the federal government’s commitment to being a responsible consumer of electronics and a leader of electronics stewardship in the U.S., reporting accomplishments to date and specific upcoming commitments.

Under the goal of creating incentives for “greener” electronics, federal purchasers are currently required to buy Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) registered products. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has awarded a Small Business Innovative Research contract for recovering rare earth elements from discarded electronics.

Under the goal of ensuring the federal government leads by example, guidelines for recycling used federal equipment are available and regulations are being developed. The guidance includes the use of certified recyclers and the United States Postal Service BlueEarth Recycling Program.

To achieve the goal of increasing safe and effective management and handling of used electronics in the United States, the EPA started a challenge in 2012 for electronic manufacturers and retailers to commit to sending 100 percent of the electronics they collect from the public, businesses and others to certified electronic refurbishers and recyclers, among other commitments, and has developed an interactive map of certified refurbishers and recyclers.

The federal government is also working with other countries to reduce harm from U.S. exports of E-waste and improve safe handling of used electronics in developing countries.

If you are an IT federal contractor and have not already seen take-back provisions in your contracts, you likely will soon. You can also expect to see more research and innovations related to increased reuse of electronics materials. If you are a recycler of electronics, you will want to keep an eye on the Task Force’s studies of recyclers and certifications as the federal government leads changes in the industry. For more information on this topic, contact a member of Cherry Bekaert’s Government Contractors team.

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