Electronic Recycling Programs with No Federal Backing Have Limited Success

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In contrast, the potential success of the FEC [Federal Electronics Challenge] and EPEAT [Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool] programs is presently limited because, unlike the Energy Star program, federal agencies' participation is not required. The potential benefits from broader federal participation were illustrated by BPA's experience, which, as noted earlier, demonstrated significant cost and energy savings and greater environmental protection. They were also underscored by the results of our survey—almost 90 percent of respondents said that federal government procurement criteria along the lines of FEC and EPEAT should be required, and over 95 percent said that such procurement criteria would encourage environmentally preferable product design, and greater recycling and reuse.

Despite the significant environmental benefits of recycling and reusing used electronics, these environmentally preferable practices will likely remain underutilized unless concerted actions are taken.

evaluating the authors' arguments:

The authors of this viewpoint, who represent a government agency, recommend that the federal government pass more laws to promote and assist used electronics recycling programs. Does knowing the source of the viewpoint influence your opinion of the recommendation made? Explain your answer thoroughly.

The Government Should Not Lead Efforts to Recycle Electronics

Dana Joel Gattuso

In the following viewpoint author Dana Joel Gattuso argues that government regulations to recycle electronics are unnecessary, restrictive, and costly. She debunks myths about electronics recycling, claiming that electronic waste is not growing uncontrollably and computers in landfills do not contain toxic materials that endanger public health. Gattuso says it is therefore safe and less expensive to landfill more electronics waste rather than recycle it. Furthermore, for the electronics waste that should be recycled, Gattuso says that private companies have developed successful recycling methods that are efficient and make financial sense. Government recycling programs, on the other hand, are generally unsuccessful and do not generate enough revenue to cover costs, in Gattuso's opinion. For all these reasons, she concludes that private

Dana Joel Gattuso, Mandated Recycling ofElectronics: A Lose-Lose-Lose Proposition, Washington, DC: Competitive Enterprise Institute, 2005. Reproduced by permission.

"Government fees, mandates, and regulations only create barriers to private efforts to find successful ways to recycle and reuse electronics."

companies do the best job of recycling electronics, that most electronics waste should go to landfills, and that the government should get out of the recycling business.

Gattuso is a writer and policy analyst of environmental issues. She writes frequently for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an environmental think tank based in Washington, DC, from which this viewpoint is taken.

AS you READ, CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING questions:

  1. According to the author, what percent of total municipal solid waste did e-waste constitute in 1999? In 2001?
  2. According to Gattuso, how much does it cost to recycle one ton of e-waste vs. putting it in a landfill?
  3. How many pounds of computers and computer equipment did Dell, HP, and IBM recycle in 2004, according to the author?

Concern over the rapid growth of used computers and what to do with them once they expire has placed the issue of how best to handle electronic waste—or "e-waste"—at the forefront of waste policy at the federal, state, and local levels. Increasingly, propaganda fueled by politically driven environmental activists and a misinformed media is turning concern into hysteria. Fears are largely based on the following myths:

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