What role do manufacturers play in American electronics recycling?

In the U.S., electronics recycling mandates – also known as landfill bans or Extended Producer Responsibility laws – are on the books in 27 states.

E-World Online's map of electronics recycling laws by state. Source: http://www.e-worldonline.com/StateGuidelines/Index

Although similar in concept, none of these state programs are exactly the same. They have similarities, but they’re all different from each other. Some of the basic tenets are the same from state to state. Electronics manufacturers, companies like Sony, LG, Dell and Vizio, are required to cover the costs of responsibly collecting and recycling their branded products.  Some states assign quotas to manufacturers for recycling based off market share or annual sales or other formulas and allow the manufacturers to get there any way they wish – others proscribe detailed protocols for collections and handling of recyclables.

What it means is that any company engaged in the manufacture or sale of new consumer electronics in the U.S. must deal with 27 different laws and requirements, making sure they are in compliance.

To make the job easier for these companies, E-World Recyclers of Vista, Ca., created E-World Online’s Manufacturer Interstate Takeback System.

“The Manufacturers Interstate Takeback System is a group of transporters, manufacturers and recyclers banding together to reduce costs and make sure manufacturers meet state laws,” says Bob Erie, CEO of E-World Recyclers and E-World Recyclers Online. “It allows each group to maintain focus on their core competencies.”

E-World operates in every state that has an EPR, or landfill ban, program, along with voluntary takeback programs in Colorado and Utah.  Consumers can log on to the program’s website and search for an E-World preferred recycling location.

These “preferred” recycling locations also inform consumers of what company is going to be recycling their used laptops, computers or mobile devices, Erie says. E-World Online and the Manufacturer’s Interstate Takeback System program audits participating recyclers and transporters, making sure they follow the applicable laws. The recyclers also must hold quality, environmental, health and safety management certifications, Erie says, to be part of the program.

“The consumer will see that their electronics are being handled responsibly,” he says.

The system works well for manufacturers – MITS tracks precisely how much electronic scrap, by brand and geographic location, is being collected. That helps manufacturers ensure they’re meeting their state-mandated quotas, but not exceeding them. This means the companies can focus on developing the hottest new projects while still meeting legal obligations to manage their old products at end of life.

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