Americans’ appetite for new e-gadgets should extend to e-recycling

Every Sunday, in newspapers across the nation, new store advertisements are delivered, tucked in between the comics and the coupons. Glossy circulars promote the week’s hottest deals on shiny new state-of-the-art electronics: new phones, new laptops, new mp3 players, new cameras and TV sets.

With such an insatiable appetite for new gadgets, American consumers represent the largest market for new electronic products in the world. But American residents are lagging far behind their counterparts around the world when it comes to recycling their old electronics, instead storing the material until a later date or sending it to landfills.

In 2011, the International Data Corporation, at the commission of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, conducted a survey of the U.S. Electronics Recycling Industry. The study, IDC Report Inside the US Electronics Recycling Industry Final(2),  examined the volumes and end disposition of the electronics collected for recycling in the U.S., along with other aspects of the business end of the industry.

What the IDC found was that while organizations, businesses and public institutions are recycling their electronics, American consumers are not.

“The consumer/household and residential contribution is problematic,” according to the report. “It represents a market share of less than 26% of what recyclers receive, yet the consumer market is the largest in terms of electronics purchases.” Consumers, instead, are choosing to store or landfill their old electronics instead of recycling them. This practice is costing the environment – and the economy – dearly.

“Improving household collection and access to the recycling infrastructure is critical in any future recycling strategy debated by stakeholders. An increase in consumers/household contribution will not only contribute in greater environmental protection, but it would inevitably spur economic growth and job creation with an expanded industry,” the report states.

The U.S. lags behind other areas where electronics recycling is well established. IDC estimates that 3.5 million tons of e-scrap was captured for recycling in America in 2010, with upwards of 3 million tons is still going to landfills. In Europe, where strong electronics recycling laws have been in place for several years, it’s not uncommon to see recycling rates upwards of 70 percent for many electronics products.

Businesses and governmental organizations are leading the way in the U.S. when it comes to electronics recycling, and it’s time for the consumers to follow.

“Electronics recyclers are creating American jobs, adopting an industry standard that will help sustain growth and are recycling electronics here at home,” says ISRI President Robin Wiener. “Increasing household recycling of electronics is a clear challenge that must be addressed by incentivizing the collection of used household equipment. Tapping into this market will create even more jobs here at home and significantly reduce the amount of electronics that end up in a landfill.”

 

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