Cleaning Up Electronic Waste (E-Waste)
EPA provided financial support for the development of both reports.
Building upon the Ethiopia report and other StEP work supported by EPA, the GEF awarded $1 million to the Ethiopian government, through UNIDO, to scale up those efforts and help them develop a fully functional e-waste management system for the country. This is the first e-waste project in which the GEF is investing.
The China report, a collaboration between StEP and Tshingua University in Beijing, is the first comprehensive overview of the e-waste problem in China.
From computers and cell phones, to portable communication and music devices -- the United States of America is a global leader in designing and developing new and improved electronic technologies. With this vibrant innovation, however, comes the increasing challenge of protecting human health and the environment from the potentially harmful effects of poorly managed manufacturing, use, recovery, recycling and disposal of these products.
Currently, most discarded consumer elctronics end up in our landfills. While accurate data on the amount of e-waste being exported from the U.S. are not available, the United States government is concerned that these exports are being mismanaged abroad, causing serious public health and environmental hazards, and representing a lost opportunity to recover valuable resources effectively. U.S. laws and regulations are limited in their ability to prevent harmful exports of used electronics to developing countries.
While EPA continues to build upon its domestic efforts of improving management of discarded used electronics to minimize the growing stream of e-waste and to increase the recycling and reuse of these materials, EPA’s international efforts focus on addressing the problems caused when used electronics are exported to developing countries that lack the capacity to manage them safely, causing human health and environmental impacts amongst workers and communities. EPA efforts support the United States government's National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, which details the federal government’s plan to enhance the management of electronics throughout the product lifecycle
EPA collaborates with the United Nations University - Solving the E-waste Problem Initiative (StEP) to jointly address the e-waste problem in developing countries. EPA and StEP signed a cooperative agreement on this topic in November 2010. EPA and StEP are working collaboratively on tracking global flows of e-waste, strengthening Ethiopia's efforts to manage e-waste and engaging with China on e-waste management practices. EPA is a founding member of StEP and serves on the StEP Steering Committee.
Recent and Upcoming Events
- May 2013: EPA was recognized for its continued support at a "virtual" StEP General Assembly, with over 65 attendees from across the globe. The next annual in-person StEP General Assembly will take place in October.
- April 2013: EPA joined the government of Ethiopia and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in launching a $1 million GEF e-waste project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia April 17-19.
- April 2013: StEP released two key reports for Ethiopia and China that provide key information on how e-waste is managed in these countries.
- October 2012:At an international workshop co-hosted by USEPA and EPA Taiwan (EPAT) during the week of October 15th, 2012, participants from Asia, Africa and the LAC regions decided to establish a formal network for sharing policy-level information related to the management of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).
- September 2012: Building on the international Stakeholder Dialogue held in Beijing in July, BCRC-Beijing organized a provincial-level stakeholder meeting in Shenzhen. The workshop identified cross-sector priorities related to e-waste management, recycling, and reducing associated pollution in key areas in Guangdong Province, which is home to Guiyu, a well-known location for informal e-waste recycling.
- July 2012: StEP and Tsinghua University hosted an E-Waste Management Stakeholder Dialogue in Beijing from July 16-17.
- June 2012: The United Nations University - Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative (StEP) and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) hosted an E-waste Academy (EWA) for policymakers and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), June 25-29, 2012 in Accra, Ghana. The EWA will enable coordination in addressing e-waste and facilitate exchange of best practices and expert feedback, taking into account regional disparities.
For additional information on EPA's international work on e-waste, contact:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460