EPA’s Resource Conservation Challenge (RCC) seeks to renew the emphasis on resource conservation under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the emphasis on preventing pollution and conserving natural resources under the Pollution Prevention Act. The RCC brings greater urgency to EPA’s message of reducing, reusing, and recycling valuable materials habitually discarded by Americans by linking the importance of these activities to energy conservation and greenhouse gas reductions. One key area of focus under the RCC is electronics.

Why electronics?

EPA has been actively helping to improve the design and recovery of electronics for more than a decade. Our interest in electronics stems from four primary concerns:

  1. Rapid growth and change in this product sector, leading to a constant stream of new product offerings and a wide array of obsolete products needing appropriate management;
  2. Energy consumption by these products (the Energy Information Agency’s Annual Energy Outlook 2006 projects that electronics will a count for 19 percent of residential energy use by 2020, compared with 14 percent of home energy consumption in 2006);
  3. Presence of toxic substances in many products which can cause problematic exposures during manufacturing, recycling or disposal, if not properly managed; – the presence of these constituents has sparked the search for workable substitutes and development of better management practices; and
  4. Need to ensure widespread, convenient and affordable reuse and recycling infrastructure for electronics (with initial emphasis on TVs, PCs and cell phones) and, in doing so, to conserve and recover the large amount of embodied energy and valuable materials inherent in used electronics.

Our electronics work is anchored by three goals to reduce the environmental impacts of electronic products:

  • Foster environmentally conscious design and manufacturing;
  • Increase purchasing and use of more environmentally sustainable electronics; and
What EPA is doing

EPA is currently working with stakeholders in both the public and private sectors to meet these goals. The aim is to make it easier and more cost-effective for consumers, retailers, recyclers, manufacturers, and governments at all levels to help divert these products into environmentally sound reuse and recycling outlets, as well as to reduce the environmental footprint of electronic product in manufacture and use. We want citizens to realize their impact on the environment and take action to reduce it—whether they are buying a new electronic product or disposing of an old one. To help make this change happen, the RCC relies heavily on voluntary partnerships to promote and encourage the reuse and recycling of used electronic products.

Plug-In To eCycling:

Plug-In To eCycling with US EPA is a partnership between EPA and consumer electronics manufacturers, retailers, and service providers that offers you more opportunities to donate or recycle - to "eCycle" - your used electronics.

  • Makes it easier for you to donate or safely recycle old electronics, including TVs, computers, and cell phones; and
  • Works with communities, electronics manufacturers, and retailers to promote shared responsibility for safe electronics recycling.
  • Conserves natural resources. Recycling recovers valuable materials from old electronics that can be used to make new products. As a result, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution, save energy, and save resources by extracting fewer raw materials from the earth.
  • Protects your surroundings. Safe recycling of outdated electronics promotes sound management of toxic chemicals such as lead and mercury.
  • Helps others. Donating your used electronics benefits your community by passing on ready-to-use or refurbished equipment to those who need it.

MNN Public Information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 

Recycling electronics 2/6/2009
Learn more about the EPA's Resource Conservation Challenge.