Updated: May 21, 2020
The burden of addressing e-waste does not fall on business alone. Indeed, a government program in the United States is already making an important contribution in this area. The National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship (NSES) – a multifaceted program advising government agencies, businesses, and citizens on how to reduce e-waste production – has the stated goal to “1) Build incentives for design of environmentally preferable electronics and enhance science, research, and technology development in the United States. 2) Ensure that the federal government leads by example. 3) Increase safe and effective management and handling of used electronics in the United States. 4) Reduce harm from U.S. exports of electronics waste (e-waste) and improve handling of used electronics in developing countries.”
Were businesses to effectively employ this program, for example, their produced e-waste would be properly disposed of with little cost to the businesses themselves. Twenty-five states now have policies in place to manage their e-waste on a statewide level, with manufacturers responsible for managing e-waste. However, while state laws represent a good starting place for tackling this problem, not all of these currently specify targets – or even how the programs in question are to be implemented. Indeed, Virginia, Missouri, Oklahoma, and others neither specify targets nor impose bans on problematic e-waste disposal. The federal government has some policies in place, but –with a diverse range of stakeholders to deal with, and with each state having a different set of policies – its regulations are hard to implement. Compared to other countries, the US has been less successful in addressing this important issue. Japan and Switzerland, by contrast, have developed programs that effectively manage e-waste, and the US could derive benefit from examining their successes.