ISTC Earns Gold Level Recognition from State Electronics Challenge for Third Year in a Row

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), the parent organization of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), has once again been recognized by the State Electronics Challenge (SEC) program for its accomplishments in green purchasing, energy conservation, and responsible recycling of electronic office equipment.

As a result of its environmental initiatives, in 2016 ISTC saved enough energy to power 42 households per year, avoided greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 68 cars from the road per year, as well as avoiding the generation of 37 pounds of hazardous waste.

For more information, see the press release on the ISTC Blog at http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/blog/2017/04/04/state-electronics-challenge-recognizes-illinois-sustainable-technology-center-as-a-2016-gold-award-winner/.

photo of SEC plaque made of old circuit boards

State Electronics Challenge Recognizes the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) as a 2016 Gold Winner

ISTC Logo[Champaign, Illinois April 4, 2016]The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) today received a Gold award for its achievements in the State Electronics Challenge; a comprehensive nationwide environmental sustainability initiative that currently reaches more than 220,000 employees in 47 states. ISTC was recognized for its accomplishments in green procurement, energy and paper conservation, and responsible recycling of electronic office equipment in 2015.

“ISTC’s program is a truly outstanding example of a commitment to environmental leadership,” commented Lynn Rubinstein, State Electronics Challenge Program Manager. “This is the second year in a row that the program has earned a Gold Award.” She added that “ISTC is one of only 12 organizations nationally being recognized this year and the only one in Illinois.”

“We’re really pleased to have received recognition again. Participating in the State Electronics Challenge has provided a great framework for our organization to ensure that we’re making better choices in purchasing as well as continuing efforts to limit impacts in the use and end-of-life management phases,” said Joy Scrogum, Emerging Technologies Resource Specialist and coordinator of ISTC’s Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI).

As a result of these environmental initiatives, in 2015 ISTC saved enough energy to power 6 households per year, avoided greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 8 cars from the road per year, as well as avoiding the generation of more than 50 pounds of hazardous waste – equivalent to the weight of a refrigerator.

ISTC has committed to purchasing computer and imaging equipment that is qualified by the Electronic Procurement Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT®) standard.  EPEAT is an internationally recognized system that identifies office equipment that meets specified environmental performance criteria.  It also uses power management and requires double-sided printing to decrease energy and paper usage, and ensures that at the end-of-life, equipment is recycled by a third-party certified electronics recycler – Secure Recycling Services & Secure Processors.

“ISTC was the first Illinois organization to participate in the State Electronics Challenge, joining back in 2011. We only began applying for recognition in recent years, after we took the time to write a specific policy that captured what we were already doing to make our electronics-related operations more sustainable, as well as setting forth purchasing standards. The written policy will help us stay on target and continuously improve in the coming years, through revisions as our goals change. ISTC provides technical assistance to organizations and businesses throughout the state, and we’ve been able to point clients and other University of Illinois departments to the SEC checklist and resources as a way of helping them tackle sustainable electronics issues in simple, manageable ways,” Ms. Scrogum stated.

The State Electronics Challenge offers its participants annual opportunities to document their achievements and receive recognition for those accomplishments.  In 2015, the reported actions of 31 participants in green purchasing of electronic office equipment, power management, and responsible recycling resulted in a total of more than 1,250 tons of electronics being recycled, which, along with power management and green procurement:

  • Prevented the release of almost 12,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E). This reduction in greenhouse gases is equivalent to the annual emissions from 8,612 passenger cars.
  • Saved enough energy to supply 7,845 homes per year
  • Avoided the disposal of hazardous waste equivalent to the weight of 2,120 refrigerators
  • Avoided the disposal of solid waste – garbage – equivalent to the amount generated by 388 households/year.

A full list of winners and their environmental accomplishments can be found on the State Electronics Challenge website (www.stateelectronicschallenge.net).

“The State Electronics Challenge provides state, tribal, regional and local agencies, as well as schools, colleges and universities and non-profit organizations with a great opportunity to integrate concepts of sustainability and waste reduction into their operations,” added Ms. Rubinstein.  “It’s inspiring to see programs such as the one developed and implement by the ISTC to ensure that the highest environmental practices are met through the lifecycle of office equipment.“

The State Electronics Challenge awards were made possible through donations from Samsung, Panasonic, and the R2/RIOS Program.

About ISTC

ISTC is a division of the Prairie Research Institute on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Its mission is to encourage and assist citizens, businesses, and government agencies to prevent pollution, conserve natural resources, and reduce waste to protect human health and the environment of Illinois and beyond. It promotes more sustainable technologies, processes, and practices through an integrated program of research, demonstration projects, technical assistance, and outreach. Learn more at www.istc.illinois.edu.

About the State Electronics Challenge

The State Electronics Challenge assists state, regional, tribal, and local governments to reduce the environmental impact of their office equipment.  It annually recognizes the accomplishments of Partner organizations. The Challenge is administered by the Northeast Recycling Council (www.nerc.org). Currently, 157 state, tribal, regional, colleges, schools, universities, and local government agencies, and non-profit organizations, representing more than 212,600 employees, have joined the SEC as Partners.  For more information on the SEC, including a list of current Partner organizations, visit www.stateelectronicschallenge.net.

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ERCC Publishes Report on Consumer Awareness of Electronics Recycling Programs

ERCC logoThe Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC) published a report on March 15, 2016 entitled “ERCC Consumer Awareness Survey: A Look at How Electronics Recycling Programs Have Impacted E-Cycling Activities And Awareness.”  According to the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), this is “the first study comparing state-level consumer awareness levels of electronics recycling programs as well as other important consumer preferences. Previous surveys of consumer awareness on electronics recycling have focused on a nationwide rate or within a single state. ERCC undertook the surveys in order to establish an additional measure of performance for electronics recycling programs, and to compare rates of awareness of electronics recycling options among states as well as ask other important questions. After developing a survey script with 10 standard questions on awareness, collection preference, barriers to recycling and other topics, ERCC surveyed member states who stepped forward to fund their survey costs, as well as other member and non-member states made possible by affiliate member contributions. In all, ERCC surveyed 6 states WITHOUT electronics recycling laws and 6 states WITH electronics recycling laws at varying levels of confidence. To carry out the surveys, ERCC contracted with Service 800, a company with 20 years of experience in the design and execution of customer satisfaction measurement surveys.”

States participating which do have electronics recycling legislation included Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Texas. Participating states without such legislation included Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

The executive summary of the report states:

“As of late 2015, there are 25 states with laws on electronics recycling, and most have had multiple years of implementation. As the programs mature, many stakeholders are wanting a better understanding of measures of performance that goes beyond the current knowledge of “pounds collected” or “number of collection sites”. One desired measure of performance is the level of awareness of electronics recycling programs among consumers for whom the services are available. Prior to this study, a handful of states and one national organization measured awareness rates, but none had done so to compare rates among different states. The goal of the consumer awareness surveys featured in this report was to do just that.

The Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC) conducted surveys of consumers in states where the state agency expressed an interest and was able to fund a survey. In addition, ERCC received contributions and surveyed an additional number of states (both with laws and without). The goal was to increase the number of state-level results and to gauge any difference in awareness and attitudes between states with and without laws, and also to get a general understanding overall awareness and other factors in increasing electronics recycling.

Survey results indicate that there does not appear to be a significant difference in awareness of recycling options when comparing states that have laws versus those that don’t. 40.7% of those surveyed across LAW STATES and NON-LAW STATES are CERTAIN they know where to recycle their electronics. Adding in those who “THINK THEY KNOW” where to take their used electronics, the national result is just over 70% awareness. The state with the highest combined response of “Yes, I know where” to recycle and “I think I know where” to recycle was Oregon at 79.7%. The lowest was Wyoming at 62.4%.

It is important to note the limitations to this survey – approximately 83% of the responses were from individuals in states that have laws. All of the non-law states were conducted at lower levels of confidence due to funding limitations, but they do give insights that were previously unavailable. Taken as a whole, the surveys conducted give us a baseline for comparing future awareness level results as programs become more widespread (or potentially contract), and key pieces of data on how consumers seek out and participate in electronics recycling programs across the country. One other limitation worth mentioning is that awareness and convenience have very distinct differences. A person may know they can recycle a computer 150 miles away, but that may not be a convenient location for them. Convenience (or accessibility) is key in determining whether a resident will recycle 3/15/2016 ERCC CONSUMER AWARENESS SURVEY 2 their electronics. In some states, the law specifically spells out how many recycling drop-off locations there must be for electronics in various counties. In other states, this is not something that is spelled out in the law at all. Furthermore, when looking at states without laws, there are no laws of convenience for electronics recycling. It is up to the consumer to source out a location in order to recycle. That location may or may not be convenient. Does this have an impact on recycling rates across the states? This may be something worth looking at in a future survey – whether or not convenience (distance from the closest collection site) effects recycling rates.”

To read the full report, go to http://www.electronicsrecycling.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ERCC-Consumer-Awareness-Survey-Summary-Report-FINAL.pdf. This link is included with the SEI Resource Complilations.

Deadline Extended: Apply for the 2016 EPEAT Purchaser Awards by April 27th

EPEAT_logoThe deadline has been extended until April 27th to submit applications for the EPEAT Purchaser Awards. The awards recognize excellence in green procurement of electronics. EPEAT Purchasers will earn a star for each product category for which they have a written policy in place that requires the purchase of EPEAT registered electronics.

The EPEAT Purchaser Awards are open to all organizations that purchase EPEAT-registered products and meet the following requirements:

  1. Agree to have your organization as an EPEAT Purchaser. EPEAT Purchasers agree to share their specific EPEAT vendor contract language and to be listed on the EPEAT website. By submitting the EPEAT Purchaser Award Application, you agree to have your organization listed as an EPEAT Purchaser.
  2. Must have an organizational purchasing policy in place for environmentally preferable procurement of electronics (see model policy language)
  3. Must set specifications in contracts with vendors requiring that all electronic products in a specific category (PC/Displays, Imaging Equipment, and Televisions) achieve Bronze registration or higher in the EPEAT system in the country/countries of purchase (see model contract language)
  4. Must report annual purchase volume  of EPEAT registered products

Winners will be honored on Monday, May 23, during a ceremony in Washington DC. The Awards ceremony will be co-located with the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) Summit at the Kellogg Conference Center and will take place immediately following the SPLC Pre-Summit Courses. All EPEAT Purchaser Award winners are invited to attend a brief reception before the ceremony, and then to participate in the ceremony itself.

For more information, and to apply, visit the EPEAT web site.

 

Upcoming Webinar on CRT Recycling, Management Issues

US EPA Region 3, the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), and the Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC) are sponsoring a webinar on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at 9:00  to 11:00 AM CDT, entitled ” CRTs: What Can Be Done?” 

CRTs, or cathode ray tubes, are found in older TVs and computer monitors. CRTs contain leaded glass, making discarded CRTs a hazardous waste (lead is a neurotoxin). In the past, the leaded glass could be reused in the production of new CRT monitors, but that technology has been replaced by flat screens, and thus, there is no longer a demand for the problematic components of these monitors. Processing them has become costly rather than profitable for recyclers, and  new uses for the leaded glass and new means of recycling have been considered and debated in recent years.

This webinar will focus on recycling possibilities, the issues companies face, and the potential for various technologies to address the CRT problem. Four knowledgeable panelists will share their expertise and opinions, followed by a short question and answer session.

Presenters include:

  • JJ Santos, Camacho Recycling, Spain
  • Rich Hipp, Kuusakoski, USA
  • Tom Bolon, Novotec, Ohio
  • Simon Greer, NuLife Glass, New York

See https://epawebconferencing-events.acms.com/content/connect/c1/7/en/events/event/shared/default_template/speaker_info.html?sco-id=100343474 for additional information on the presenters. Registration is available at https://epawebconferencing-events.acms.com/content/connect/c1/7/en/events/event/shared/default_template/event_registration.html?sco-id=100343474.

Best Buy Ends Free Recycling of Televisions and Monitors

Best Buy Logo.svgLast week, Best Buy announced that it would no longer be offering free recycling of televisions and monitors through its in-store collection program. The retailer is now charging a fee of $25 for each TV or monitor–whether they are flat screen or the older, bulky CRT monitors that contain leaded glass–in most states.

According to the announcement, in Illinois and Pennsylvania, “we are no longer recycling these particular products because of laws that prevent us from collecting fees to help run our program. All other products – such as batteries, ink cartridges, computers, printers and hundreds of other items – continue to be recycled for free at all of our stores.” However, there is an exception to this complete discontinuation of the company’s recycling service for these products in IL, as noted in the latest version of the Electronics Recycling Guide for Residents of or nearby Champaign, County, IL“If a Best Buy customer purchases a 55″ or larger TV from Best Buy and has it delivered to their home, then Best Buy will take back one TV for recycling. Or, a person may sign up at Best Buy’s home theater section, pay $100 for a television pick-up, and then Best Buy would arrange to pick-up and recycle a TV from a residence.” (Thanks to Susan Monte of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission and Courtney Kwong of the City of Urbana for this information. It should also be noted that the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission is also seeking approval and authorization of funds to host county electronics collection events in the spring. Decisions regarding such funding will be made later this month, and if county collection events are scheduled, information on those collections will be shared on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative web site.)

Best Buy has been a leader in offering electronics recycling for many years–it has collected more than a billion pounds of electronics and appliances since 2009. The company’s leadership will continue in terms of recycling other consumer electronics, but recycling is driven by commodity prices. Old cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors were surely a large part of the TV and monitor recycling stream coming into Best Buy stores, and since these monitors aren’t really manufactured any more, there’s less demand for the leaded glass they contain. This makes handling these hazardous materials a costly prospect for recyclers, and as time goes on, more and more recycling programs are ceasing the acceptance of monitors and TVs, or adding restrictions.

However, CRTs aren’t the only issue here, as Resa Dimino, Senior Advisor for the Product Stewardship Institute, pointed out in an opinion piece for Resource Recycling this week. Best Buy is charging for flat screens as well, so its clear that costs associated with recycling those types of devices are also proving too much for the retailer to continue to offer for free nationally. This counters the argument made by some that once the problematic CRTs have been cleared from the system, electronics related Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws that hold manufacturers responsible for safe and proper disposal of their products, will no  longer be needed as the value of other materials in the recycling stream covers the costs of collection and processing. Dimino further notes that EPR laws are only effective when they’re fair and equitable–flaws in current legislation allow some manufacturers to step back while a few manufacturers and retailers (like Best Buy) take up the slack, shouldering more than their fair share of financial responsibility for sustainable management of materials. Also, local governments cannot afford to pay for provision of electronics recycling to residents. All of this suggests, according to Scott Cassel of the Product Stewardship Institute, “it’s time to revisit the nation’s 25 state e-scrap laws to ensure that all manufacturers are equally responsible for electronics recycling.”

Barbara Kyle of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition suggested the following in her blog post on Best Buy’s recycling policy change: “The solution here would be for the manufacturers – particularly the TV companies – to visibly partner with Best Buy to cover some of the recycling costs, and to make sure that responsible recycling occurs. The TV companies, who are always challenged by finding collection sites, could take advantage of the chain’s huge network of stores, which are very convenient collection points for most consumers. This would be an ongoing national partnership program, in every state, in every store, co-marketed by the retailer and the industry. This could also be established with Walmart and their huge network of stores. While Amazon doesn’t have stores, there are many ways in which they could help to be part of the solution.”  Perhaps if there is pressure from consumers on electronics manufacturers and other big retailers, this sort of scenario could happen.

For more information on the stewardship of electronics and other consumer products in our state, see the Illinois Product Stewardship Council web site. Also see the IL EPA site for information on our current state electronics recycling law.

Reminder: Manuscripts for Special Edition of Challenges Due 12/31/15

challenges-logoManuscripts are still being accepted for the special issue of the journal Challenges, entitled “Electronic Waste–Impact, Policy and Green Design.” 

From the issue’s rationale:

“Electronics are at the heart of an economic system that has brought many out of poverty and enhanced quality of life. In Western society in particular, our livelihoods, health, safety, and well being are positively impacted by electronics. However, there is growing evidence that our disposal of electronics is causing irreparable damage to the planet and to human health, as well as fueling social conflict and violence.

While global demand for these modern gadgets is increasing, policy to handle the increased volumes of electronic waste has not kept pace. International policy governing safe transfer, disposal, reclamation, and reuse of electronic waste is nonexistent or woefully lacking. Where laws do exist about exporting and importing hazardous waste, they are routinely circumvented and enforcement is spotty at best. While European Union countries lead the way in responsible recycling of electronic and electrical devices under various EU directives, most industrialized nations do not have such policies. In the U.S., for example, most electronic waste is still discarded in landfills or ground up for scrap.

It is imperative that we consider how green design practices can address the growing electronic waste problem. This special issue is meant to do just that and spur discussions on how electronic products can become greener and more sustainable.”

If you are interested in submitting a paper for this special issue, please send a title and short abstract (about 100 words) to the Challenges Editorial Office at challenges@mdpi.com, indicating the special issue for which it is to be considered. If the proposal is considered appropriate for the issue, you will be asked to submit a full paper. Complete instructions for authors and an online submission form for the completed manuscripts are available on the Challenges web site at http://www.mdpi.com/journal/challenges/special_issues/electronic-waste#info. The deadline for manuscript submissions is December 31, 2015. Questions may be addressed to co-guest editor Joy Scrogum.

SDEP Presentation on the Israel-Palestine E-waste Commodity Chain, 8/28/15

Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy (SDEP), a joint initiative of the Beckman Institute, the Department of Geography, and the School of Earth, Society, and Environment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has announced its events for fall 2015. The first presentation of the semester will be ‘The Israel-Palestine E-waste Commodity Chain: Findings and Reflections,’ by Yaakov Garb of Ben Gurion University. The presentation will take place on Friday, August 28 at 3 PM in Room 1092 Lincoln Hall at 702 S. Wright St. in Champaign.

Abstract: Over the last several years, Yaakov Garb has worked with a small team to explore and document the informal Palestinian-Israeli entrepreneurial commodity chain through which most Israeli electronic waste has been informally transferred to a cluster of Palestinian villages and dismantled, with valuable materials (primarily copper and motherboards) shipped via Israel to destinations abroad, and the remainder crudely burned and dumped in the rural landscape. Drawing on over a hundred interviews with stakeholders in this commodity chain, extensive field observation, as well as remote sensing imagery and traffic counts, the team has constructed a portrait of this value chain (actors, prices, volumes, and dynamics) and documented its severe environmental and human health consequences. They have also worked with the local Palestinian community to develop a business model, transition strategy, and bargaining power vis-à-vis the Israeli system to enable a shift to cleaner operation while preserving livelihoods.

This talk will describe this e-waste commodity chain, its geopolitical contexts, and the results of the research and advocacy efforts of Garb’s team. It will reflect on the broader implications of this case study for thinking about informal commodity chains, their ability to move materials and rework landscapes at large scales, and what we know about them.

About the presenter: Yaakov Garb is Lecturer at Ben Gurion University and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International Studies at the Watson Institute, Brown University. He draws on environmental studies and science and technology studies (STS) in his research, teaching, and consulting on environmental and urban issues. Dr. Garb specializes in projects demanding interdisciplinary perspectives, a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, and a merging of analysis with advocacy for change.

For more information on future SDEP events, see http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/3575.

ISTC Receives Gold Level Recognition from the State Electronics Challenge

SEIgold The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), the parent organization for the Sustainable Electronics Initative (SEI), has received Gold Level recognition from the State Electronics Challenge for activities in 2014. The State Electronics Challenge (SEC) is a free, voluntary program for non-federal public sector organizations (e.g. schools, local governments, universities, libraries, etc.) and non-profit organizations, which encourages responsible management of office equipment via more sustainable purchasing, reducing the impacts of devices during use, and managing obsolete electronics in an environmentally safe way. Participants, or “partners” as they’re referred to in the program, can elect to focus efforts on one or more life cycle phases: purchasing, use, and end-of-life management. Guidance on addressing impacts in these life cycle phases is provided via the SEC web site, partners-only webinars, and direct assistance from SEC staff members. Partners are not required to perform any given activity, but if they wish to apply to the optional recognition program, there is a checklist of activities that must be completed to achieve different recognition levels.

Partners are eligible for recognition for their accomplishments as follows:

  • Gold recognition: completed General Requirements & all activities in 3 lifecycle phases
  • Silver recognition: completed General Requirements & completed all activities in 2 lifecycle phases
  • Bronze recognition: completed General Requirements & all activities in 1 lifecycle phase

ISTC was in fact the first organization in IL to become a SEC partner, back in 2011, but 2014 was the first year for which it sought recognition for its activities, after having developed a written policy for purchase, use, and disposal of its IT equipment as part of its internal sustainability committee’s efforts. Of SEC’s 150 current partners, only nine are from Illinois, and, of those, just two earned recognition at any level in 2014. See the complete list of 2014 Partner Award recipients on the SEC web site. As you can see from the picture included in this post, the recognition plaque is appropriately made out of recycled circuit boards.

One of the benefits of being an SEC partner is the receipt of an “environmental sustainability report” for the year, with a summary of the environmental benefits of your organization’s efforts, in easy to understand equivalencies. For example, in ISTC’s 2014 report, we can see that the reduction in energy use resulting from our purchasing, use, and reuse and recycling efforts was equivalent to the amount of electricity to power 25 homes/year. To see an example of the report partners receive, see ISTC’s full Environmental Sustainability Report from SEC for calendar year 2014.

If you wish to learn more about the State Electronics Challenge, don’t miss the upcoming free SEC webinar, “Introduction to the State Electronics Challenge” Tuesday, May 19, 2015 from 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM CDT. You can register for the webinar online at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4400751674919799810.

NERC Releases Model Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Specs, Purchasing Guidelines

northeast_recycling_council_nerc_medium logo (2)The Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) recently completed its “Simplifying Environmentally Preferable Purchasing” project, which was funded by the Roy A. Hunt Foundation. As part of the project, NERC developed Model Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) Specifications and Purchasing  Guidelines for paper, toner cartridges, and office supplies. NERC also created fact sheets on each of the EPP Model documents, and presented a webinar on the importance of EPP and the EPP model documents.

Model EPP Specifications and Purchasing Guidelines

Simplifying EPP Webinar, July 24, 2014

NERC has also compiled a list of other EPP specifications available online. Check out complete project information on the Simplifying Environmentally Preferable Purchasing page of the NERC web site.

For more information on environmentally preferable purchasing, see the SEI Resource Compilation, “Sustainable Purchasing & Supply Chains.” If you would like to suggest resources to add to that compilation, please contact Joy Scrogum.