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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks Launching the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, As Prepared

07/20/2011
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As prepared for delivery.

Thank you to ROUND2 for welcoming us, and thank you to some of the leading electronics companies in the world for being here today. I am very proud to be here with all of you to announce the Obama Administration’s “National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship.” This is an important effort happening at an important time – with the involvement of some very important partners.

I don’t need to spend much time making the point that technology and electronics have changed our lives. Innovations brought to the market by companies like Dell and Sprint and Sony have created incredible advances for people and communities all over the world. They have changed the way we communicate…how we do our jobs…and how we think about everything from entertainment to medical treatment.

And – let me add – those changes are not just for the folks like me, who grew up with cassette tapes and phones that were actually connected to the wall. The rapid pace of innovation we’ve seen means that even my two young boys – who are just in high school – have seen changes in their schools, and in the new smart phones and games and laptops they’re always asking me for. Now, as we all know, that rapid pace of innovation and the new products it puts on the market presents a separate challenge: namely, what to do with the old electronics once we’re done with them.

I called the “National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship” an important effort because there are serious health, environmental and economic consequences to inaction on this issue. Some of these devices have nearly the whole periodic table of elements in them, and improper disposal could leave communities and people at risk of exposure. I’ve seen some of the starkest consequences of that in my travels abroad, to countries where discarded electronics often end up, and where the people put their health and their environment at serious risk to retrieve some of the valuable materials. Those materials include precious metals, rare earth materials, plastic and glass. Without an aggressive National Strategy for reuse and recycling, we are missing an economic opportunity to reduce the costs of procuring those components – not to mention the environmental opportunity to reduce the impact of extraction and processing.

This Strategy is kicking off at an important time because the work needed to address these challenges can’t start a moment too soon. Already, the United States is generating some 2.5 million tons of electronic waste per year.

I also mentioned the importance of our partners – because the approach to recycling and reusing old electronics needs to be well coordinated and innovative. We have to be thinking along every step of the lifecycle of these products – everything from how to design more efficient and sustainable new technology, to making sure consumers have widespread and easy ways to recycle used electronics.

That is why it is so critical that we have the support and input of leading companies like Dell and Sprint and Sony. They will be instrumental in ensuring that the process each new product goes through – the process of research, innovation, development and commercialization – soon includes considerations of recycling and reuse as well.

Let me also recognize our third-party certification recycling organizations: R2 and E-Stewards. They are the ones making sure that these efforts are held to a high standard, and are moving us towards the health and environmental benefits we envision.

Of course, the federal government also has an important role to play. President Obama has called on us – as the nation’s largest consumer of electronics – to lead by example. The National Strategy we are announcing today will ensure that federal agencies promote the development of more efficient and sustainable electronic products; direct federal agencies to buy, use, reuse and recycle their electronics responsibly; support recycling options and systems for American consumers; and strengthen America’s role in international electronics stewardship.

All of these things are important for our health and our environment. And – as so often happens when you combine environmental protection and innovation – they are also good for our economy. As we can see with a company like ROUND2, hundreds of jobs can be created to process and recycle these electronics. When you bring together the leadership of President Obama with the commitments that companies like Dell and Sony and Sprint are making today to strengthen the market for e-cycling, it sends a very strong signal about the prospects of this industry in our country. Fostering the growth of a market for electronics recycling can help American companies create good jobs in fields that support cleaner communities today and a cleaner future tomorrow.

The history of protecting our health and our environment is a history of innovation. Better ideas and new products have helped make almost everything we do cleaner, healthier and more energy efficient. That history has also shown us that the engines of our economy run best when they run clean – something the companies represented here today know quite well. This National Strategy is another chapter of that history in which environmental protection, innovation, and economic growth work hand in hand. I’m happy to be with all of you to kick it off today.