Guidelines Bar Federal Agencies From Disposing of Electronic Waste in Landfills

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By Anthony Adragna  

Federal agencies will no longer be permitted to dispose of electronic waste in landfills and must send waste to certified third-party recyclers for end-of-life disposal, according to guidelines announced March 1 by the General Services Administration.

Under the guidelines, the federal government will be encouraged to maximize the use of technology by sharing equipment among agencies and will be required to recycle electronic waste that can no longer be reused.

The government also will establish a tracking system for all electronic waste, requiring federal agencies to submit annual reports on how they are managing waste.

GSA Administrator Martha Johnson said the guidelines were the first governmentwide policy stemming from the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, which seeks proper management and disposal of electronic resources and was released in July 2011 (140 DEN A-1, 7/21/11).

“This policy will ensure the federal government is leading by example and that every product we buy will be disposed of in a responsible manner,” Johnson said during a telephone news conference with reporters. “We are not trying to set policy on how people are using their technology. We are just trying to ensure when the technology needs to move on to the next step, [the agencies] are doing so responsibly.”

Most Agencies Already Recycle

An informal survey of federal agencies conducted by GSA found 62 percent already recycle and just 4 percent sent waste materials to landfills.

GSA said the guidelines were issued as a bulletin, but a proposed policy will be published and a rulemaking process will begin shortly. The agency also could publish an interim policy while it gathers public comment during the rulemaking process.

Under the national strategy, the federal government will look to further electronics reuse by distributing used equipment to eligible non-federal organizations such as schools or nonprofits. Agency officials said they could not mandate “downstream” recycling of electronics but would encourage recipients to follow the same standards as the federal government.

Nevertheless, GSA said the guidelines would encourage reuse opportunities at the federal level first. “The federal government is the nation's largest consumer of electronics and through this policy it will be a more responsible recycler,” Johnson said. “We do want to encourage the reuse of these assets as long as we can in the federal space before going into any recycling or refurbishing.”

For More Information

The National Strategy for Electronic Stewardship is available at