DEA Laboratory Awarded Federal Green Challenge Award
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Western Laboratory was presented the Federal Green Challenge award at the DEA National Lab Directors Conference on Tuesday, June 9, 2015. The award was in recognition of the DEA Western Lab’s increasing electronics recycling in 2014 – more than any other federal agency. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfield presented the award.
Impact From Federal Recycling
The EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program began the Federal Green Challenge as a national effort to encourage all federal offices to reduce their environmental impact. Each year, agencies compete for the most annual improvements in waste electronics, purchasing, water, energy and transportation.
The Western Lab donated and recycled more than 8,200 pounds of electronics in 2014. This represented an increase of almost 10 percent over its baseline from the previous year. This increase was greater than that of any of the other federal agencies participating in the Green Challenge. Nationwide, over 400 federal agencies are participating.
In 2014, federal agencies diverted over 390,000 tons of waste from landfills through recycling, saved almost 80 million gallons of water, shipped 450 tons of end-of-life electronics to certified recyclers, and saved the U.S. taxpayers a total of over $24 million.
Certified Electronics Recyclers
Recycling electronics with a responsible recycler can reduce the environmental and health problems caused by poor recycling and remove waste from landfills, as well as reduce water and energy use. Responsible recycling helps to provide excellent useable equipment to those in need, while it prevents environmental harm caused by mining and the processing of new or raw materials.
High safety and environmental standards must be met by certified electronics recyclers. They must also maximize reuse and recycling, while minimizing risk to human health, the environment, and providing safe material management by the downstream handlers of electronic components. Poor downstream handling by uncertified electronics recycling companies over the past decade has given the industry a bad name, but with increased certification and oversight the electronics recycling industry has grown to become one of the most important industries with regards to protecting the environment.
Each year, 40 million tons of electronic waste is produced worldwide. Only about 13% of that electronic waste will be recycled. Many discarded electronics contain toxins that can leach into the soil and water and damage the environment. The toxins in e-waste can damage almost every system and organ in the human body, and cause birth defects.
Just as important is the fact that electronics use a large amount of non-renewable resources – resources which are rapidly running out. As soon as 5-10 years we will begin to see the effects this will have on modern life, as consumer electronics become more expensive or even impossible to manufacture.
It is therefore initiatives like the Green Challenge Award that are paving the way for a new way for our government agencies to increase their electronics recycling, setting the right example for the rest of the country to follow.