eWaste and Electronic Stewardship

What is eWaste?

The term "eWaste" is a common short-hand term or "tag" to refer to electronics which are no longer needed by the entity which purchased them. When we're using this term, we're usually NOT referring to "waste" (useless material).

From Wikipedia: Electronic waste, e-waste, e-scrap, or electronic-disposal, waste electrical, and electronic equipment (WEEE) describes discarded electrical or electronic devices. There is a lack of consensus as to whether the term should apply to resale, reuse, and refurbishing industries, or only to a product that cannot be used for its intended purpose.

Why are we concerned about eWaste?

The improper disposal of electronics may be a threat to our environment and the health and safety of those living, working, or playing nearby. The United States Federal government is the largest single purchaser and user of electronic assets. As such, we will endeavor to become leaders in the stewardship of our electronics.

What is GSA's role in electronic stewardship?

GSA plays an important role in developing government-wide regulations and policies for the Federal government. For stewardship of our property, our regulations have long encouraged efficient re-use of assets as opposed to moving straight to end-of-life disposal.

What is GSA changing?

GSA issued a Proposed Rule to revise Federal Management Regulation (FMR) 102-36. Most of this change deals with how the Federal government should handle its electronics. The PR is out for public comment, and we are seeking a wide range of perspective and comments during its review period.

How does the FMR Bulletin B-34 fit in?

The Bulletin, issued February 29, 2012 provided the first glimpse into the new policy which will be contained in FMR 102-36. As guidance, the Bulletin will continue to provide information and direction for the Federal community even after the issuance of the Final Rule FMR 102-36. The Bulletin will be revised (and re-numbered) as often as needed to keep our information updated and our customers informed.

In short, what are the priorities for using or disposing of our electronics?

The big picture is that our policies encourage continued re-use of the property as long as possible; by other Federal agencies, our State and Local donation partners, or through public sale. At the point where the assets can no longer be used nor easily repaired by the user, the repair or disposal will take place only through recyclers certified by a third party. We also encourage agencies to consider using a vendor take-back program or to consider an exchange/sale transaction with entities that use certified recyclers or refurbishers.

As a citizen or private entity, what can I/we do to be better stewards of our electronics?

First, you can provide input into our proposed rule so that our Federal electronics are managed effectively. Second, our goal is to become leaders in electronic stewardship, so please observe our progress and apply as many of these provisions as feasible to further sound use and disposal.

What is the background of this effort?

The Administration is committed to reducing e-waste and realizing efficiency by standardizing procedures across the government. As the world's largest consumer of electronics, e-waste is a significant opportunity for the Federal government. In 2009, the President issued Executive Order 13514, "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance," which, among other things, called for the Federal community to promote electronics stewardship. The Administration also established an Interagency Task Force on Electronics Stewardship led by GSA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The President charged the Task Force with developing a National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, which the Task Force released in 2011. The Proposed Rule FMR was recommended by this National Strategy.

What are the details of the Proposed Rule FMR 102-36?

Proposed Rule FMR 102-36 is going through the public rule-making process before it can be published as a Final Rule. There are two interrelated focal points for our eWaste policies; one is the disposal policy, and the other is the data reporting policy.

Disposal Policy:

  • Emphasis on continued use of functional electronics.
  • Disposal of non-functional electronics only to certified recyclers or refurbishers certified by a third-party certification program.
  • Neither landfilling nor incineration of electronics.
  • Clarification of which electronics are covered under this policy.
  • Use of, and reliance on, existing Condition Codes already in use by Federal asset managers to classify degree of asset "usability".
  • Allowance for new certification standards to be developed and approved in the future.
  • Encouraging down-stream recipients of Federal electronics to dispose of assets in a responsible manner.
  • Introduction of vendor or manufacturer take-back programs for non-functional electronics in GSA policy.
  • Data should be sanitized in accordance with NIST 800-88.

Reporting Policy:

  • Reporting tool already in use; has been enhanced to provide greater granularity of data for management and analysis.
  • Reporting date proposed to be moved up to November 15th of each year to capture data on the activity of the fiscal year just ended. Currently these reports are due to GSA 90 days after the end of the fiscal year.
  • Plan is to post data sets on data.gov for public review and analysis.

In addition to reviewing the policy, what specific comments are requested?

We encourage public comment on the text of the policy itself, in addition to specific questions related to the direction of our Federal electronics policy:

  1. the suitability and feasibility of bulk sale of functional Federal Electronic Assets (FEA) to certified recyclers only through public auction programs (not the general public as drafted in this proposed rule);
  2. restricting disposal of FEA in landfills or through incineration;
  3. what electronics recycling standards are in use or being developed; and,
  4. criteria regarding the technical content and other aspects of the electronics recycling standards that recyclers conform to in order to be considered "certified recyclers" under this Proposed Rule.

For these criteria, comments regarding certification criteria should address the following:

  1. The technical content of the standard, such as environmental, workplace and safety practices, data sanitization and security standards, environmental, health and safety management systems, and how to promote reuse and recycling over disposal;
  2. The standard-setting process---i.e., the procedures used to develop and maintain the standard, such as the transparency and objectiveness of the processes; and
  3. The conformity assessment procedures used to determine whether a recycler conforms to a standard. An example would be the independence of assessors evaluating a recycler.
Last Reviewed: 2022-01-04