i3 - May/June 2017 - 41

Policy

By Walter Alcorn

G R E E N P O L I CY

Materials Innovation and Recycling
of Consumer Technologies
Three Big Trends

These source reduction
achievements are enabled by
three important trends: technological shifts, convergence of
multi-functional devices and the
use of lightweight materials.
According to RIT's preliminary
results, the industry experienced
peak volume of discarded, obsolete electronics
devices in 2014 as
an influx of older,
heavier products
left homes. Going
forward, recyclers
may see the number of incoming
products increase
even as the pounds
they receive for
recycling declines.
No one doubts that end-of-life
CRT [cathode ray tube] TV displays make up a large percentage
of the consumer electronics
returned for recycling. However,
in the CE Recycling and Reuse
Study (2016), CTA's fourth U.S
consumer survey on electronics
recycling and the use of CRT
screens in the home, found that
in just three years, the number of
American households with CRT
televisions or computer monitors
has declined from nearly half of
all homes to just one-third.
Consumers today are relatively well educated about technology recycling. CTA surveys
have found that overall awareness of technology recycling
has remained consistently high
since 2014, with nearly twothirds (59 percent) of respondents knowing where they can
recycle their consumer technology devices, and nine in 10
(89 percent) consumers agree
it's important to recycle old electronics. Roughly half of U.S.

Nine in 10
(89 percent)
consumers
agree it's
important to
recycle old
electronics.

 I  

Todd McLellan

nnovation doesn't only happen at
the beginning of an electronic device's
lifecycle. Today's devices are the product of innovations at all stages of a product's
existence - from creation to recycling.

The industry has fostered innovation and trends that during the
past two decades have systematically reduced products' impact on
the environment. Preliminary results from a recent, groundbreaking study conducted by the Rochester Institute of Technology
(RIT) and commissioned by Staples found that across consumer
technology products, the number and type of products sold has
increased over the last two decades. The study also found that not
only are fewer materials used to make tech products, but also
materials of concern, such as lead and mercury, are no longer part
of the devices entering the market today. On a product-specific
basis, our favorite tech products use fewer materials than ever,
making them smaller, lighter and usually easier to recycle.
C TA . t e c h / i 3

adults removed electronics
from their households within
the past year, and among those,
four out of five donated or
recycled these devices.
According to the Environmental
Protection Agency's (EPA) latest
Advancing Sustainable Materials
Management Facts and Figures
report, consumer electronics
has the fastest growing recycling
rate of any product category
in the U.S. Through continued
innovation and leadership from
the consumer technology industry, CTA and its members are
working to increase recycling
and make it easier for consumers
to recycle their used electronics.
Last year, the eCycling Leadership
Initiative (ELI), an industry effort
spearheaded by CTA, announced
that a record 700 million pounds
of consumer electronics were
recycled across the U.S. by manufacturers and retailers in 2015 -
40 million pounds more than
2014 and more than double the
amount recycled in 2010.
But industry cannot solve all
environmental problems without
others' help. Government leaders
and agencies, industry experts
and consumers must work
together to reduce the environmental impact of consumer
tech devices. The industry has
already established a gamechanging trend of using fewer
materials in our products, and
with the demand for tech products growing every year, manufacturers will follow through
on that goal by delivering products that are as innovative in
their sustainability as they are
in their technology. ■
This is an excerpt from an op-ed
that ran in the April, 2017 issue of
Recycling Today magazine.
MAY/JUNE 2017

41


http://www.CTA.tech/i3

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - May/June 2017

Contents
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i3 - May/June 2017 - Cover2
i3 - May/June 2017 - Contents
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