Valerie Thomas Testifies Before Congress on Managing E-Waste

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Valerie Thomas, Anderson Interface Associate Professor of Natural Systems at Georgia Tech's Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Professor in the School of Public Policy, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Science and Technology on February 11, 2009.

In an effort to craft legislation to reduce the environmental impact of electronics, and to support the incorporation of environmental considerations in engineering curricula, the Science and Technology Committee sought testimony from five witnesses regarding the draft legislation entitled "The Electronic Waste Research and Development Act of 2009.*

According to Thomas, "Today, recycling programs for electronics and other consumer products have low recycling rates both because collection programs are difficult for consumers to use and because the products are difficult to recycle. To achieve high recycling rates, products need to be designed for recycling, and collection programs need to be designed to be very easy, almost automatic, regardless of the complexity of the product. Currently, consumers are mainly responsible for managing the recycling or disposal of their products. In some locations there have been efforts to make producers responsible for managing the recycling or disposal of their products. A third approach might work better: improve both product design and collection systems so that products can increasing manage their own entry into the collection and recycling system. Rather than having to continue to work so hard to educate consumers about how to recycle each and every one of their purchases, consumer products could, almost, manage themselves (Saar and Thomas 2002; Thomas 2003).*

Thomas and the other witnesses discussed innovative ways to deal with electronic waste and how research and development can help address the challenge of managing the disposal of electronic products in the United States.

Five witnesses, representing perspectives from academia, a non-profit electronics producer, and electronics recyclers, offered testimony. They included:

Dr. Valerie Thomas, Anderson Interface Associate Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology, Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and School of Public Policy. Dr. Thomas discussed her research on innovative methods to manage electronic waste and the challenges facing the recycling and re-use of electronic products.

Read Dr. Thomas' testimony:

Video of hearing (click on webcast):

Dr. Paul Anastas, Teresa and H. John Heinz III Professor in the Practice of Chemistry for the Environment and Director, Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, Yale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Dr. Anastas discussed the applicability of research in green chemistry and engineering to the electronics sector.

Mr. Philip J. Bond, President, Information Technology Association of America.
Mr. Bond discussed ways in which innovation through R&D could help electronics manufacturers address the challenge of electronic waste. He will also give his views on promoting collaboration between industry and non-industry researchers to encourage the transfer of successful research into products.

Mr. Jeff Omelchuck, Executive Director, Green Electronics Council, Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT). Mr. Omelchuck discussed the development and utility of EPEAT, challenges to making existing electronic products more environmentally friendly, and ways in which R&D could address these challenges.

Mr. Willie Cade, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, PC Rebuilders and Recyclers, Home of the Computers for Schools Program. Mr. Cade discussed the challenges faced by electronic refurbishes and recyclers, as well as ways to promote collaboration between academic researchers and the recycling and refurbishing business.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Barbara Christopher
  • Created: 02/10/2009
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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