GSA, EPA to green government using IT schedules

Wednesday - 7/20/2011, 5:06pm EDT

By Ruben Gomez
Federal News Radio

The General Services Administration (GSA) will revamp federal IT purchase contracts, in keeping with the administration's National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship released Wednesday.

GSA will remove all products that do not comply with ENERGY STAR or the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT).

The strategy aims to promote environmentally friendly design, purchasing, management and recycling of electronic products.

"Every year, Americans generate almost 2.5 million tons of used electronics, which are made from valuable resources such as precious metals and rare earth materials, as well as plastic and glass," the administration said in a statement. "The responsible management of electronics provides an opportunity to create economic development and jobs by developing a strong domestic electronics recycling market while preventing pollution at home and abroad."

With that goal in mind, EPA and GSA will "expand existing EPEAT standards and pursue new standards for products not already covered by EPEAT," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said. In addition:

  • Federal agencies will be required to identify used but functional electronic equipment for sale or reuse.
  • Federal agencies will dispose of nonfunctional equipment using only certified refurbishers and recyclers, or through manufacturers utilizing those services. Only two entities in the U.S. provide certification: R2 and e-Stewards.
  • EPA will launch a project on Data.gov aimed at shining more light about the government's use of electronics.

"The Nation's largest single consumer of electronics, the Federal Government, will now be the Nation's most responsible user of electronics," GSA Administrator Martha Johnson said in a release. "The steps outlined in the report will ensure that government leads by example and that the billions of dollars in IT equipment the government cycles through annually will be either reused or recycled properly."

EPA has estimated the government disposes of 10,000 computers each week.

A revised Federal Electronics Stewardship Policy will "work toward GSA's long-term goal of hosting all agencies' asset management systems on one shared, cloud-based system, once funding for such a system is available," according to the strategy.

The national plan also aims to expand the use of manufacturer take-back agreements in federal electronics purchase, rental and service contracts.

In that spirit, GSA will launch a pilot program aimed at strengthening take-back clauses in its contracts, Johnson told Federal News Radio in a phone call with reporters. The agency is looking for best practices that could eventually be applied in all of government.

The strategy relies in part on voluntary commitments from industry. Dell and Sprint have signed an EPA agreement to promote a U.S. based electronics recycling market. Executives from Sony were also on hand for Wednesday's announcement.

"Through a strong federal partnership, and coordination with manufacturers, retailers, recyclers, State and local governments, and other stakeholders, the actions outlined here will help address the potential health and environmental problems caused by the mismanagement of discarded electronics," said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.