Consumer Electronics Recycling Up 53% in 2011

The Consumer Electronics Association reported yesterday that responsible consumer electronics recycling grew to 460 million pounds in 2011, up 53% from 300 million pounds in 2010. CEA suggests the increase is a result of public awareness campaigns, such as Earth911 and CEA’s own GreenerGadgets, and the growing number of recycling facilities.

Of course, the global increase in consumer electronics spending is probably a factor as well—people are buying more new devices, so they have more old devices to recycle. Greater volume of electronics recycling is not necessarily an unequivocal sign of progress. Gallup polls over the last few years have not noted any gains in the percentage of the population that recycles.

Bag of e-waste for recycling

I don’t mean to discount this report entirely. There certainly are many more electronics recycling centers today, and people do seem generally more aware of the importance of recycling electronics rather than throwing them in the trash. That’s great.

But I’d like to know how CEA defines “responsibly recycled.” Does the definition only include third-party certified recyclers? How about responsible recycling that happens overseas to exported secondhand devices?

This is encouraging news, but I’m not sure it’s the whole story.