recommended reading

Recycle government gadgets with greater care, GAO says

Federal agencies could do more to ensure their castoff computers and other electronics don't end up in landfills, according to a watchdog report released Monday.

The U.S. government is the largest global purchaser of information technology and disposes of about 10,000 computers weekly, according to estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The General Services Administration issued a bulletin earlier this month barring agencies from incinerating electronics that have reached the end of their usable lives or dumping them in landfills.

Agencies often donate electronics that are still usable to state governments or schools, or auction them off.

"Currently, neither the agency nor the auction entities are required to determine whether purchasers follow environmentally sound end-of-life practices," the report from the Government Accountability Office said. "Not having controls over the ultimate disposition of electronics sold through these auctions creates opportunities for buyers to purchase federal electronics and export them to countries with less stringent environmental and health standards."

Agencies also don't use common definitions for "electronic products" or "environmentally sound practices," which makes it difficult to compare progress on e-waste disposal.

If electronics are disposed of in an environmentally unsafe way, they can leak hazardous chemicals such as lead, cadmium and mercury into soil and water. The risk of environmental damage is higher if the electronics are shipped to developing nations with less sophisticated landfill systems, the report said.

The report recommended the director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality work with GSA and the Office of Management and Budget to develop standard definitions for electronic waste disposal and submit quarterly reports on agency progress.

The GAO report also urged GSA to ensure electronics the government sells at auction are ultimately disposed of in a green way.

"Such measures could include bundling functional and nonfunctional equipment for sale exclusively to certified recyclers, who would be responsible for determining the best use of the equipment under the 'reuse, recover, dispose' hierarchy of management," the report said.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.