New EPA chief has e-scrap background

New EPA chief has e-scrap background

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

President Barack Obama has nominated Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Although McCarthy is best known for her work on air quality, she has occupied state-level positions where she sought to increase recycling rates and helped launched a new e-scrap program. During her career, she has also shown openness to producer responsibility measures.

Currently an assistant administrator at the EPA overseeing air quality, McCarthy has held positions at nearly every layer government. She served as the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection before coming to Washington in 2009. Before that she served as deputy secretary of operations for the Massachusetts Office of Commonwealth Development, a position that coordinates environmental policies and programs in the state. McCarthy has served under both Democrats and Republicans, including failed presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Michael Dukakis. She is known for her Boston accent, sense of humor and willingness to work with business.

Although climate change is likely to consume much of McCarthy's work should she be confirmed, she has a record of supporting recycling initiatives and has been described as a friend of the industry. She helped found the Product Stewardship Institute, an organization that seeks to reduce the environmental impact of consumer products, and served on its board during its early years.

According to past media accounts in Connecticut and Massachusetts, McCarthy helped oversee recycling initiatives in roles she occupied in both states.

In 2004, she became commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a position she would occupy until 2009, when she was nominated to serve in the Obama EPA. While at the DEP, she called for a doubling of the state's recycling rate from 30 percent to 58 percent.

"We all need to be aware of the ramifications of our actions and decisions and take more responsibility for the waste we produce," McCarthy is quoted as saying in a column that appeared in a 2007 edition of the Norwich Bulletin. "We need to shift away from a 'throwaway society' toward a system that promotes a reduction in the generation and toxicity of the trash we produce and dispose of through increased source reduction, reuse and recycle."

Part of Connecticut's new recycling goals would require recovering material from new waste streams, particularly electronics, newspapers quote McCarthy as saying. Her comments from the time show that she was willing to hold electronics manufacturers responsible for their end-of-life products.

"Our challenge to manufacturers will be for them to support recycling and take responsibility for the materials they are placing in the waste chain," said McCarthy in a 2007 Courant article. "That way we're leading a world where we're all intelligently managing the problems our success creates."

In 2008 the (DEP), joined the Northeast States Electronics Challenge. The program is meant to reduce the environmental impact of electronics products purchased by participating organizations. Organizations participating in the program must dispose of their end-of-life electronics in an environmentally responsible way.

Under McCarthy, the DEP developed an e-scrap program that created a network of drop-off locations for unwanted computers, monitors and televisions.

The Obama administration has taken an interest in electronics recycling, launching efforts to provide better stewardship of the large volume of computers and IT assets the federal government uses and discards every year.

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