Policy Analysis

APS Office of Public Affairs Interns: A Little Recycling Goes a Long Way

April 26, 2016  |  Mark Elsesser

APS Interns Meet Representative Fortner

Illinois Rep. Mike Fortner with APS-NIU Interns Joseph Abrams and Charles Moore

On Earth Day 2016 (April 22), the Dekalb Daily Chronicle (Dekalb, IL) published a Letter to the Editor authored by two Northern Illinois University (NIU) undergraduate students – Joseph Abrams and Charles Moore – regarding the importance of electronics recycling (e-cycling). This letter was a capstone to a semester in which the students wrote legislation, visited the Illinois State Capitol, and had their legislation sponsored by a representative. The students carried out this work through a joint science policy internship co-sponsored by the American Physical Society’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) and NIU. The internship served as an introduction to working in the public policy arena and provided the students opportunities to apply their research, critical thinking and communication skills to a current science policy issue.

The internship centered on advancing APS’s policy goals derived from its 2011 report titled “Energy Critical Elements: Securing Materials for Emerging Technologies.format_pdf” The report notes the importance of recycling consumer electronics, which contain energy critical elements (ECEs) at high purities, and recommends steps to improve recycling rates.

During the course of the semester, the students worked with OPA staff and Illinois Rep. Mike Fortner to draft and introduce HB 5920, which would close a loophole involving tablet computers in Illinois’ Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act. Additionally, the students prepared advocacy materials, corresponded and met with stakeholders and spent a day meeting with legislators in Springfield, IL.

OPA is currently working to expand the internship program to more higher education institutions. Interested faculty members should contact APS Senior Policy Analyst Mark Elsesser for more information.


Policy news and viewpoints for the physics community. The analysis and opinions are those of the APS Office of Public Affairs and do not necessarily represent the entire Society.