The Basel Action Network (BAN) has announced an e-Stewards certification program for electronics recyclers to ensure that discarded electronics containing toxic materials aren’t being shipped overseas and disassembled dangerously and irresponsibly. You can find responsible recyclers meeting the requirements here.
Many electronics recyclers ship the products to developing countries, where they are often disassembled by children and low-wage workers, exposing them and the environment to toxic metals such as chromium, cadmium and mercury. In some poor communities, the plastics in electronics are dangerously burned in pits, causing an array of medical and environmental problems.
Some electronics recyclers have taken a pledge to meet responsible electronics recycling standards put forth by BAN, including not exporting the products and being sure they are disassembled safely.
BAN announced that three electronic recycling companies in the United States have completed certification by third-party auditors. The certification is intended to ensure consumers that these companies will recycle the electronics safely and properly.
Newport Computer Services, Redemtech, and We Recycle! are the first to be certified by BAN, while a total of 50 have taken the pledge and have passed a test from independent auditors, and are expected to be certified in 2011, according to Jim Puckett, the executive director of BAN.
“It is vital that all consumers be able to make informed choices about what happens to their electronics,” Puckett says. “People have become in increasingly aware that electronics contain toxic wastes and that 80 percent of electronics discarded in the United States are exported to China, India and other developing countries, in what has become a high-tech nightmare. Consumers no longer want to be duped by a toxic waste shell game.”
Environmental organizations including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Electronics TakeBack Coalition and 68 others have thrown support behind the accredited, third-party certification program.
The program has also drawn the support of major corporate “e-Stewards Enterprises,” who have signed a licensing agreement to use responsible recycling practices, including: Apollo Group, Bank of America, Capitol One Financial, Independent Distributors of Electronics Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nemours Foundation, Premier Inc., Premier Farnell, Resource Media, Samsung, Sprout Creation, Stokes Lawrence, Wells Fargo.
Electronics manufacturers, according to Puckett, are treated as e-Stewards enterprises, and Samsung’s agreement only covers North America.
BAN soon expects to sign on major retailers like Staples and Best Buy as e-Stewards Enterprises, to make sure products collected by those retailers go to responsible recyclers.
“E-Stewards fills a huge gap in the marketplace that allows developing countries to receive toxic materials to the rest of the world that they are unequipped to deal with,” says Allen Hershkowitz, of the National Resources Defense Council.
E-Stewards also encourages jobs domestically, says Hershkowitz, because the products can be disassembled responsibly and profitably in the United States.
Puckett says certified recyclers will be monitored and undergo a full audit every three years, to make sure they are still meeting the BAN requirements. Those found not to be meeting the requirements will have a chance to come back into compliance—and if they are found to be recycling in bad faith they will be thrown out of the program.
“There’s an on-going reporting with full transparency,” adds Mick Schum, president at We Recycle!, one of the first certified e-Stewards recyclers. “Every pound needs to be accounted for on a 12-month basis.”
Follow Electronic House
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates