Toxic Trade News / 15 April 2010
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Progress on the e-waste recycling front
by Heather Clancy, ZDNet
15 April 2010 – For those of you following the toxics footprint, as opposed to carbon footprint, that your technology creates, there’s some news this week out of the Basel Action Network (BAN), the proponents of the e-Stewards global electronic waste recycling certification. My prediction is that you will see hear more about an alternative certification, R2/RIOS, which is being developed by a group including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), recyclers and a number of the major tech OEMs.

But first, today’s news from BAN.

For starters, the certification process is officially under way for the e-Stewards credo. There are officially three organizations that have passed the full-fledged certification - Newport Computer Services, Redemtech and WeRecycle! All three also have passed independent audits. There are another 12 waiting in the wings and that are hoping to receive the official nod in the next few weeks. Officially, the list of recyclers that have pledged to abide by e-Stewards is much longer (around 65). In any case, anyone on that list has until September 2011 to be certified. As you might expect, there is a fee for this process. Representatives on a e-Stewards briefing call described that fee as comparable to the one that a facility might undergo for an ISO audit.

The group also has created a corporate level support program, called e-Stewards Enterprises, that it hopes will draw more attention to the issue of electronic waste in general. There is an licensing/administrative fee for this that BAN representatives described as nominal. There are roughly one dozen e-Stewards Enterprises going public with today’s announcement. They are:

  • Apollo Group
  • Bank of America
  • Capital 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

Gina Pugliese, vice president of the Premier Safety Institute, says joining the e-Stewards Enterprises made sense for her organization because the company is responsibly for disposing of roughly 5 tons of outdated technology every year. “We want to set an example and a high bar for our company,” she says. One of the biggest challenges faced by those who seek to combat e-waste is the fact that many people aren’t fully aware of the toxic impact of information technology, she notes.

It should be noted that there is no formal membership level for technology OEMs. The lone tech company that has so far showed up on the support list, Samsung, has joined at the corporate level. By default, that means all of its business practices should live up the BAN pledge, notes Jim Puckett, executive director of BAN.

The next wave of advocacy and outreach by the e-Stewards proponents will be to state and local governments, Puckett says. BAN hopes the standard will help shape current and future legislation regarding disposal of e-waste - even though states have no jurisdiction on export issues, which is a core issue covered under e-Stewards.

So, what of the other emerging e-waste standard that I mentioned, the Responsible Recycling (R2) Practices and the related R2/RIOS effort?

I caught up earlier this week with Eric Harris, associate counsel and director of governmental and international affairs for ISRI, to get a brief update on the status of that effort. There are several bits of information from that conversation that I feel it relevant to communicate:

  • e-Stewards is an offshoot and evolution of R2 work. BAN and other environmental groups that were part of the development process opted to part ways with the R2 committee when they could not come to terms, philosophically, with several issues.

  • Harris says the group of companies and organizations helping to shape R2 are working to finalize the structure of an independent governing body. This should happen in the near future, he says.

  • There are currently 6 companies and 8 facilities certified for R2.
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