North Rochester e-recycling firm wins national praise
by John Nolan, Foster's Daily Democrat
22 April 2010 (Rochester) – The Basel Action Network (BAN), the Seattle, Wash.-based group that first documented the dumping of toxic electronic waste in China and Africa, has established the world's first global e-waste recycler certification, a program backed by both environmental organizations and major corporations.
Last week, BAN announced the very first three Certified e-Stewards Recyclers, and among this exalted trio is Newport Computer Services, Inc. of Spaulding Avenue in north Rochester.
"It was a rigorous audit process. The Basel group follows the track of the e-waste all the way to the end of life until it's down to the basic components of plastics and metal," said Newport Vice-President of Finance and Operations Anne McKivergan. She added that Newport's efficient processing of waste had even been refined as a result of the audit.
Every week, two or three tractor-trailers laden with computers, monitors, keyboards and much more, back up to the factory's loading dock, and disgorge their cargo. From that point, Newport's employees swing into action, weighing, testing and cataloging every item, before dismantling begins. Every reusable component is recorded and allocated a place on the vast inventory shelves, for most of Newport's revenue comes from providing information technology (IT) parts. The materials that Newport doesn't place on its inventory shelves are not landfill-bound, however but passed "downstream" to its partners who further process the materials that comprise e-waste.
During the e-Steward certification process, auditors visited the premises of these downstream companies to ensure that no toxic e-waste dumping occurs when completely unusable materials are eventually disposed of.
The Basel auditors also interviewed Newport employees (there are 27 with the company, currently) to ascertain if there were procedures in place should something spill or break, such as a cathode ray tube or a battery.
Newport's Sales and Marketing Executive James Printy said that he had contacted Basel last July, when he heard of the planned new certification program and by the late fall a contract agreement had been signed with the auditors. They duly arrived, and started by going through Newport's documentation process, before spending three days going through the factory "with a fine tooth comb," talking to both workers and management.
"We are very proud to be one of the first to receive the e-Steward Certification, particularly because it represents our adherence to the strictest standards in the IT recycling industry — one of our primary goals as a responsible business," said Shiva Nanda, President/CEO of Newport Computer Services. "Our success in achieving this goal is a result of the tremendous dedication and teamwork of our employees who, every day, aim to make Newport the best in the industry."
In addition to the prestigious e-Steward certification — endorsed from an array of organizations and companies from Greenpeace USA and the Sierra Club to Bank of America and Capitol One Financial Corp. — Newport Computer Services, Inc. is also ISO 9001 certified for quality, ISO 14001 certified for the environment, and OHSAS 18001 certified for employee health and safety.
"When you do things right, you can sleep at night," said McKivergan, earnestly.
Not everyone in the e-recycling business is doing things right, however. Newport and other responsible e-recycling companies face regular competition from less scrupulous firms which can undercut them pricewise when corners are cut and toxic materials are discarded with less regard for the environment or third-world nations.
"If someone takes something for nothing, you have to ask, 'Where is it going?'" said Nanda.
While disposal of e-waste is governed by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, its last major update was in the mid-1980s, and according to Nanda, it has loopholes. More stringent legislation to address the modern day boom in computer waste may be needed.
"Nothing with teeth has made it all the way through Congress, yet," said Nanda.
The BAN website http://e-stewards.org/, calls for "recyclers to eliminate exports of hazardous e-wastes to developing countries; to halt the dumping of such wastes in municipal landfills or incinerators, and to cease the use of captive prison populations to manage toxic e-wastes."
The Rochester company, www.newportcomputers.com, is well ahead of the curve.
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