New E-Stewards Certification to Set High Bar for E-Waste Recyclers

New E-Stewards Certification to Set High Bar for E-Waste Recyclers

Two NGOs that have led the charge on responsible e-waste takeback have joined with 32 North American electronics recyclers today to set the greenest standards possible for handling toxic electronic waste.

Aiming to cut a lot of the mystery out of the process of recycling electronic waste, two NGOs that have long led the charge against shoddy e-recycling standards launched yesterday a new program to certify the greenest electronics recyclers in North America.

The Basel Action Network and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition announced the new e-Stewards partnership with 32 electronics recyclers in the United States and Canada that have agreed to refrain from some of the most unhealthy and polluting e-waste practices currently in effect.

The e-Stewards pledge, which is available online, is an independently audited certification that forbids the incinerating or sending to landfill of electronic waste; forbids exporting of e-waste to developing countries; requires recyclers to agree to keep from sending their e-waste to prisons or other forced labor programs for processing; to keeping private data on soon-to-be-recycled computers safe; and to keep accurate environmental data across the supply chain and for demanufacturing facilities.

The new standards set the bar very high for electronics recyclers, but the groups behind the e-Stewards partnership say it's a much-needed step forward.

"Unfortunately today, most of those companies calling themselves electronics recyclers are scammers," said Sarah Westervelt, e-Stewards project coordinator at the Basel Action Network. "They simply load up containers of old computers and ship them off to China or Africa. By choosing an e-Steward recycler, consumers and large businesses are assured that their old computers and TVs will be safely managed and not simply tossed into a local landfill, processed unsafely by prison laborers, or exported to developing countries."

There has been a significant amount of movement on the e-waste front in recent weeks. Most recently, the television news program 60 Minutes on Sunday night ran an exposé segment called "Following the Trail of Toxic e-Waste," which explored the nearly total lack of standards in place for electronic waste recycling around the globe.

In a press conference today, Westervelt laid out one of the big reasons why the e-Stewards standard is necessary.

"We're developing this program because there's just a severe lack of controls on this electronic waste stream," she said. "This certification program is vital right now because our government is essentially asleep at the switch."

Westervelt was referring to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office that found the EPA rarely enforcing the only e-waste law on the books, covering export and disposal of cathode-ray monitors. In the 60 Minutes report on Sunday, reporters tracked a shipment of such monitors from the headquarters of Colorado-based Executive Recyclers to Hong Kong for disposal.

BAN and Electronics TakeBack have been pushing for rigorous standards on e-waste recycling for years. And although the two groups had been working with the EPA on so-called "Responsible Recycling" guidelines, the NGOs pulled out of those talks when they said it became clear that forbidding export of e-waste to developing countries would not make it into the final guidelines.

For a list of the 32 recyclers who have taken the e-Stewards pledge, visit BAN.org.