Everyday I plug in my laptop to work, to play, to manage my finances, and to stay connected to friends and family. I couldn't live without it, but someday it will finally break down and I will have to dispose of it; I will add to the fastest-growing part of the United States waste stream. I know not to just throw my laptop in the trash, where it will sit in the landfill leaching heavy metals into the groundwater, but I also don't want to give it to an e-waste recycler that will simply transfer my toxic load to a developing country (Click here to see a stunning photo essay of China's electronic waste villages from Time Magazine.). I was pretty excited, therefore, to read about a new eco-label that will help me tell the good from the bad and find responsible e-waste recyclers: e-Stewards
E-Stewards is an independently audited certification program for e-waste recyclers based on standards set out by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). It was developed by Basel Action Network (BAN), an American watchdog group, along with industry, government and nonprofit stakeholders, and environmental groups. Per BAN's "Fact Sheet" (PDF):
The e-Stewards Standard incorporates the global ISO 14001 standard for environmental management systems, plus many industry specific performance requirements, including a complete ban on exports of toxic e-waste from developed to developing countries, and the use of prison labor, landfills or incinerators for toxic materials. It also disallows shredding of mercury, and requires stringent worker health and safety protections.
The strict standards of e-Stewards' certification program follow the example of the Forest Stewardship Council and go beyond the voluntary standard, Responsible Recycling (R2), created by industry trade groups and the US Environmental Protection Agency. (For more discussion about the differences between the two programs see: "The Ever-Changing Landscape of E-Waste Recycling" from Popular Mechanics or "A Program to Certify Electronic Waste Recycling Rivals an Industry-U.S. Plan" from the New York Times)
This new certification program is truly worldchanging: it responds to social inequities and environmental problems, and builds consumer demand for responsible business practices by restructuring e-waste recycling through transparency and accountability. According to a Pike Research survey, 76% of American consumers believe recycling is the answer to e-waste. If e-waste continues to grow as projected, then e-Stewards is the answer to responsible recycling; it can help make sure that as e-waste recycling grows it won't mean that more waste and poisons end up in the developing world. To support this new labeling program, recycle electronics responsibly, and build demand for more certified e-waste recyclers, find an e-Steward recycler near you.
For more information about the social and environmental problems surrounding e-waste recycling, and what BAN and e-Stewards are doing about them, watch this video: "Taking Responsibility in the Digital Age"
Images at top of page: Left: Workers taking apart e-waste by hand, Ghana 2010. Right: American worker dismantling a computer monitor safely; an example of responsible recycling in a U.S. based recycling operation. Images courtesy of BAN.
Our company recycles electronics plastics from E-waste right here in the USA. Currently, even the E-Stewards of BAN must send them to China. BAN member plastics can now be processed into individual steams of recycled plastic molding compounds with near virgin properties. The molding compounds are currently used to make everything from ABS pipe to Styrofoam. America you can be proud this is happening here. Call Ron 801 973 4774 to recycle your plastics in the USA.
Re-Use of old PCs and UBUNTU to empower the less fortunate - TEDxCreativeCoast - Murray Wilson - eWaste and the Social Landfill http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nk5Rngk8lAM