Electronic Waste (E-waste)
What is E-Waste?
E-waste refers to electronic products such as TVs, computers, and
cell phones that have reached the end of their "useful life." Many
times, this simply means that they are outdated but can still
perform essential functions. These can easily be donated or
refurbished to further their productive life. Those that are not able
to be reused or refurbished can be recycled through a variety
of local organizations.
Many recyclers export e-waste to other countries where the products may be recycled in a manner that causes damage to humans and the environment by releasing toxic materials such as lead, cadmium, and mercury into the air and waterways. Before recycling e-waste, research where the waste will be processed.
For more info on e-waste and to find responsible recyclers check out: http://www.ban.org/
E-Waste Recycling Certification Standards
A variety of public and private organizations offer cerfications for responsible e-waste recyclers. Here is a breakdown of what those are (and what they mean) so that you can make an educated decision regarding your e-waste.
EPA's R2 Certification (Responsible Recycling): A 13 principle certification based on environmental, health and safety, and security standards. It is focused on a "reuse, recover, dispose" hierarchy to ensure responsible management of e-waste. The recyclers may export materials to countries that legally accept them, but must keep detailed documentation of these downstream vendors. Hazardous materials such as Mercury and PCBs may only be transfered to companies that are properly licenced to handle these materials. No where along the recycling chain should hazardous materials be incinerated, sent to a landfill or waste-to-energy facility.
For more info on R2 certified recyclers visit: http://www.r2solutions.org/
e-Stewards®: A certification monitored by the Basel Action Network that prohibits exportation of e-waste from developed countries to developing countries. The recyclers are also held accountable for all downstream activities. Health and safety of employees must be ensured and monitored including air born toxins at facilities that handle hazardous materials. This certification also bans the disposal of hazardous materials by incineration, landfilling, or waste-to-energy facility.
For more info on e-Stewards® visit: http://e-stewards.org/
ISO 14001: Voluntary system of environmental standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization. In order to become certified, an organization must identify aspects of their activites that have significant environmental impacts of surrounding areas. They must, then, develop performance objectives that align with their own policies for environmental impacts. Continual evaluation and periodic reviews by the management must be done to ensure the organization is meeting its objectives.
For more info on ISO 14001: http://www.iso.org/iso/home.htm
Where Can You Recycle E-Waste?
Many large retail stores (ie: Best Buy, Lowes, Target, Staples, Home Depot) recycle common items such as rechargable batteries, CFLs and cell phones. If you have a larger item, electronics stores and Goodwill are the most likely to accept them for recycling. However, it is always a good idea to call the store before to ensure that your specific item can be recycled at that location.
Check back for more detailed updates!