Dec 13, 2019
There are many stewardship programs, such as the e-Stewards recycling standard, that serve as certifications and global standards that ensure that the recycling company only employs the latest and most eco-friendly recycling practices. An overwhelming majority of phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops will eventually be thrown out, with many being disposed of after only a year of use.
E-waste currently serves as the fastest-growing source of waste in the world, and many old cell phones, television sets, and computer screens contain a bevy of materials, with some being useful when extracted and others being dangerous if left untreated. Here, we will discuss why stewardship programs for e-waste are of the utmost importance.
Unbeknownst to most people, a single computer monitor or cathode ray tube can contain as much as four kilograms of lead. In addition, the proper recycling of a million old cell phones can recover up to nine kilograms of palladium 250 kilograms of silver, 22 kilograms of gold, and 9000 kilograms of copper. But not all e-waste is created equal, and standards like e-Stewards and R2 ensure that each form of e-waste is treated accordingly.
When consumers use their electronics, they are generally safe from the hazardous toxins that are housed within the chassis. However, those same hazardous materials are exposed to the elements once the electronic items are disassembled, with many containing cadmium, lead, mercury, and beryllium. These toxins serve as potent threats to not only the environment but the workers who take apart electronics during the recycling process.
Many unethical recycling plants will also ship most of their e-waste to developing countries so that developing nations can deal with the issue. Unfortunately, most poorer nations do not have any environmental regulations or guidelines and barely enforce their labour laws and human rights protocols.
Even today, many countries “recycle” their plastics and circuit boards by incinerating them, and some will also soak their microchips in corrosive acid to dispose of them. Even more advanced recycling plants will expose many of their workers to low levels of toxins, which, in time, will lead to mutations and other severe health problems.
Fortunately, toxic trade and e-waste mismanagement can be reduced, thanks to organizations like e-Stewards and R2. Such organizations will ensure that their high ethical standards and codes of conduct are adhered to so that the recycling methods employed will be safe and ethical.
De facto, the e-Stewards Recycling Standard, was initiated about a decade ago and ensured that developing countries that are not prepared to properly dispose of and recycle e-waste do not receive hazardous e-waste materials via importation.
As we have seen, there are many industry endorsements, including the R2 certification and the e-Stewards standard, that play a significant role in e-waste recycling that should not be taken lightly.
In fact, these accreditations will all but assure that the recycling company that you are partnering with will adhere to a stringent set of rules and guidelines when recycling the e-waste that they receive.
For instance, they will legally export their e-waste materials so that there are no underhanded or unsanctioned transactions or trade to worry about. They will also enforce best practices in regards to occupational safety and health, and will also be held solely responsible for the downstream management of all toxic items. They will also adhere to any protocols concerning data security so that pertinent intel does not fall into the wrong hands, where it may be sold to the highest bidder.
E-Stewards, R2, IS0 14001, and other international standards will hold your provider responsible in the event of wrongdoing, fraud, or negligence. As a result, they will need to safely and ethically process and recover all the assets that they receive, which will often involve receiving electronics goods from other companies.
However, responsible recycling will not occur if they are just words or certifications written on paper. Instead, they must be translated into actual processes that are very specific to ensure that your company will receive peace of mind, exemplary service, and unrivalled value when the time arrives to dispose of your obsolete electronic goods.
The best recycling facilities will be completely transparent, and more often than not, will have their recycling methods reviewed by an impartial third-party auditor on an annual basis to ensure that they are truly committed to their recycling methods.
E-waste is a serious problem that needs to be nipped in the bud before it’s impossible to manage. With tens of millions of tons being produced annually, the issue has become worse due to the unethical practices of first world countries, and the ineptitude and lack of proper education and resources in third world countries.
Enforcing a stewardship program will help mitigate such issues, as it will hold recycling facilities responsible for their actions, and ensure that e-waste is disposed of in a safe, efficient, and ethical manner; so that the environment is not harmed and that the people who recycle the e-waste are kept safe at all times.
To learn more about electronic stewardship programs in Canada, call eCycle at 1-877-215-5255 or contact us here.
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