Thursday, March 25, 2010

Scrap Recycling Industries Board Approves E-Waste R2 Program

Mar 25: According to a release from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) its board laid out a roadmap addressing the growing problem of the improper export of end-of-life electronic scrap. The Board voted unanimously to approve what they called "a new, aggressive policy to protect health, the environment and worker safety" which they signaled that ISRI members are behind efforts to stem possible health and environmental hazards that occur when e-scrap is not exported responsibly. 
    ISRI President Robin Wiener said, "The ISRI Board voted today to adopt an aggressive, forward-looking policy that puts forth a safe, responsible and legal framework for electronics recycling both at home and abroad. Among other provisions, the policy bans the export of electronic equipment and components for land-filling or incineration for disposal and requires that facilities outside the U.S. that recycle or refurbish electronics have a documented, verifiable environmental, health and worker safety system in place."  ISRI said the Board's decision reinforces environmental, health and worker safety standards that closely track the EPA's Responsible Recycling (R2) program.
    EPA's innovative R2 program was finalized in 2008 to create and adopt safe and effective policies for electronics recycling in the US and abroad. Career professionals at the EPA, several state governments (including Minnesota and Washington), OEMs,   electronic recyclers and trade associations including ISRI and ITIC sat down in 2006 to begin work on these standards. Additionally, the standards were tested in the field to ensure that companies who were awarded the certification had to meet tough benchmarks. The guidelines are used by accrediting organizations like the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) to certify that companies are complying with health, worker safety and environmental laws.
    Wiener said, "ISRI has always been a staunch supporter of recycling electronics in compliance with domestic and international legal requirements. This is emphasized in the new policy, which requires that facilities outside the United States that recycle or refurbish electronics have a documented environmental, health and worker safety system that can be verified; requires a business record-keeping system to document compliance with all legal requirements; requires that any facility must be capable of handling hazardous waste; and ensures that US exporters can confirm a facility they export to is in compliance with the law."

    ISRI Director of Government and International Affairs Eric Harris noted that the newly adopted policy includes provisions that will address actual problems in recycling facilities throughout the world rather than requiring a total trade ban on the export of electronic scrap as the only viable way to deal with irresponsible recycling outside of the United StatesHarris pointed to a newly released study in the March 22, 2010, issue of the journal, Environmental Science and Technology.


    In the report, author Eric Williams of Arizona State University writes, "Trade bans will become increasingly irrelevant in solving the problem" and argues that a complete ban on export of used and end-of-life electronics to developing counties fails to solve the problem because the developing world will generate more used and end-of-life electronics than developed countries as early as 2017. Additionally, by 2025, the developing world will generate twice the amount of electronic scrap as what will come from developed nations. Williams is an assistant professor at Arizona State University with a joint appointment in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, a part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School of Sustainability.


    ISRI's Wiener added, "The policy adopted today by the ISRI Board of Directors embodies the most environmentally sustainable and realistic approach to electronic scrap recycling. This is a responsible, safe and legal approach to electronics recycling that protects worker health and safety, as well as ensuring environmentally sustainable practices that can actually deal with this global issue."


    On March 10, 2010, WIMS reported that a release from U.S. EPA regarding its sponsored R2 electronic recycling certification program does not mention what some consider to be a more restrictive and competing international certification program from the Basel Action Network (BAN) [See WIMS 3/10/10]. The two competing programs are just now getting underway and are certain to cause confusion for the public, recyclers, and manufacturers.


    The competing, new e-Stewards Certification and Standard from the Basel Action Network (BAN) is a certification program for electronics recycling created jointly by the environmental community and business leaders. In February, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) announced its endorsement of the e-Stewards program which it called "the first-ever certification program for electronics recycling." The e-Steward Certification is a fully accredited certification that relies on independent, third-party auditors to verify safe and ethical e-waste disposal. It is awarded to companies that recycle electronics without using practices that far too many in U.S. electronics recycling industry rely upon -- the use of municipal landfills and incinerators, the export to developing countries, or U.S. prison labor for disposing of toxic old electronics.

    Access a release from ISRI (click here). Access ISRI's Electronics Recycling website for additional details (click here). Access EPA's Responsible Recycling website (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access the e-Stewards website for complete information on certification and related information (click here).