First Electronics Recycling Certification to Regulate Toxic Exporting

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has announced its endorsement of the first-ever certification program for the recycling of electronics.

Guiyu is one of the largest e-waste centers of the world. More than a million tons of e-waste is dismantled in this Chinese village every year. Photo: Flickr/Bert van Dijk

The e-Stewards Certification and Standards program, held by the Basel Action Network (BAN), is touted as a giant step forward in an effort to slow the tide of overseas shipment of hazardous electronics.

The e-Steward Certification is a fully accredited certification program which utilizes independent third-party auditors to verify safe and ethical disposal of electronic waste. The program aims to clearly separate responsible recyclers with those that utilize unethical practices such as municipal landfill disposal, incineration and exportation to developing countries.

“This initiative is sorely needed,” said NRDC Senior Scientist Allen Hershkowitz. “Many e-waste recyclers claim to be green, but in reality, they rely on unsafe and ecologically damaging methods like dumping millions of tons of toxic waste each year in China, India and Africa. E-Stewards provide businesses and consumers with a first-of-a-kind seal to identify the truly responsible recyclers.”

The first companies to receive the e-Stewards “Enterprise” designations and the first Certified e-Steward recyclers will be announced in March. There are currently about 50 North American recyclers considered “Pledged e-Stewards,” which have been licensed and will be certified in the next 18 months.

Electronics Recycling Laws on the State Level

In order to regulate the recycling of electronics in the absence of a federal law, many states have implemented their own laws pertaining to proper collection and disposal. Currently, 20 states and one municipality (New York City) have put laws into place.

Because each law is tailored to its state, compliance has become a challenge for retailers, manufacturers and consumers. In order to encourage information exchange regarding the various regulation, ecoATM, which provides in-store electronics recycling options to consumers, has become a founding affiliate member of the Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC).

“It is clear there will be no federal (EPA) legislation for years to come,” said ecoATM’s Chief Green Officer, Seth Heine. “Ironically, as more states develop these laws, the need for federal involvement becomes more clear, yet it is that much more challenging for a federal law to take precedent and for states to accede to a federal law.”

Founded by the National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) and the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), ERCC aims to provide a forum for information exchange of recycling laws among state agencies and impacted stakeholders.

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