The Importance of Electronics Recycling and e-Stewards Certification

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), TVs, computers, computer accessories, and cell phones equaled approximately 2.37 million short tons of U.S. waste in 2009. The problem is compounded by both the toxicity and the accessibility of materials used in electronics–lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury, for example. When disposed of improperly, such materials leak toxins into air, soil, and water. Additionally, mining the elements for new production depletes natural resources.

Even so, your business relies on properly functioning and up-to-date technology. “Out with the old; in with the new” is part of operations. By reusing, repurposing, and recycling your office electronics, you help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, save energy, and use fewer raw materials from the earth. For good reason, electronics recycling is an important consideration in green business operations.

e stewardse-Stewards is an important resource for any business wishing to conscientiously dispose of outdated electronic equipment. The e-Stewards Initiative originated in 1997 with the Basel Action Network (BAN), a non-profit organization committed to stopping international trade for toxic waste. Through advocacy and investigations, BAN revealed that much of U.S. toxic waste, including that of electronic waste, was sent for “recycling” only to be illegally (and cheaply) dumped in poor communities and developing countries ultimately polluting soil, water, and food supplies.

In 2008 the e-Stewards Certification for electronics recyclers was developed. Today, this stands as a rigorous, internationally recognized certification program that enforces best practices in electronics recycling.

It is important to keep your business on-pace with developing technology. It is equally important to dispose of outdated electronics responsibly. Several businesses, large and small, rely on trade-in and buy-back programs to dispose of old office electronics. To be certain your e-waste will be recycled properly, look for an e-Stewards certified recycler that operates by the Electronics Recycler’s Pledge of True Stewardship. The e-Stewards website features an interactive map locating e-Stewards certified electronic recyclers in your area.

For more information about environmentally responsible electronics disposal, contact us.

 

 

Why are Electronics Toxic to the Environment?

How many chemicals does your cell phone expose you to on a daily basis? A study by healthystuff.org found toxic chemicals in 36 of the most popular phones on the market, including all versions of Apple’s iPhone. Among the 12 different chemicals tested for, the cell phones tested positive for lead, cadmium, and mercury –some of the most harmful and carcinogenic to humans.

The problems begin when products are manufactured with combinations of many heavy metals and continue to inflict severe environmental damage long after they are discarded. According to Greenpeace International, these chemicals also pose risk to the workers who dismantle and dispose of these products.

Greenpeace has outlined some of the most harmful chemicals found in electronics and their effects all of which can and do bio-accumulate in the environment. These are not limited to, but include:

  • Lead- particularly harmful to e wastepregnant women and children, causing birth and developmental defects.
  • Cadmium- causes damage to the lungs and kidneys.
  • Mercury- Also specifically harmful to pregnant women and children, impairing neurological development and birth defects.
  • Polyvinyl Carbonate (PVC)- releases harmful and toxic chemicals especially when burned, as it would be in a disposal plant.
  • Bromated Flame Retardants- Disruptive to hormone systems and causes learning and memory impairment.

How can you protect your personal health along with the well-being of the planet? Proper disposal of electronic devices is essential. Even when electronics leave our homes and go into the garbage, they can get back into our bodies through water, food, and exposure to outdoor elements.

Learn more how to safely dispose of toxic electronics and keep chemicals out of the environment through our extensive recycling resources on our website.

Purchasing Electronic Equipment Responsibly: Check for Certifications

When purchasing new electronic and computer equipment, one way for companies to be more conscientious is to choose vendors that have sustainability certifications. The following are certifications used for electronic equipment and ensure that the product has met or exceeded certain requirements for energy, resource and toxic chemical use.

Energy Star is by far the most well-known environmental certification. It is essentially a energy starcooperative effort of the EPA and the DOE. Many think of refrigerators when they think of Energy Star ratings. However, the system extends to notebooks, desktops, monitors, all-in-one devices, and scanners. These electronic devices must usually meet two standards. First, they must automatically go into a “low-power” mode when they are not being used. Second, they can only use a certain maximum of power when they are being used. The DOE is promoting energy savings and the EPA wants to decrease greenhouse gases.

epeatElectronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is an online tool that assists buyers to evaluate products using environmental criteria. It looks at 51 elements in eight different categories. It is derived from IEEE Standard 1680-2006. There are rating levels named Gold, Silver, and Bronze. A bronze rating is awarded when all 23 required standards are met. The upgrade to silver occurs when those criteria are met, along with at least half of the other 28 optional standards. Finally, the Gold award goes to products that meet the required standards and 3/4 of the optional ones. At the EPEAT website one can scroll to the product that they need and quickly determine specific items that are EPEAT certified.

Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) is a set of standards regarding roHSdangerous substances in electronics that comes from the European Union (EU). These standards do allow for “trace amounts” in some cases. It does set specific standards for limiting the amount of cadmium, mercury, lead, etc. that can be present in a product. Today, one can select the certifications that your organization wants to meet, and then locate the products that meet the standards.

Our consultants can guide you further in your pursuit of green products and how to choose them. Please contact us for further information.

Colorado Electronics Recycling Ban Information

Beginning July 1, 2013, Coloradans will no longer be able to dispose of consumer electronics in their household trash, as most “e-waste” is being banned from landfills based on the Colorado legislation SB12-133, Electronic Device Recycling Act. This legislation will not only help our environment and landfills but also will create local e-waste employment opportunities.

Waste electronic devices include:Recycle Electronics

  • Television sets (TV)
  • central processing units (CPUs)
  • computer monitors and peripherals
  • Printers and fax machines
  • Laptops, notebooks, ultra books, net books, electronic tablets
  • Digital video disc (DVD) players, video cassette recorders (VCRs), radios, stereos, video game consoles and video display devices with screens greater than four inches diagonally

It is also possible to donate working electronic devices, and there are a host of organizations that will accept used computers. Visit our electronics recycling page for organizations that accept used computers and electronics.

Electronic devices should be kept out of landfills and properly recycled to recover materials and reduce the energy demands from mining and manufacturing. Electronics are made from valuable resources, such as precious metals, copper, and engineered plastics, all of which require considerable energy to process and manufacture. Recycling electronics recovers valuable materials and as a result, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, saves energy, and saves resources by extracting fewer raw materials.

For more detailed information on the e-waste ban visit the Colorado department of Public Health and Environment. Or contact us and we are happy to point you in the right direction.

Greener Printing Methods and Products for Small Businesses

Cartridge ChangingIn Office Depots 2012 Small Index Study, they found that 60% of small businesses want to green their ink and toner cartridges. Not only are printer and toner cartridges expensive for businesses, they have a high environmental cost. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 350 million printer cartridges are thrown away each year, and each one takes over 450 years to decompose.  That’s a lot of cartridges filling up our landfills.

There are several ways to green up your printer usage.

  1. Recycle Used Cartridges: Recycling used printer cartridges is a popular way to save money and help save the environment. Many office supply stores will take back used cartridges and give you a store credit in return. Office Max and Staples both offer a $2 credit for each cartridge, which also saves you money on office supplies if you purchase from these businesses. There are also numerous toner cartridge recycling businesses popping up nationwide. In addition to the environmental benefits, recycled cartridges often cost half of what new cartridges do, offering savings to business owners.
  2. Use Soy Ink: Another option is to switch to soy ink, instead of the more common ink products, which are petroleum-based.  Soy ink has several benefits. It is made from soy oil, which comes from a renewable resource, while petroleum products are not. Soy ink is more biodegradable, degrading four  times faster than regular ink. Also, less soy ink is required for the same amount of printing, leading to few cartridges made and fewer cartridges thrown away.
  3. Consolidate Printing: A final option is printer consolidation. Consider removing desktop printers and fewer networked printers. This leads to less printing by your staff and fewer cartridges that need to be purchased. Educating your employees on the costs of managing paper is also beneficial for a company attempting to go green in the printing department.

If you would like to move to a paperless office, then contact us for more information.

Recycling non-Traditional Business Materials

When we think about recycling today, EPA Graphwe typically think about regular recyclable items such as plastic bottles, aluminum, glass and tin cans.  There are also now resources to recycle other office items such as Styrofoam, batteries, cell phones, CD’s and electronics. With our landfills becoming full, toxic and more expensive it is important for businesses to do their part to recycle as much as waste as possible. Here is a list of resources and office items that you can recycle. Don’t see an item listed? Visit our full list of recycling and donation resources for more recycling resources for businesses.

  • Styrofoam Packing Peanuts

Thanks to groups like the Plastic Loose Fill Council, the ways in which we recycle styrofoam are finally moving into the 21st century.  They have created a program in which used packing materials are repurposed for other business to use.  So, rather than adding those packing peanuts to the landfill, consider sending them a box full.

  • Batteries

The worst thing about batteries is how toxic and damaging they are when left to decompose in our environment. First, check with the battery manufacturer as many times they offer recycling programs for their products.  You can also contact Call2Recycle for locations that accept batteries for responsible recycling.

  • Cell Phones

You probably have see the cell phone recycling bins at your local big box electronics store or in the lobby of the cell phones stores but, did you know that there are other alternatives?  A cell phone can be a huge blessing to those in our third world countries so Collective Good can make that happen.  Domestic violence victims would also be very appreciative of your old phone so the NCADV will happily take it off your hands and put it to good use.

  • Bio-Plastics and Bio-degradable Materials

These are plastics made from lactic acid, soy protein or vegetable starches.  Through naturally occurring processes these plastics will break down over time, completely and without releasing toxins into our soil. If you need to find a recycler for these items contact FindAComposter.com and they will help put you in touch.  By making the effort to compost these products we will encourage the industry to continue to produce earth-friendly bio-plastics.

  • E-Waste (Computers, Printers, Monitors)

KOPEG (Keep Our Planet Earth Green) has an excellent recycling program that can also serve as a way to raise funds.  Encourage recycling of items like old cell phones or MP3 players, broken digital cameras, obsolete PDAs and more, and they will help you turn it into cash.

If you aren’t sure how to recycle a material, Contact us to find out more!

Small Businesses Can Save Money by Preventing Pollution and Waste

A recent story in the Daily Journal of Commerce notes that small businesses in Washington State found that by preventing pollution and waste they saved money. Over the past four years, specialists worked with small business owners to “help them properly manage, store, and dispose of hazardous materials” so they wouldn’t end up in the air, water, or soil.

Why it Matters

These efforts are important considering that DoSomething.org reports: 

  • 40% of America’s rivers and 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life
  • 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are discharged into U.S. waters annually
  • Each year, U.S. factories spew 3 million tons of toxic chemicals into the air, land, and water
  • Over 80% of items in landfills can be recycled, but they’re not costing taxpayers millions of dollars

Results of Helping Small Businesses Prevent Pollution

Because of the efforts in Washington State, one golf course took action to prevent pesticides from leaking into the ground, including developing a prevention and clean-up plan, as well as moved gas cans into cabinets for flammables. Additionally, a group of dental offices along with two veterinary hospitals adopted practices to dispose of hazardous waste, such as dental amalgam and fluorescent tubes, while a group of specialists worked with a local mall to correct storm water system problems.

Your Small Business Can Prevent Pollution and Waste

As a small business owner, you may be wondering how you can do your part to help prevent pollution and waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that when your small business generates waste, it costs you more money because you pay for it twice – “once when you buy it and the second time when you throw it away. The bottom line is that preventing waste will save you money.”

Some EPA suggestions for waste prevention include:

  • Purchasing durable, long-lasting materials which reduce waste and hopefully will reduce cost
  • Using products free of toxic materials to improve air quality and reduce toxins in the environment
  • Reducing the amount of packaging to reduce waste
  • Recycle and compost waste materials

When it comes to running your small business, you have a choice to improve your local community’s environment. Let us show you how. Click here to find out about how we support small businesses.

Recycling Resources- good for business and good for the environment

Recycling isn’t just good for the environment. It is good for business. Taking used materials and re-purposing them not only saves valuable resources, it can save money and create a much cleaner, more eco-friendly world.

You may not have thought of many of the underlying reasons why recycling is good. For one, recovering old materials for new uses helps to keep manufacturing jobs located in the United States, according to the EPA. That can help the nation maintain its competitive edge, even in tough economic times.

Recycling also lowers the need for landfills and incinerators that burn rubbish, which in turn helps to preserve space for other uses and decrease the amount of trash-related pollution released in the air we breathe. Along the same lines, recycling also prevents toxins linked to making new goods out of raw materials from entering the atmosphere because those products don’t have to be made in the first place. Moreover, recycling helps us conserve valuable natural resources, including the forests where wood is found as well as water supplies and raw minerals.

In short, there are many reasons to recycle, but the first step always begins with businesses taking the initiative to set up systems to make it successful in the workplace.

Click here for a comprehensive list of recycling resources especially for hard-to-recycle items not usually taken by waste management facilities.

If you’re interested in setting up recycling for your business don’t hesitate to contact us.

Green Ideas to Green Your Business

Long gone are the days when a recycling bin or a catchy slogan sent the message to your employees that your company cared about the environment. You’ve talked the talk about your business’ sustainability practices, now it’s time to implement. Here’s a couple of quick ideas for you to green your business operations;

Encourage Carpooling. Carpooling is as old as commuting itself, but it’s also an exceptionally straightforward way to cut down on carbon emissions. Each participant in a carpool completely takes that person’s tailpipe emissions out of the air that day, and reduces the need for parking. But don’t just tell employees you value carpooling, show them — help them with ride-share matching, and incentivize carpooling with reduced-cost (or free) parking in better spaces. And consider programs such as prize drawings to reward your carpoolers; discounts, swag, or even cash.

Ban the Bottle. Sure, everyone knows most plastic water bottles are recyclable. But “recycle” comes after “reduce” and “reuse.” Many businesses — and some municipalities — are retrofitting their old drinking fountains to include bottle-filling stations, eliminating the need for countless bottles to even be manufactured. These fixtures are available from most of the major drinking fountain suppliers, and deliver cool, clean water into a user-supplied reusable cup or bottle.

Support Bike to Work. According to the League of American Bicyclists, the number of people biking to work in the last few years has gone from impressive to staggering — up 75% in New York City, 110% in San Francisco and 144% in Portland since the last census. Don’t stop at putting a bike rack out front; consider setting aside safe indoor spaces for cyclists to store bikes easily, and make sure you have facilities in place (or nearby) so employees can “freshen up” in plenty of time to start work.

For more ideas on sustainability in the workplace, feel free to contact us.

Recommended Product, CompoKeeper, and Indoor Composter

CompoKeeper is an indoor compost container that meets the objections many have about storing food waste inside homes or office buildings. The design includes a clamshell mechanism that creates an airtight seal in the compostable liner with it’s easy to use hand lever or foot pedal so odors can’t get out and pests can’t get in. When the bag is full the easy-grab tray assists one in removing a full, flimsy bag and carrying it out to the appropriate outdoor storage area. The CompoKeeper is made in Boulder, Colorado in three sizes and only available through online. There is also a coupon for $150 offered by the Boulder County Conservation Center is offering to businesses who sign up for a recycling or composting service.