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e stewardse-Stewards is an important resource for any business wishing to conscientiously dispose of outdated electronic equipment.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 It is equally important to dispose of outdated electronics responsibly.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.

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!

The Three P’s of Recycling in Your Workplace

According to the EPA, the average person generates about 4 1/2 pounds of trash every day. While much of this is household waste, a good portion is generated in workplaces as well. After all, many Americans spend a majority of their day at their jobs. Eco-conscious business owners have a responsibility to provide a means for managing and recycling waste responsibly.

The Three P’s of Workplace Recycling assists organizations in getting started:

People: People are the number one component of the success of your business. Recycling efforts are no different. Get your team on board by letting them know that waste reduction is a priority. They need to be involved, willing and able to participate. You can help make recycling more efficient through the other two P’s, but without your people doing their part, your efforts will fall flat.

Process: You need to put a process in place to collect and dispose of recyclables and compostables. Who’s going to be in charge of emptying the containers and taking items off-site? Where will the items ultimately end up? Will there be some kind of monitoring and accountability system? How will you recognize and reward participation and efforts that go beyond what is required? These are some of the questions you have to consider to make sure that recycling and composting enhances your business operations.
Place: The saying “A place for everything and everything in its place” is true for recycling as well. You’ll need clearly-labeled containers for different types of recyclables and compostables that your business generates. Here are some suggestions for what items may be recycled from different areas of your workplace:

Cafeteria, Kitchen or Lunch room. (Most of these type of materials are usually collectable from most community based recycling programs)

  • Metal – aluminum foil, beverage cans
  • Cartons – milk and juice tetra-pak containers
  • Glass bottles
  • Plastics – #1-7, plastic bags, shrink wrap
  • Paper bags

Office Equipment and Electronics (These type of items need to be recycled through certified e-waste recyclers)

  • Fax machines
  • Computer mice, monitors, keyboards; Laptops
  • Copiers and printers; toner cartridges
  • CDs, DVDs
  • Phones

Paper (Most of these materials can either be recycled or composted. Check your local recyclers guidelines)

  • Books, phonebooks, catalogs
  • Magazines
  • Mail, Manila envelopes
  • Cardboard
  • Packing boxes
  • Office paper, shredded documents

Miscellaneous (These materials are considered hard-to-recycle items and usually are not picked up recycling programs. Go to Earth911 or National Recycling Resources to find ways to recycle these type of items)

  • Packing peanuts
  • Styrofoam packaging
  • Light bulbs
  • Batteries

Contact us to learn more about how you can apply the Three P’s of Recycling in your workplace

e-waste: Recycle computer and electronics responsibly

Many companies in the beginning of the New Year purchase new electronic equipment. It is important to discard e-waste appropriately by using e-waste vendors that are certified by the Basel Action Network e-Stewards program. This system of certification is an independent audit that ensures recyclers do not throw e-waste into landfills and to only send to developing countries that have responsible and safe means of destruction and disposal.

There was a responsible electronics recycling act (HR 2284/ S. 1270) that was introduced in Congress in June of 2011. This Act would prevent the export of non-functional or shredded electronic scrap to developing countries and make it illegal to dump electronics into the landfill. It has been passed down to the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment but as of today, the status is unknown.

Two great videos on the issues of e-waste;

  1. Story of Electronics: Produced by the same organization as the Story of Stuff. An easy 20 minute video on where electronics go once they have no use.
  2. 60 Minutes Wasteland: First aired in 2009 and again in 2010, this gripping and telling investigative reporting on e-waste issues in China.

Go to eco-officiency’s website to learn about recommended places to recycle or donate unwanted computers and electronics.