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November 11th, 2008

Responsible Electronics Recyclers



The Basel Action Network and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition joined today with 32 electronics recyclers in the United States and Canada to announce that the e-Stewards program, which identifies the most responsible recyclers in North America, is soon to be fully accredited and certified.

The e-Steward Certification will be the continent’s first independently audited and accredited electronic waste recycler certification program. It will forbid the dumping of toxic e-waste in developing countries, local landfills and incinerators; the use of prison labor to process e-waste; and the unauthorized release of private data contained in discarded computers.

“Unfortunately today, most of those companies calling themselves electronics recyclers are scammers,” said Sarah Westervelt, e-Stewards project coordinator at the Basel Action Network (BAN). “They simply load up containers of old computers and ship them off to China or Africa. By choosing an e-Steward recycler, consumers and large businesses are assured that their old computers and TVs will be safely managed and not simply tossed into a local landfill, processed unsafely by prison laborers, or exported to developing countries.”

The e-Stewards announcement follows Sunday’s gritty exposé on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Following the Trail of Toxic e-Waste; the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s recently aired Electronic Dumping Ground; and a recent episode of the French Canadian Program Panorama, Electronic Waste: The Hidden Face of Recycling (in French). These programs reveal that computers given to recyclers in the United States and Canada are likely to be dumped in China or Africa, where e-waste is causing immeasurable environmental and health problems.

In September, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) also released a report, Electronic Waste: EPA Needs to Better Control Harmful U.S. Exports through Stronger Enforcement and More Comprehensive Regulation, denouncing the lack of government controls and enforcement over e-waste exports. The Electronic TakeBack Coalition and BAN are also pursuing federal legislation to ban national exports. If the legislation passes, the audited certification program will serve as a strong enforcement tool.

“The e-Stewards project is a response to the failure of government and industry to act as responsible global citizens in the age of information technology,” said Jim Puckett, BAN executive director. “It is also a wonderful example of how industry leaders and activists can move mountains when they work together — in this case, move mountains of e-waste to truly responsible recyclers.”

The e-Stewards already include 32 companies in 92 locations that have been qualified by BAN. Today, BAN announced that by early 2010 the program will feature an ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) certification system with third-party auditing. The funding to create this robust certification program was provided by 14 recycling companies designated as e-Steward Founders.

The e-Steward Founders are Boliden AB, California Electronic Asset Recovery, Cascade Asset Management, ECS Refining, Electronic Recyclers International, GreenCitizen, Hesstech, Metech, Redemtech, RELectronics, the Surplus Exchange, Total Reclaim, Waste Management Recycle America and WeRecycle!.

“Currently, the truly responsible recyclers in the US and Canada face unfair competition from the thousands of unethical, so-called ‘waste recyclers’ in North America that would more accurately be called ‘waste shippers,’” said Neil Peters-Michaud of e-Steward Founder, Cascade Asset Management. “We strongly support a certified, audited program to separate the legitimate recyclers from the low-road operators. We urge consumers and businesses to only use qualified e-Stewards and thus make sure that their old electronics are being safely recycled here at home.”
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