Recycling Management News
The Digital Dump
Recycle Electronics Responsibly, Ethically and Safely
March 9, 2013
By: Harpreet Cheema
The pace of change in technology today is truly unrelenting. Electronics are outdated in the blink of an eye, consigned to trash or e-trash as we call it. Today’s consumer is obsessed with new technology. There are more than 300 million computers and a billion cell phones produced every year! With old electronics becoming redundant, inefficient and obsolete, we are quickly replacing them with new ones. But what happens to old electronics or e-Waste? Electronic waste is the fastest growing stream of global waste and will continue to be dumped in those developing countries least equipped to deal with it properly.
What is E-Waste?
Anything that has a wire, a plug, a battery or runs on electricity, that you probably aren’t going to use ever again comprises electronic waste.
E-waste or electronic waste refers to all electronic devices, surplus, damaged or obsolete, which have been discarded by their original owners. According to a United Nations estimate, the world produces up to 50 million tons of ewaste per year. This global mountain of waste is expected to continue growing 8% per year, indefinitely! (BCC Research). With increased access to information technology, there are also challenges in managing electronic products at their end-of-use.
Quick Facts on e-Waste
- US dumps between 3-4 million tons of ewaste of which less than 20% is recycled
- E-waste constitutes only 2% of the landfill waste, yet it contributes to 70% of the toxic elements in it.
- 70-80% of the e-waste collected for recycling is actually dumped into third world countries.
- The Ponemon Institute estimates that 70% of data breaches come from offline computers, usually after the equipment owner has disposed them of.
Why Recycle e-Waste?
E-waste is of concern largely due to the toxicity of some of the substances if processed improperly. The toxicity is as a result of lead, mercury, cadmium and a number of other substances present in electronics. A typical computer monitor may contain more than 6% lead by weight. Up to 38 separate chemical elements are incorporated into e-waste items. The unsustainability of discarded electronics and computer technology is another reason for the need to recycle. Most electronic devices contain a variety of materials, including metals that can be recovered for future uses or “Above the Ground Mining” as they call it, leading to resource recovery and huge energy savings as a result. In addition, it is now illegal in most states to dump e-waste into landfills, leaving recycling as the only option.
Is your e-Waste really being “recycled”?
An estimated 70-80% of the e-waste that’s given to recyclers (to be recycled) is actually exported to countries like India, China, Ghana etc. Once there, primitive technologies such as open air burning and riverside acid baths are used to extract a few materials, exposing workers (mostly underage children) to toxic fumes and hazardous elements.
Do you know who your “recycler” is?
Here are a few general questions to help you choose the right recycler for your e-waste and to determine whether they are operating under strict environmental controls and high worker safety protections.
- Is the recycler certified and do they follow waste industry guidelines on recycling? EPA recognizes e-Stewards and R2 certifications and most states have made it mandatory for government organizations to only use certified recyclers.
- Does the recycler hold accountability for the e-waste collected?(or it may land up in India or China)
- Does the recycler have written procedures for treating hazardous components in ewaste?
Certified Recyclers adhere to responsible and ethical recycling of e-waste.
The e-Stewards® Certified Recyclers
Developed by the Basel Action Network (BAN) together with industry leaders, the e-Stewards Certification is the gold standard in electronics recycling, giving consumers, companies and governments an easy way of finding responsible recyclers and refurbishers. Accredited, independent and specially trained e-Stewards certification bodies, via rigorous, on-site audits that are performed at least once a year, certify e-Stewards Recyclers.
Data Security and E-Waste
Data Breaches in Digital Dump
Recycling of e-Waste can be compromising, as it involves handling sensitive data on those computers. A pint-size data breach can cause an organization huge financial and reputation losses. Hard drives and various other media storage devices need to be properly destroyed to avoid any data theft. Proper destruction and disposal of data is only possible through ethical recycling practices and following NAID standards while handling such devices.
A few recent e-Waste Data Breach cases:
- A Recent EPA Enforcement Case resulted in $195K fi ne for AT&T for improper disposal of computers
- A hard drive purchased from eBay was discovered to have US Missile Data on it!
- Reporters found Northrop Grumman Data on a hard drive bought in Ghana market!
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee spent more than $7 Million to respond to an obsolete computer theft issue
In conclusion, let’s take a pledge to never trash or store technology. Instead let’s reuse, refurbish or recycle it! If we as individuals and companies practice our due diligence in properly recycling e-waste, the future and our environment will be secure. In addition, it is extremely important to know “who” handles our e-waste. Use certified e-cyclers who can ensure and guarantee 100% safe and ethical recycling, without compromising your reputation and environmental sustainability.
Waste To Green, LLC Becomes East Coast’s First Minority and Woman-Owned Certified e-Stewards Recycler
Durham, North Carolina, October 11th, 2012 - The Basel Action Network (BAN), a global toxic
trade watchdog organization, announced today that Durham-based Waste To Green, LLC has become
a certified e-Stewards recycler. Waste to Green is the first minority and woman-owned company on the
east coast to achieve the e-Stewards certification, adhering to the world’s highest standards for socially
and environmentally responsible electronic recycling. As an ethical recycler with an uncompromising
commitment to environmental sustainability, data security and the prevention of toxic e-waste from
being exported to developing countries, Waste To Green has made their commitments official by
obtaining the e-Stewards certification.
Waste to Green founders Amritpal Chatha and Harpreet Cheema experienced firsthand the need for
truly accountable electronic recyclers. While working for a major electronics manufacturer, Chatha, who
holds a master’s degree in Information Security Management, saw the gap between new electronics
entering the market and those being recycled at the end of their life. Chatha said, “New, improved
electronics are entering the market year after year, yet there is very little accountability for those
Waste to Green President Harpreet Cheema saw the problem while working on her master’s degree in
Environmental Studies and studying pollution in Indian slums. “There were piles of electronics stacked
up everywhere,” said Cheema. “These slums were like mini electronic graveyards with young kids
stripping copper wires from DVD players, broken leaded glass all over. I began to understand that
those electronics made their way from the Western world under the guise of reuse and recycling. I was
certain that their original owners had no idea that this was the result of their best intentions to recycle.”
Hazardous e-waste is shipped every day from the United States and other developed countries to
developing countries that lack the capacity to regulate these imports or to appropriately handle the
waste. Two standards for electronic recyclers were developed as a means to address this and help
customers indentify responsible electronic recyclers. However, only the e-Stewards Standard prohibits
the export of hazardous e-waste and untested or non-working electronics to developing countries.
“Companies like Waste to Green that certify to the e-Stewards Standard understand that it is the only
standard that can ensure customers that their hazardous e-waste will not be exported,” said Jim
Puckett, BAN’s Executive Director.
“The process of becoming a certified e-Stewards recycler provided powerful checkpoints around all
essential electronic recycling business issues,” said Cheema. “In addition to qualifying that we’re
sending all of our material to responsible final recovery operations, it also delved deeply into
environmental, health, safety, data security and other essential business aspects. We wanted to
achieve the gold standard of electronics recycling industry, which is why we are proud to be a Certified
Electronic Waste Ban in North Carolina Landfills - Effective July 1, 2011
The state of North Carolina enacted legislation that bans disposing of electronic waste or E-Waste into North Carolina landfills. E-waste laws have come into effect in North Carolina, requiring manufacturers to offer recycling for electronics, and barring computers and televisions from curbside collections.
The regulations are designed to keep hazardous materials such as cadmium and mercury out of soil and water, and to divert useful materials to the recycling industry.
Reference Source: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2009/Bills/Senate/PDF/S887v6.pdf
Reference Source: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2011/07/06/e-waste-rules-take-effect-in-n-c-s-c/
Split forms over e-waste export ban bills
January 09, 2012
By: Jeremy Carroll
“Electronics remained a surging waste stream in 2011 and that trend doesn’t appear to be slowing. And neither does the boom in electronics recycling, as new states implement landfill bans, and the United States Congress plans to take a hard look at e-waste export bans in 2012.
The U.S. EPA estimates that 2.4 million tons of electronic waste was generated in 2010, up from about 2 million tons in 2005 and 1.3 million tons in 2000.
A study funded by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) in late 2011 showed that 74% of the electronics recycled in the United States came from commercial businesses, while individuals purchase the majority of electronics.
The largest piece of legislation likely to deal with electronic waste in 2012 is the proposed ban on exports of e-waste to developing countries that is before both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act has a total of 17 sponsors between the two bills, including 10 Democrats and seven Republicans.
ISRI has opposed the legislation, but a coalition of recyclers, which now includes Sims Recycling Solutions, a division of Sims Metal Management, has thrown support behind it”.
(Source Reference: http://www.wasterecyclingnews.com/arcshow.html?id=12010901201)
US Communities Adopt Electronic Waste Laws, Recycling Programs
March 24, 2011
By: Chris Simkins | Baltimore
Electronic waste such as old televisions, computers, radios and cellular phones is a growing environmental problem. There is a growing problem of what to do with electronic waste such as old televisions, computers, radios, cellular telephones and other electronic equipment.
Electronic trash, known as e-waste, is piling up faster than ever in American homes and businesses. People do not know what to do with old televisions or computers so they throw them in the trash.
National Solid Wastes Management Association state programs director Chaz Miller says the large amount of electronic waste Americans generate is not unexpected.
"We have so many electronic products that we use," said Miller. "They are being far more widely distributed throughout the population of the country and they tend to have relatively short life spans. Cell phones that last two or three years, computers that last maybe two or three years before they get replaced."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates more than 400 million consumer electronic items are dumped each year, and there is a push by more states to ban the waste from landfills and create recycling programs.
For example, as quickly as old electronics arrive at a recycling facility in Baltimore, Maryland they are torn apart and sorted for useable parts. Plant manager Mike Fannon says e-waste here is resold to other companies that further break down the components that are valuable.
"There are a lot of valuable metals that can be recovered and reused as opposed to just putting them in the landfill, and in certain components there are some materials that should not really be dumped in the landfill," Fannon explained.
Fannon says nearly 20 percent of electronic waste is recycled nationwide. Going back 13 years, it was only about six percent. Recycling rates continue to rise as more communities have banned electronics from landfills in an effort to keep e-waste toxins like lead and mercury out of garbage dumps. Many places have set up free drop off events where people can bring old items for recycling.
Fannon says some items like old electronic circuit boards will get shipped to Canada, while other parts will be shipped to countries in Asia.
"These will go off actually to a copper smelter and they will go to recover the copper which is in a lot out of the lines within the [circuit] board itself but at the same time they recover precious metals that are on the board," added Fannon. "There is gold plating on a lot of the material. There is silver. So all those precious metals are recovered in addition to the copper."
This year several states like Vermont imposed a ban on electronic waste in landfills. More than 25 other states have also adopted landfill bans, e-waste recycling programs or both. Chaz Miller says more can be done to boost electronic waste recycling.
"We can do much better than what is almost a 20-percent [e-waste] recycling rate," noted Miller. "I think clearly our goal should be to do as well with electronics products as say we do recycling newspapers."
Waste management analysts say U.S. facilities can safely recycle items. Environmentalists maintain they can reduce the amount of electronic waste in landfills now by raising consumer awareness about the best ways to recycle e-waste.
(Source Reference: http://www.voanews.com/english/news/environment/US-Communities-Adopt-Electronic-Waste-Laws-and-Recycling-Programs-118590894.html)