USA's e-Waste Tangle: R2, ISO 14001, and Basel
The US EPA has a program called Responsible Recycling (“R2”) Practices. R2 "is a set of [voluntary] guidelines for accredited certification programs to assess electronics recyclers’ environmental, worker health and safety, and security practices." An industry body, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc, has responded by launching its R2/RIOS certification program. But the situation is more complex.
Some e-cyclers have gone a step further and applied the ISO 14001:2004 international standard for Environmental Management Systems to their operations.
The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal "is the most comprehensive global environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes. The Convention has 172 Parties and aims to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects resulting from the generation, management, transboundary movements and disposal of hazardous and other wastes." The US government has not yet ratified the Basel Convention.
The Basel Action Network (BAN) is an independent support group for Basel Convention. BAN has criticized R2and has launched, along with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition and other organizations, the e-Stewards certification program. e-Stewards incorporates ISO 14001.
What is a responsible American company to do? Each program currently lists ~5 certified recyclers in the US, so options are limited. A number of US companies with international stakeholders have publicly announced that they will use facilities certified by e-Stewards, although there is no information about the relative use of the two groups of recyclers. Conflicting messages slow adoption while e-waste is growing. We encourage the EPA and BAN to harmonize their standards and certifications.
Click on the "recycle" tag under this post's title to learn more about e-waste/cyberwaste, including dramatic photos.