Apto Solutions has been a long-time proponent of e-Stewards as the most relevant certification for responsible e-waste recycling. While R2 is a more commonly used standard, we selected e-Stewards because we believe that the global impact of exporting e-waste is an imminent risk to the environment if left unchecked.
For those not familiar with e-Stewards certification, it is a leading global program designed to ensure proper reuse, recycling, and disposition of electronic equipment. The e-Stewards and R2 logos allow individuals and organizations the ability to identify certified companies that adhere to the highest standard of environmental responsibility and worker protection. The intent of both standards is to provide a rigorous set of criteria to prevent irresponsible or illegal handling of e-waste, while promoting data security, social responsibility, and environmental protection.
A few of the key components of e-Stewards include:
- Proper handling of hazardous e-waste and the associated toxic components to prevent their disposal in solid waste landfills or incinerators.
- Ensuring fair labor practices for processing hazardous e-waste by prohibiting forced and child labor, as well as prison operations in most cases.
- Requirements for baseline protections for workers in every country where exposures are routinely taking place.
- Requirements for compliance with international treaties for exports and imports of e-waste
- Prohibition of the export of e-waste from developed to developing countries.
It is this last one that tilted the scale for Apto to go all-in with e-Stewards. While there is no complete agreement on the amount of e-waste that is irresponsibly processed in developing countries, experts agree that there is inherent risk in doing so. According to The World Counts organization over 80% of e-waste is exported to Asian countries where the hourly worker makes under $2 per hour for processing the material. The inability to audit and track the proper disposition makes it impossible to verify how much waste ends up in an overseas landfill or ocean.
It is estimated that 2% of the e-waste in landfills cause 70% of the toxicity in landfills. Furthermore, only about 17.4% of e-waste that is collected globally is appropriately recycled. Every percentage point that is properly recycled results in almost one ton of carbon dioxide equivalents no longer released into the environment.
It will take the entire ITAD and e-waste industry worldwide to commit to proper handling of their materials to make meaningful strides this decade. This is possible with good stewardship and best practices. Together we can make it happen!
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