e-Stewards: New Certification System for E-Waste Recycling 5/10/2010 8:15:55 AM

The problem of e-waste: Between the breakneck pace of technological progress and our voracious appetite for gadgets, we're accumulating piles of obsolete computers, cell phones, and other electronic junk. This stuff is hard to dispose of because it's full of many different materials and tends to contain toxins like mercury, lead, and arsenic. This junk is often shipped overseas where it's "recycled" with very little oversight and becomes an environmental and public health disaster.

We now have a new certification system so you can know which companies and recycling facilities are disposing of e-waste responsibly. It's called e-Stewards. It was developed by the Basel Action Network (a nonprofit organization that's dedicated to fighting the practice of the First World dumping its toxic crap in developing countries). A certified e-Stewards Enterprise undergoes a really thorough audit that ensures any unusable electronic garbage it produces is recycled domestically, in safe conditions, and without prison labor. Samsung and a few big banks are already on board.

Certified e-Stewards recyclers adhere to the e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment; written by the environmental community with leaders in the industry to protect human health and the global environment. While there are other guidelines written for the recycling industry, the e-Stewards Standard is the only e-waste standard that:

  • Requires a certified ISO 14001 environmental management system that builds in occupational health and safety requirements specific to the electronics recycling industry, minimizing exposure of recycling workers to hazards
  • Prohibits all toxic waste from being disposed of in solid waste landfills and incinerators
  • Requires full compliance with existing international hazardous waste treaties for exports and imports of electronics, and specifically prohibits the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries
  • Prohibits the use of prison labor in the recycling of toxic electronics, which often have sensitive data embedded
  • Requires extensive baseline protections for and monitoring of recycling workers in every country, including developed nations where toxic exposures are routinely taking place
  • Is written for international use

Accreditation of the e-Stewards certifying bodies is currently provided exclusively by the premier global accreditation body, ANSI/ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB), which is internationally recognized as the source for accreditation of certified management systems in the United States.

The certification bodies authorized to participate in the e-Stewards program must be fully accredited as both ISO 14001 and e-Stewards certification bodies. All e-Stewards CBs must qualify as meeting the rigorous e-Stewards accreditation requirements through a series of independent and ongoing reviews and  audits

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