I interviewed Paulie Anthony who discussed the importance of knowing what your recycling partners do with your e-waste. One of the things e-Cycle is proud of is that they are the only mobile buy back and recycling company in the world to have achieved their e-stewards certification. This is something they have been working on relentlessly over the past year and a half. It is a very rigorous standard and very difficult to achieve. They felt they needed to achieve it because it is so important and they try to develop trust, especially with their enterprise clients. Achieving that certification differentiates them from other companies because other companies can't do it.
Unfortunately, the EPA estimates that 70 to 80 percent of electronics recyclers are exporting some form of e-waste to developing countries.
E-Cycle works with many of the Fortune companies across the country. To be able to receive that certification basically gives them the confidence and trust that e-Cycle is rigorously audited and that they uphold the highest global standards in terms of environmental protection, data security and workers' safety.
What are the e-stewards standards?
The e-stewards standards is a globally recognized standard. Since there is no legislation in the US about exporting waste overseas, the international environmental community got together and created these standards which are very rigorous and continuously improving and which includes ISO14001. It basically prohibits in every way any export of e-waste into developing countries overseas.
They are rigorously audited and every year every one of their downstream partners are rigorously audited. Every piece of their devices (plastics, circuit boards, etc) can be accounted for. They can make sure their downstream recyclers are also audited rigorously to ensure they are doing everything properly.
It is the only standard that specifically prohibits all toxic wastes being disposed/shipped overseas, in landfills that have incinerators, the use of prison labor (who may be handling sensitive corporate data), and the use of child labor and slave labor in any of the recycling processes. The e-stewards standards are recognized globally.
Who in the supply chain is impacted and what are some of the implications?
One thing people have to realize is that it is important to know who your recycler is when people in procurement, asset management or IT recycling are getting rid of older technologies, whether selling or recycling. It is also very important to know who their chain partners are.
Your brand is at stake. We are finding computer equipment and electronic phones and mobile devices overseas that can actually be attributed back to these companies. They are in toxic waste lands that are actually poisoning the local population. They are burning circuit boards in acid baths to extract precious metals from them and they are inhaling the fumes. They are burning plastics that have harmful toxins such as mercury, flame retardants, etc in open air. The workers are doing it because they are desperate to make possibly $8/day because they need the money.
According the the EPA, only a small percentage of e-waste in this country is even being sent to recyclers, as little as 11% to 14%. The remainder of e-waste is dumped or burned. Also, 70% to 80% of e-waste given to recyclers today is exported to less developed countries.
For example, when giving your old computers or mobile phones to recyclers the recyclers may disassemble these parts. Some things may be recycled responsibly. However, they may have a buyer that takes old batteries and sells them in China where they are dumped and toxic led is leached into the landfills.
The recycling company may think that they are doing something right. The company that hires them may also think they are doing something right. In truth, it is actually ending up overseas, or there is fallout where they may sell pieces or parts that someone in China may buy. Some of these parts may be used while the rest dumped and burned.
It is very important throughout the entire chain to know exactly who you are working with and who they are working with down the entire chain from procurement to final disposition. It is a growing problem. 60 Minutes did a great expose on it called the 'Toxic Wasteland' that showed what was going on. Legislation is coming out and the watchdogs are out.
Corporations have to protect their brands. They have to protect their data. They have to protect the environment. Making sure that they work with e-stewards recyclers is very important. There are many out there and more growing A lot of enterprises have already taken the pledge to become e-stewards enterprise businesses where whenever possible in every way they pledge to use an e-stewards certified recycling company. Large companies need to ensure their recycling initiatives are actually not harming the environment and the recyclers are actually sending it where they say they are.
How should we move forward?
Check out http://www.e-cycle.com/ and http://e-stewards.org/ to find a list of e-stewards certified recycling companies. Currently, e-Cycle is working on launching a 'Take the Pledge Campaign'. They want to raise awareness of this problem and encourage enterprises to take the pledge to detox their companies and make sure they are fulfilling their sustainability initiatives.
It is important to really take a second look at who you are using for your recycling partners and make sure that if they are not clear and transparent regarding who they work with and if they have been audited, then you may need to take a second look and really watch your back. The watch dogs are out and they are starting to reveal more recycling companies which were supposedly reputable but are being exposed for actually harming the environment.
About Paulie Anthony
Director of Marketing at e-Cycle LLC
Responsible Mobile Buyback,
Recycling & Data Protection