Americans discard more than two million tons of e-waste every year, according to the EPA.
As new products are released old gadgets pile up around the world and are commonly disposed of improperly. The materials contained within these electronic devices release toxic waste into the environment creating hazardous conditions for nearby communities. In some instances, consumers may recycle electronic materials only to have those items land, unknowingly, in locations like Agbogbloshie.
James Kao of GreenCitizen, a certified electronics recycling company, told the New York Times “If you don’t know where the material goes, you could be thinking you’re doing the right thing, but it ends up being put on a ship.” GreenCitizen and other certified recyclers prioritize reuse by refurbishing and re-selling or donating old equipment as much as possible.
As awareness builds around the effects that e-waste can have on our future, the focus is shifting from general recycling to “proper” recycling of materials and the interception of usable technology items. However, the collection of e-waste for usable technology requires even greater responsibility for recycling practices. Independent standards bodies, eStewards and Sustainable Electronic Recycling International (S.E.R.I), offer a Responsible Recycling (R2) certification program to organizations looking to become identified as a responsible processor. The R2 Certification standard is recognized by the EPA and outlines the requirements for responsible management of electronic waste.
The EPA also offers a Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) program and additionally invites consumers, businesses, universities, and government bodies to join the SMM challenge in the following industry sectors: food recovery, electronics, and federal green. Check out the 2014 SMM challenge winners!