Product Takeback and Globally Responsible Recycling:
It is always best to reuse or upgrade your electronic devices for as long as they function properly. However, once they are broken or truly obsolete, recycling them responsibly is the safest and most sustainable way to dispose of them. There are many electronic recycling vendors out there, but not all of them utilize responsible or sustainable recycling practices.
CEH works to encourage manufacturers to take responsibility for their products at the end of the products’ lives. This concept of “Extended Producer Responsibility” or “Producer Takeback” requires manufactures (not consumers or our government agencies) to take responsibility for the environmentally safe management of their product when it is no longer useful or discarded. Producer Takeback provides important incentives for manufacturers to:
- improve product design
- increase ease of recyclability and
- reduce the use of toxic materials.
Some computer manufacturers offer takeback programs which are free to the consumer while others have fees or conditions associated with them. While a growing number of companies are beginning to offer takeback programs, the availability of this service does not necessarily mean that collected e-waste is handled in an environmentally protective manner. CEH recommends supporting manufacturers who have free, convenient takeback programs, and who handle their products using only e-Steward recyclers.
To see which manufacturers have stronger programs to take back their products when they are no longer useful, download a copy of the Electronics Takeback Coalition’s (ETBC) Recycling Report Card.
If you don’t end up using a manufacturer’s takeback program, you can also consider using a retailer’s takeback program but again, it is important to make sure they are working only with e-Steward recyclers.
Globally Responsible Recycling:
To help ensure that your e-waste is handled properly and safely when you are ready to recycle it, we recommend that you only send your e-waste to a qualified e-Steward recycler (the program formerly known as the Electronic Recycler’s Pledge of True Stewardship).
As an e-Steward, these companies have promised “to provide consumers, institutions, and businesses a sustainable and socially just avenue for disposing of obsolete or broken computers and electronic equipment.” Your old electronics will not be dumped in landfills, processed using prison labor, or illegally shipped overseas to be processed or thrown away in developing countries.
Find an e-Steward here: http://e-stewards.org/find-a-recycler/
For more information on responsible electronic recycling, please contact CEH. The following websites are also useful:
Don’t be Fooled by Misleading Claims from Recyclers:
Many recyclers claim they are EPA certified or that they “follow all applicable state and federal laws” but how do you know if these types of claims are actually meaningful? Check out ETBC’s helpful hints to learn more about common misleading statements and claims:
Other Electronics Recycling Standards:
The EPA did provide funding to develop a voluntary standard for electronics recycling (known as R2). The environmental community had been at the table but had to walk away from the process due to weak requirements and significant loopholes. The R2 standard still allows for:
- The export of toxic waste to developing countries
- Landfill and incineration of e-waste,
- The use of prison labor.
While a few other e-waste recycling standards exist, only e-Stewards includes the necessary safeguards to protect the environment and human health. See a comparison of existing recycling standards.