Electronics recycling standards compared

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Electronics Recycling Standards Compared: R2 and e-Stewards®

Only the e-Stewards standard prohibits export of hazardous e-waste to developing nations.

Why the environmental groups support e-Stewards and not R2
There are now two voluntary certification programs based on performance standards for electronics recyclers: The R2 Guidelines and the e-Stewards Standard. How do they compare? Whenyou look at how the two standards address the four worst problems plaguing the e-waste recycling industry – particularly the problem with exporting e-waste to developing countries - it is clear that the e-Stewards Standard sets a much higher bar for this industry that is plagued by “fake recyclers” and exporting. This chart explains why.

plaguing the recycling industry

The 4 worst problemsR2


The U.S. exports most of its toxic e-waste to developing nations, where it causes great harm. This is the single biggest problem plaguing this industry, and U.S. laws don’t prevent it. Does the standard prohibit recyclers from exporting ewaste to developing countries for RECYCLING? Does the standard prohibit recyclers fromexporting nonworking hazardous equipment or parts to developing countries for REPAIRS? No, exports are allowed. Yes. The e-Stewards Standard prohibits these exports.

No. In fact, this is one of the biggest loopholes in R2. An R2 certified exporter may send non-working hazardous equipment from the U.S. to an R2 certified company in a developing nation. The R2 export language will not

Yes.Only working equipment, which has been tested and is fully functional may be exported to developing nations. If it doesn’t work, or hasn’t been tested, it can’t be exported if it contains hazardous components.

Electronics TakeBack Coalition www.electronicstakeback.com April 12, 2010

plaguing the recycling industry

The 4 worst problems

prevent this even though the import of thismaterial is likely illegal in the receiving country.


Does the standard require ewaste exports from the U.S. to developing countries to comply with the importing countries’ laws?

No. R2 says imports must go to countries “which legally allow it” but then it allows the recycler to decide what’s legal. This is a problem because only the importing countries (not an R2 exporter) have theright to determine what wastes or materials are legal for them to import. R2 claims the exports will be legal, but their auditors are not conducting a legal compliance audit. Therefore, R2 certification provides no legitimate proof that the imports are legal.

Yes, and goes beyond this. The exports of toxic materials for recycling and exports of nonworking toxic e-waste are simply not allowedfrom developed to developing countries. Legal compliance is not an issue because the exports don’t take place.

U.S. laws allow toxic e-waste to be sent to solid waste landfills and incinerators that are not designed for hazardous waste, resulting in inappropriate management and release of heavy metals and persistent bio-accumulative chemicals. Doesthe standard prohibit incineration or landfilling of toxic e-waste? No. R2 discourages but still allows R2 certified recyclers to put toxic e-waste in solid waste landfills or incinerators, including waste-to-energy incinerators, if undefined ‘circumstances beyond their control’ occur. Yes, this is prohibited. The eStewards Standard bans the disposal of hazardous e-waste in solid waste landfills andincinerators, including wasteto-energy incinerators.

The U.S. is doing little to identify potential hazards and to protect its own electronics recycling workers. A common practice in the U.S. is to shred electronics that contain mercury, small batteries lead-tin solders, and brominated flame retardants in the mix, when it is widely known that this disperses...
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