22 April 2010

E-Waste Roundup: The Trouble with Exports

Excerpt from Green Biz, 30 March 2010

'Take your eye off the e-waste issue for even a minute, much less a week, and you're liable to miss some interesting developments. In the last few days, there have been a number of stories on the issue of end-of-life management for electronics - some highlighting progress on the challenge, others highlighting just how big a challenge it will remain for years to come.

Beginning with the bad news, a series of reports came out this month focused on how developing nations will be affected by e-waste. Following on the news that developing nations will be buried under an e-waste 'surge', a report published in Environmental Science & Technology found instead that those developing nations will soon be generating more domestic e-waste than Western countries can ship their way.

The report, by Jinglei Yu, Eric Williams, Meiting Ju and Yan Yang, suggests that bans on e-waste exports will not solve the problem, although it will likely slow its pace. Although North America and Europe are responsible for the vast majority of e-waste that is dangerously dismantled in China, Thailand, Vietnam, as those countries' economies grow and citizens buy gadgets of their own, the problem of handling toxic waste will come from within rather than without.

Rather than banning e-waste exports, or rather than simply banning exports, the report authors suggest that localized, backyard recyclers should be banned in countries that currently import electronics, with governments taking over a centralized recycling role.

Increased Domestic Recycling

Alongside the research on recycling in developing countries, a new report from Converge finds that the vast majority of medium to large enterprises in the U.S. are making a plan to address end-of-life issues for their electronics.

Although data security is far and away the biggest driver of corporate e-cycling initiatives, with 75 percent of respondents ranking that as the top reasons for managing e-waste, 61 percent said that corporate green initiatives are the motivating factor, while 53 percent said avoiding potential risk from improper e-waste disposal was the main reason for recycling.

And while organizations of all sizes are ever more aware of the risks posed by discarded computers and monitors, the mountains of cell phone waste are still often overlooked at the corporate as well as individual levels.

eRecyclingCorps, a new Dallas, Texas-based company, launched last week in order to tackle the roughly 130 million cell phones that are discarded in the U.S. every year.

eRecyclingCorps opened shop at the CTIA trade show last week in Las Vegas, starting with a partnership with Sprint to collect old phones at Sprint retail stores and offer rebates for customers who trade in old phones. eRecyclingCorps will collect and separate reusable phones from ones that should be dismantled and recycled, and the company's website says it will meet or exceed compliance with all policies on e-waste, including:

• due diligence on downstream recyclers and processors;
• clearing/destroying personal data;
• sending materials only to facilities licensed to receive them;
• only exporting to countries where it is legal...'

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