The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a study assessing the implementation of the two third-party certification programs for electronic waste recyclers in the United States. EPA’s study found that the certification standards are being implemented by auditors with thorough knowledge of the standards.
“EPA’s study affirms that e-Stewards and R2 certification programs are helping to improve the responsible management of used electronics in the United States,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management. “We remain committed to continuing the dialogue started by this study to identify opportunities for continued improvement in management of used electronics.”
The Responsible Recycling Standard for Electronics Recyclers (R2) and the e-Stewards® Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment (e-Stewards®) are accredited third-party standards for the management of used electronics to protect human health and the environment. The limited study assessed whether the standards are being implemented transparently and consistently, and if they are achieving the intended results. Both standards include strong environmental requirements that maximize reuse and recycling, minimize exposure of toxics to human health or the environment, ensure safe management of materials by downstream handlers, and require destruction of all data on used electronics.
The study’s findings are based on the stakeholder interviews EPA conducted and the audits EPA observed, which reflect a small percentage of all certified electronics recycling facilities and auditors working in the electronics recycling industry. Though limited in number, the audits EPA observed reflected the range of audit types, facility sizes, and services offered by facilities seeking to obtain or maintain certification to the standards.
The study identified a number of strengths in implementation of the standards, such as clear and effective roles and responsibilities among the key implementers, and opportunities for constructive feedback integrated throughout the system. The study also offers recommendations for improving the overall effectiveness of implementation, including providing additional training and guidance materials in key topic areas, providing regular updates to the standards and increasing audit times to allow for more thorough audits.
The study was conducted in collaboration with the U.S. General Services Administration and the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board. It fulfills a key commitment under the 2011 National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship (NSES), which tasks the federal government to lead by example by encouraging the greener design and responsible management of used electronics. Under this commitment, EPA founded the Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Electronics Challenge to encourage original equipment manufacturers and retailers to reduce environmental impacts, conserve resources and practice responsible electronics stewardship by using third-party certified electronics recyclers.
Visit EPA’s Implementation Study of the Electronics Recycling Standards: R2 and e-Stewards® website for more information and to learn about other efforts to advance the responsible management of used electronics.
For more information on the NSES and the SMM Electronics Challenge: http://www.epa.gov/smm-electronics