February 2012

e-Waste Management Solutions

Exploring Solutions for e-Waste Management in 2012

By Ashley Rowe, IQPC

Twenty-six states now have regulations governing e-waste. This number continues to increase as does the waste created by the nation’s electronically addicted society. Many OEMs have implemented take-back programs. However, often these programs do not have appropriate customer buy-in or follow up from the corresponding company to enforce regulated requirements. There is a great need for improvement. As stated by Global Information Society Watch in the ICT and Environmentally Sustainability Report, “The ICT industry is expected to generate 53 million tons of e-waste by 2012.” The growing volume of e-waste needs to be responsibly managed, recycled, or disposed of to minimize the environmental impact of this volume of hazardous chemicals.

There are conflicting views about what is happening to electronic waste. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries report Inside the US Recycling Industry “70% of the e-waste collected by weight is processed in the United States and sold at home or the global marketplace as commodity grade scrap, such as steel, aluminum, copper, precious metals recovered from circuit boards, glass and plastics. Ten percent is resold as functioning equipment and components for direct resell, and less than 18% is resold as equipment and components for further repair and refurbishment. The bottom line is that used and end-of-life electronics are being recycled right here in America, not “dumped” overseas as we’ve been led to believe.”

The ICT and Environmentally Sustainability Report states, “Many environmental groups claim that developed countries use developing countries or emerging economies as “dumping grounds” for e waste.” In an article by The Basel Action Network, Toxic E-waste Exports by Chicago Electronics Recycler Uncovered, Executive Director, Jim Puckett states, “It is very sad that many e-waste recycling companies continue to pose as ‘responsible recyclers’ while they continue to export toxic waste.” This comment was based on an investigation by BAN to determine what actually happens in the actual e-waste Management process.

The real bottom line is that OEMs and retailers are considered responsible for the problem of e-waste, and need to take action or increase action to be environmentally supportive while gaining consumer support and creating social awareness of e-waste initiatives. Faced with growing laws in each state to govern this issue, deficient uniformity, unreliable recyclers, and lack of consumer involvement, OEMs and retailers must find solutions to decrease e-waste and optimize their spend on time, money and manpower regarding e-waste responsibility.

On April 30 to May 2, the 2nd e-Waste Management Summit will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada. It will explore solutions for the ICT industry’s pressing electronic reuse and recycling issues. This is the only event focusing on e-Waste Management from an OEM perspective. Sony, Samsung, Acer, Environmental Protection Agency, Nokia, Sharp Electronics and other leading electronic companies will meet to discuss lengthening the lifespan of materials through selection and design, increasing the amount of electronic waste being processed for reinsertion into the supply chain, qualifying and selecting the best recycler, educating and motivating the consumer about the importance of electronics recycling and case studies of successful e-Waste Management strategies.

Leading up to the previous e-Waste Management Summit held in 2011, IQPC interviewed Jason Linnell, Executive Director at National Center for Electronics Recycling, and asked, “How far are we along the path to a national harmonization of e-cycling?” Mr. Linnell noted, “Well, we are taking some steps but we’re still quite a few years away from any type of national harmonization or any type of a national law. My organization works under a group called Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearing House or ERCC and we are actually working on technical projects. What may seem like small details actually have a great impact on the differing types of laws that are out there. We’re trying to work on harmonization projects that deal with things like the registration process, the performance measures, the best practices that should be followed by collectors; things that can be harmonized across the state laws but don’t require a full scale legislative revisions of all the laws to be exactly like the same model. So we’re taking some small steps within that group, and I know that there are industry discussions that are happening all the time both within the manufacturers and recyclers and environmental groups that are trying to come up with a way to think about a national program.” The 2012 summit will take this issue a step further and discuss 2012’s proposed e-waste bill to mandate a manufacturer recycling target and prevent hazardous material from being shipped overseas.

The 2011 e-waste event drew to a dynamic close with an awards ceremony recognizing excellence in the industry followed by a memorable contribution from Nokia delivered by David Conrad, Head of Sustainable Strategy for North America. Mr. Conrad not only engaged the audience in an informative discussion on mobile phone life cycle management but also went on to introduce a private showing of the globally acclaimed giant screen documentary, Wild Ocean 3D, which Nokia sponsored as a means to build awareness of its green platform and successful recycling programs across North America.

The 2012 event will again honor industry leaders in an awards ceremony for Electronics Excellence Executive Award, Green Stewardship Executive Award and Responsible Recycler Award. To be considered for nomination and for nomination forms email Ashley.Rowe@iqpc.com.

If you need to see how like-minded electronic-sustainability professionals are adjusting to constantly evolving state laws, qualifying recyclers, and designing products with material longevity in mind, then this is the event to attend. To participate in this industry leading event, call 1-800-882-868, visit www.ewastemgmtsummit.com, or email Info@IQPC.com