On 19 November 2009, Representative Mike Thompson introduced a resolution that calls on the US Congress to craft a plan to deal with its own e-waste, only using recyclers certified to the new e-Stewards Standard – the highest in the industry.
“In choosing to work only with certified e-Stewards, Congress is saying they want to be sure their old computers and other electronic products don’t end up being exported to developing nations, or sent to prison recycling shops,” said Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. “We are very pleased to see Congress lead by example in solving the problem of global e-waste dumping.”
The resolution (H.Res. 938) calls for Congress to establish and implement “a coordinated program for the reuse, recycling, and appropriate disposal of obsolete computers and other electronic equipment used by offices of the legislative branch using only those companies independently certified as meeting the e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment, which forbids the export of e-waste to developing countries and use of prison labor.” Currently the list of e-Stewards, available at e-stewards.org, lists those qualified under the e-Stewards Pledge, but very soon pledging companies will become the first Certified e-Stewards, audited by accredited independent certifying bodies. The first certified e-Stewards will be available in March of 2010. Until then, consumers are urged to use the pledged e-Stewards.
“As consumers of electronic equipment, we are all faced with the real choice of becoming part of the e-waste problem or being part of the solution,” said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network (BAN), a global watchdog on toxic waste trade. “Congress, informed by the horrific pictures of Chinese and African children wandering through heaps of toxic e-waste from the U.S., has recognized this choice as a principled and practical one. This bipartisan resolution to use only e-Steward Recyclers, shows Congress wants to be part of the solution.”
The e-Stewards program includes both the rigorous new ‘gold standard’ for electronics recyclers and asset managers, as well as verification system, where only accredited, third-party auditors can certify whether recyclers are meeting the standard. The standard is currently held by the Basel Action Network, but was developed in collaboration with leaders in the recycling, auditing, occupational health, data security, and manufacturing industries as well as from the accredited third party certification industry.
There is little federal regulation of the recycling industry and most e-waste exports from the U.S. do not violate any U.S. laws. Therefore, responsible companies in this industry who wish to distinguish themselves can now become certified to the new standard which requires them to handle electronic and hazardous waste responsibly in a manner that protects the environment and the social and health and safety concerns of the workforce throughout the recycling chain around the world. E-Stewards is the only e-waste recycling standard that prohibits the export of e-waste from developed to developing nations.
E-waste is the fastest growing part of the waste stream in the U.S. But of the e-waste that is collected by recyclers, 50 to 80 percent of that is not actually recycled, but is exported to developing nations where it is handled in very crude and dangerous ways that expose workers and communities to toxic materials.