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Certified Recycling Standards Protect People

How certified recycling standards help people

By Thousandways at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-2.0-de], from Wikimedia Commons

As I’ve written before, certified recycling protects the environment. To achieve the certification, recyclers must adhere to a strict code of standards that ensure recycled material is processed in an ethical and environmentally friendly way. But what many may not realize is that certified recycling standards don’t just protect the environment, they also protect people.

How Certified Recycling Standards Help People in the Recycling Industry

Recycling is a difficult job. The work can be physically demanding, and routinely exposes employees to hazardous materials and unsafe conditions. Lax safety protocols in e-waste processing facilities negatively effects the health of those in the facility, and even those outside of it. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently audited a typical e-waste processing facility, and discovered that many of the employees had elevated blood levels of lead and cadmium – two highly toxic elements found in many types of e-waste. Trace amounts of lead, cadmium and other toxic elements were discovered in the air and on surfaces throughout the facility. Worse, these pollutants were discovered on the employees’ skin and clothing, even after being washed. On their clothes and skin, employees can easily and unknowingly carry these toxic materials out of the facility and contaminate their homes or other places they visit.

But toxic materials are only one of the many health concerns faced by those who work in the e-waste industry. Noise pollution, high heat, and heavy machinery can all seriously damage health without the right safety protocols. Certified recycling standards account for all of these concerns. Among many other things, recycling certification requires that recycling facilities have the appropriate machinery, protective equipment and provide the right kind of training to keep their employees safe.

How Certified Recycling Standards Help People Around the World

Certified recycling standards preserve the health and safety of those who work in the recycling industry, but those in the recycling industry aren’t the only people effected by e-waste. Those who live in Guiyu, China and Agbogbloshie, Ghana, for example, face the health risks caused by e-waste every day. These places, and others around the globe, are the world’s e-waste dumps. Here, the local people are exposed daily to toxic materials as they work to make a living selling e-scrap. Most countries have laws that ban the export and import of e-waste to help put an end to the hazardous living conditions in such places. But illegal exportation is only one part of the problem. Under the guise of being destined for “reuse,” unethical recyclers can take advantage of loose definitions and legal loop holes to export e-waste overseas. Unethical behavior like this means the world’s e-waste ends up in these dumps, despite national and international laws, irreparably damaging the health of those living nearby.

This is why certified recycling is so important. To maintain certification, recyclers must adhere to all national and international laws, in addition to the certification’s code of policies and procedures. Recyclers are held accountable by the certifying organizations to ensure that recycled material does not end up in these unregulated, polluted e-waste dumps. Certified recycling isn’t just about reducing pollution, it is about enforcing the ethical treatment of the people who are exploited by the e-waste trade, and harmed by hazardous living conditions found in e-waste towns like Agbogbloshie. By choosing to use certified recycling services for your old technology, you can rest assured that it will be recycled in a way that preserves and protects the health of fellow human beings, both in our country and around the globe.

Find out how your company can find a certified partner. Set up a consultation with our IT asset disposition experts today!

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