When you partner with a recycler to manage your end of life electronics, where does your equipment go? The assumption can be that once electronics are sent to a recycler, they will be dismantled and processed in those facilities in order to reintroduce the materials into the manufacturing process. But this is not always the case. It is not unusual for recycling companies to outsource specialized processes, like smelting, to other recycling facilities. This makes sense for hazardous materials, like CRT glass, where special handling is required to prevent pollution. In the best case scenario, your old electronics will be sent onward to these specialized facilities for environmentally safe disposition. But the reality is that your electronics could also become wrapped up in illegal and unethical activity.
The Worst Case Scenario
In Colorado over the last year, two major news stories broke about unethical recycling practices. Just last year, Luminous Recycling abandoned 750 tons of lead-laced CRT glass, leaving the hazardous waste for others to clean up. In July 2013, two c-suite executives of Executive Recycling were sentenced and fined for defrauding clients and illegally exporting e-waste overseas. In both scenarios, the electronics that were entrusted to these recycler firms where not disposed but abandoned or illegally exported. These incidents have serious implications for the companies who engaged these two recycling vendors. If recyclers like these are unafraid to break the law, they will have no qualms taking advantage of your trust and your equipment for their profit.
How to Keep Your Company Safe
The key to finding a reputable recycling partner is in the way they manage the downstream flow of recycled IT equipment. First, partner with a vendor who provides certified recycling services. The E-Stewards and R2 certified recycling standards provide the proper oversight to keep certified recyclers accountable for where the recycled material ends up. In other words, certified recyclers must keep an account of where your recycled equipment has gone. Partnering with a certified vendor prevents your equipment from being illegally traded or unethically managed. To ensure the highest level of accountability, ask your ITAD vendor if they will provide documentation, like certificates of recycling or chain of custody documentation, to give you a record of how your equipment has been managed. With these checks in place, you can rest assured that your equipment will be ethically, legally, and safely recycled.
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