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ARCHIVE >  March 2014 Issue > 

End-of-Life Doesn't Have to Kill Mother Earth
Reverse logistics in play as workers disassemble computer monitors to salvage reusable parts. Photo: IT Asset Partners.
 

Denver, CO — End-of-life management of electronics, or lack thereof, has become a serious part of our overall ecological contamination. It's no longer enough to simply consign junked electronics to landfills — even after shredding. The landfills after all can accommodate only so much, and shredding and dumping is costly and counterproductive. Add to this the ongoing problem of those mountains of old CRTs in warehouses and other storage facilities, and Planet Earth is facing a huge garbage problem.

There is an economically feasible way to handle a great deal of electronic waste products, rescuing perfectly good LCD screens from discarded cell phones, for example, as well as salvaging costly ICs from their motherboards. Computers contain numerous salvageable components, HDDs can be shredded and then "cooked" down to reclaim raw materials.

According to R2 (Responsible Recycling), a certifying trade association for electronics recyclers, 80 to 85 percent of unwanted electronics are going to landfills and incinerators. This figure is obviously very destructive of the environment, and very costly in terms of wasted resources. Certification by R2 will maximize safe and efficient recovery of precious metals and other natural resources used in electronics, which can decrease needed mining of raw materials (
http://www.R2solutions.org).

R2 Certification
Certification by R2 means that the recycler will totally use up the parts of discarded electronics, recycling parts wherever possible, and the unusable will be shredded and then smelted to extract raw materials that can be re-used. This avoids dumping materials into landfills, and also can reduce the need for mining and extraction of new raw materials. The recycling thereby helps the environment on two fronts: no landfill needed, and less need for new raw materials.

Sustainability of Spaceship Earth is the real bottom line here, guided by what is known as the triple bottom line: start with prosperity, then add people and planet. And topping this list is maintaining security of sensitive information. Hard disk drives don't just get wiped, they are sanitized, purged or destroyed per NIST guidelines. If the customer requests it, they get shredded, and then melted down. There is no way anyone is going to steal data from the HDD.

According to the R2 Standard re Data Destruction: "An R2:2013 electronics recycler shall be responsible for data destruction of all media it handles using generally-accepted data destruction procedures. Requirements: (a) An R2:2013 electronics recycler shall sanitize, purge, or destroy data on hard drives and other data storage devices (the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Guidelines for Media Sanitization — Special Publication 800-88 12 lists categories of devices which need sanitization consideration), unless otherwise requested in writing by the customer. The R2:2013 electronics recycler shall adhere to the data sanitization, purging, or destruction practices described in the NIST Guidelines for Media Sanitization: Special Publication 800-88 (rev. 1) or another current generally-accepted standard13, or be certified by a generally-accepted certification program."

Among R2's cheerleaders, Doug Smith, Director Corporate Environment, Safety and Health, Sony Electronics, Inc. said: "Under R2, the cost for responsible processing of e-waste hasn't increased. If anything, since the pool of qualified candidates are easier to find, the opportunity for competitive bidding has increased. Additionally, due diligence reviews are more efficient and reliable because they are based on well-organized and documented management systems. A win-win situation: R2 means responsible management at better prices."

R2 Solutions' goals are:

  • Assure open, transparent, and balanced governance of the R2 Standard.
  • Educate about responsible recycling practices.
  • Promote the use of the R2 Standard.
  • Explore opportunities for collaboration in furtherance of responsible electronics recycling throughout the world.

The R2 Standard is the result of work done by a multi-stake holder group that was convened by the EPA in 2008. The group consisted of recyclers, OEMs, NGOs, Environmental Groups, and other interested stakeholders. John Lingelbach, now the executive director of R2 Solutions, was asked by the EPA to facilitate the group. R2 Solutions became the non-profit "housing organization" for the R2 Standard. It now has more than 500 R2 certified facilities in 14 countries and there are more in the pipeline.

Asset Management
A typical R2-certified recycler, IT Asset Partners (ITAP) specializes in electronic asset management, reverse logistics, and recycling. The company's process is certified by the highest EPA and RIOS standards (R2 and ISO 14001:2004 certification). ITAP's mission is to manage assets, mitigate risk and recycle waste for client companies. According to the company, "A byproduct of this process is a clean environment and sustainable way of life." (
http://www.goitap.com)

All data is wiped in accordance with DoD triple pass Data Destruction protocol. The company takes care of end-of-life electronics, damaged gods, and reverse logistics.

Components are disposed of in accordance with the strictest State and International guidelines. The company has a zero landfill policy and is committed to managing, mitigating and recycling in the most environmental and efficient manner possible.

R2 promotes safe and legal management of used electronics equipment, from the highest levels of data security, to comprehensive protection for workers, communities, and the environment. It establishes global best-practice refurbishing and recycling capacity where it is most needed, in both developed and developing nations. It emphasizes preserving resources by extending the lifespan of electronics through reuse and refurbishment. It also ensures that best-practice environmental standards are followed for end-of-life processing.  

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