Why should you care if your e-waste is disposed of or recycled properly?
The altruistic answer is if you don’t care, you’re either potentially adding to a decade old issue of dumping your “problem” into the third world where the material isn’t being dealt with properly or filling up our landfills with toxic materials.
The selfish answer is if you don’t care, you’re exposing yourself and your company to financial and environmental liability. There are numerous instances of companies facing brand damage and tarnished reputation.
Choosing the most sophisticated, transparent and responsible ITAD and electronics recycling firm doesn’t have to be a roll of the dice. This paper outlines what to be watching for when choosing your service provider, including an overview of the most widely accepted industry standards your service provider must hold if you are to have the peace of mind you deserve.
Simply put, not all ITAD and electronics recycling firms are created equal. That guy with the pickup truck? He doesn’t care about your data security and he certainly doesn’t care about the environment. The company that can’t really explain how it gets recycled because their processes have never been 3rd party audited? That should be concerning.
Things to Consider When Engaging an ITAD Service Provider
Data Protection, Sanitization and Security
Your service provider should have multiple options for the different types of data destruction you might demand. The service you require is often driven by your own corporate policies. Be it physical destruction or data eradication, your service provider should be shredding your media to ¾” sizes and wiping data to the DoD 5220.22M standard. Quantum can assist in determining the best solution for you.
Health and Safety Systems
Work standards and laws pertaining to the safe working conditions and practices in developing countries do not exist to the same extent as they do in the West. Unfortunately, even here in North America, some firms use prison labour to handle data bearing devices. Unaudited firms often do not even really know where your material goes. ITAD service providers operating to a recognized standard have audited their downstream network to ensure worker safety (and a host of other things), protecting your company by extension.
Electronics can contain elements and substances such as mercury, beryllium, arsenic, lead, brominated flame retardants, phosphors, PCBs, and cadmium that can contaminate the soil, air and water if they are sent to a landfill or improperly managed by the person or company you are giving them to. Audited firms, like Quantum, know how their material is handled and have actively audited their downstream network to ensure the best possible environmental outcomes. They continue to audit their vendors on an ongoing basis and are subject themselves to annual audits by the various standard authorities to ensure they are meeting their obligations.
Widely Recognized Electronics Recycling and Data Security Standards
Responsible Recycling (R2)
R2, Responsible Recycling Practices, was originally created by relevant stakeholders (US EPA, state agency members, recyclers, refurbishers and their trade associations, OEMs/customers and non-governmental organizations) and is now controlled by its housing body, SERI. The R2 Certification is a way to identify and monitor best-practices in the electronic recycler and refurbishment industry. SERI’s mission is to “work to create a world where electronic products are reused and recycled in a way that promotes resource preservation; the well-being of the natural environment; and the health and safety of workers and communities.”
Firms operating to the R2 standard are audited annually by an independent 3rd party who check for the presence of and adherence to necessary policies and procedures. Auditors also verify, via mass balance, that the processor is, in fact, sending material to the approved downstream vendors.
The National Association for Information Destruction program is a certification for companies that provide information destruction services. NAID certification focuses on the one thing it knows better than anyone, data destruction, and is viewed as a consumer protection watchdog association. When you are shipping to a member certified under the NAID AAA Program, this member is subjected to audits that are applicable to each location, including any mobile services that they offer. This includes the member agreeing to take place in an unannounced audit program, knowing they will be subjected to audits on any day, at any time.
Recycler Qualification Office (RQO)
The Recycler Qualification Office (RQO) operates under the Electronic Products Recycling Association, which was created by Canada’s electronics industry in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Canada’s electronics stewardship programs. EPRA operates all provincial electronics recycling programs in Canada, known as Ontario Electronics Stewardship (OES) in Ontario.
The RQO administers the Electronics Recycling Standard, which is the minimum requirement for any processor operating under Canada’s provincial recycling programs. The Recycler Qualification Program (RQP) is designed to ensure that end-of-life electronics are handled in an environmentally sound and socially acceptable manner that protects data and the environment, while safeguarding worker health and safety.
e-Stewards has developed its standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment and is consistent with data privacy requirements, environmental health and safety management system norms, international waste trade laws and social accountability standards. It was started by the Basel Action Network (BAN) and has the endorsement of major environmental groups, including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resource Defense Council. As the R2 and e-Stewards standards have evolved, recyclers are typically choosing to register with one or the other but rarely both.
Things to Consider When Engaging an ITAD Company
- Make sure they are certified to one or more standards mentioned above.
- Ask for a tour and observe the work practices and environment.
- Review their security practices and policies.
- Review the types of materials that are onsite and look for any accumulation or stockpiling.
- E-waste stored outside in an unprotected environment.
- Review their Environmental Health and Safety Policy and verify that they have taken a commitment to health and safety, environmental concerns and proper data destruction/security.
- Ask questions and speak with a company representative.
- Ask them where your material will go.
- Ensure that, if required, your vendor can generate any of the following:
- Certificate of Recycling
- Certificate of Data Destruction
- Wipe Certificate
As you’ve learned in reading this paper, the single most effective thing you can do to ensure data security and environmental performance is to engage a certified and audited firm to manage your ITAD and recycling requirements.