Standards for Electronics Recycling: Understanding R2 vs. e-Stewards Certification

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Choosing an electronics recycler to handle electronic waste or an ITAD project should include careful consideration of a number of factors. First, is there a provable guarantee for secure destruction of sensitive data? Is there a system of reporting? Does the recycler have certification? A lot of companies hide behind the word “recycling” but have no real standards with which they operate. They may not properly process and handle toxic materials. They may have no protections for employees. Some may even illegally dump waste in a landfill or ship it unlawfully overseas.

There are only two respectable electronic waste recycling standards available for electronics recyclers: R2 and e-Stewards. Reliable vendors can obtain either certification. Both hold them accountable for their recycling practices. For this reason, it’s possible to get hung up on choosing someone with R2 vs. e-Stewards certification.

R2 vs. e-Stewards: Common Goals, Different Approaches

Each standard has similar goals and a common objective. Whether a company has R2 or e-Stewards certification, both result in verifiable implementations of safety and environmental compliance. They take measures to ensure the control and processing of e-waste according to EPA standards. The two standards apply around the globe in an effort to reform electronics recycling worldwide. They comply with ISO 14001 standards, an international environmental management system.

The primary difference between R2 vs. e-Stewards is how either certification evaluates implementation and administration of guidelines. For example, e-Stewards employs a set of standards for worker safety and health guidelines on vendors with certification. However, R2 standards allow such companies to create custom standards to fit their workplace that fall within the overarching compliance standards.

There is a difference in cost for an electronics recycler to obtain either certification. R2 offers a flat annual price. However, e-Stewards charges based on a company’s revenue scale and charges an additional implementation fee.

R2 vs. e-Stewards: Overseas Exports

Another controversial R2 permission that e-Stewards certification doesn’t accommodate is exportation of recyclables overseas to developing nations. R2 standards dictate full legality and compliance with due diligence measures. This means proper handling of equipment from reception to processing within the country of exportation. Vendors may only export to overseas processing facilities that comply with health and environmental standards.

Many of the European countries to which recyclables are exported have higher standards than the US. R2 makes allowances for exports of re-useable material found in computers and clearly specifies ground rules placing regulations on exports. This encourages developing nations to adopt their own system of best practices. E-Stewards, on the other hand, bans exportation altogether.

Making a choice between R2 vs. e-Stewards vendors ultimately comes down to what works best for an individual client or business. It is noteworthy to point out that the EPA helps structure and facilitate R2. Furthermore, R2 is a product of the ISRI (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries), a reliable and longstanding member of the recycling trade. R2 vendors are not only compliant with domestic and international laws regarding environmentally sound and safe practices. They also have the support of a growing legacy of respectable national organizations.