Sustainability 101

GPS Tracks America’s E-Waste HalfWay Across The World
What Can You Do?

Tracking e-waste

As noted in this blog a few months ago, with e-waste rules firmly on the books across the country, the trend now seems to be towards greater enforcement, with bigger, multi-million dollar fines being levied. Why? Perhaps because a new investigative report has found that some e-waste is still being illegally dumped rather than recycled.

The nonprofit Basel Action Network partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to put 200 geolocating tracking devices inside old electronics, and dropped them off nationwide at donation centers, recyclers and electronic take-back programs. They found that about one-third of the e-waste ended up overseas in Mexico, Taiwan, China, Pakistan, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Canada and Kenya, and most often, Hong Kong.

The U.S. produces more e-waste than any country in the world, and we send about 50,000 dump trucks worth of electronics to recyclers each year.  It is a big problem if these are not being recycled properly. As conscientious consumers and business leaders, what can we do?

1) Reuse

Because of the fast pace of technology, many of the devices we get rid of are actually still in working order. Rather than sending them to a recycler, or worse, to the landfill, we encourage everyone to see if the items can be reused. This is part of our effort to reshape the way businesses deal with unwanted assets, by getting them to rethink the idea of “waste,” and to adopt a zero waste mindset.

Donations are one good way to reuse old electronics. Just this month we helped one building redirect over 200 electronic items to a nonprofit that  provides emergency and disaster relief.

2) Repair

In our throwaway culture, the idea of repair has become old-fashioned, but business leaders know the value. When purchasing new equipment, make sure to factor in proper maintenance, regular servicing and repairs with the vendor. This will ensure that your electronics last longer and function more efficiently throughout their lifespan.

3) Select an Established Recycler, Conduct Third-Party Audits

If you do decide to recycle, be vigilent when selecting a recycling vendor. Talk to them, request a certificate of recycling for every pick up, and consider doing a third-party audit. In addition, consider using certified recyclers. Currently there are two certification standards for e-waste: R2 (Responsible Recycling Practices) and e-Stewards®. Of course, as the news report has shown, even well-regarded vendors and organizations are no guarantee that your e-waste will be properly recycled.  This is why we recommend reuse and repair first.

4) Approved vendor list

Once you have selected a vendor that you trust, backed by certification and third-party audits, establish a portfolio-wide, approved vendor list to create a more standardized system to track e-waste and universal waste across multiple properties.

Learn more:

Fact Sheet: E-waste and Universal waste

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