I first wrote about the Basel Action Network's (BAN) e-Stewards program just shy of a year ago after speaking to Redemtech President Robert Houghton about the company's e-waste recycling efforts. The Ohio-based technology change-management company is a founding member of the e-Steward responsible recycling coalition, which means, among other things, that it does not send hazardous waste to incinerators or landfills, that it does not export hazardous waste to developing countries and that it does maintain transparency throughout the recycling and disposal process.
This week, BAN announced the next phase of the e-Steward program: an independently-audited, ISO 14001-based certification program that is touted as "the most comprehensive and robust e-waste management system in the world." It claims to be even more robust than even the U.S. government-sponsored and industry-backed Responsible Recycling program (R2 for short). R2 permits the export of e-waste as long as it does not violate the law in the receiving country and basic environmental and health requirements are met.
BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett says the R2 standards are too lenient and the program has too many loopholes. Like Houghton told me last year, the recycling industry is replete with cheaters who will say they're meeting R2 standards, but not actually doing so.
On the flip side, though, many industry players say BAN and the e-Steward program requirements are impractical and unrealistic. Eric Harris, the director of governmental and international affairs for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, told The New York Times:
The responsible way to address irresponsible recycling is to help educate and encourage good practice, not to ban all the trade. The bottom line for ISRI is that we're about making real change, not making headlines.