Is Your Recycler an E-Steward?


What do you do with your end-of-life electronics? Do you drop it off at a collection center? Does your manufacturer have a buyback program? Do you send it off to be refurbished or recycled, or do you outsource the entire process?


Continuing with the e-waste recycling theme, today I spoke with Robert Houghton, president of Ohio-based technology change-management company Redemtech. The company is a member of the Basel Action Network and a founding member of the e-steward responsible recyclers coalition. Redemptech offers the "full complement" of TCM, according to its Web site, from refurbishing, remarketing and reuse to recycling, and everything else in between. And as Houghton tells it, in his admittedly biased opinion, "We do it better than anyone else."


So why does it matter, if there are so few federal regulations or legislation dictating how e-waste should be handled? Because even if it doesn't end up in a U.S. landfill, a great majority of it will end up in landfills overseas -- where there are even fewer requirements and dumping the e-waste costs less. (If you want even a hint of what that looks like, check out this "60 Minutes" clip.) That's not good either.


In fact, it's more a question of social responsibility than it is about regulatory compliance, Houghton told me. Companies don't want to be known for exporting their toxic e-waste to other parts of the world. So they engage recyclers and processors to manage that e-waste properly. Problem is, the industry is replete with cheaters, according to Houghton, and often companies can't tell on the surface what a recycler will really do with the equipment. As such, he says, due diligence is extremely important. Find out who the recyclers work with, the processes used and where any remaining waste ultimately lands.


That's where groups like the Basel Action Network and the e-stewards come in. Any recycler on this list has signed the "Electronic Recycler's Pledge of True Stewardship" which, among other things, includes agreements:

  • Not to send hazardous e-waste to landfills or incinerators.
  • Not to export hazardous e-waste to developing countries.
  • To maintain transparency throughout the recycling and disposal process.
  • To require the same of any intermdiaries who act on their behalf.


If you're looking for recycling help, find the closest e-steward and call.