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Seattle Pledges to Recycle Electronics Responsibly

re-posted from  At Your Service

Stewardship program prevents environmental and health hazards in developing nations

Electronics1The City of Seattle has joined a growing group of public agencies and private companies that have become E-Stewards Enterprises, guaranteeing that electronic waste from city activities will not be exported to developing nations where crude processing is an environmental and human health hazard.

Serious environmental pollution and risks to human health where electronic products such as computers and television sets are disassembled and burned in primitive factories or out in the open has been documented by the Basel Action Network (BAN), a Seattle-based non-profit with a worldwide reputation as a leader in the international campaign to stop these abuses.

“As part of a program to end shipping dangerous electronic waste to developing countries, BAN devised tough new processing standards and export guidelines for businesses and government,” said Seattle City Councilmember Jean Godden. “Seattle has now adopted BAN’s E-Stewards Enterprise standards, the most rigorous in the world, for all the electronic equipment the City surpluses for recycling.”

Committing to the standards means any surplus electronic equipment from Seattle government will go to an E-Stewards compliant processor and no parts may be exported except to developed countries that meet the standards of the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

There are now more than 50 E-Stewards Recyclers nationwide and about 80 E-Stewards Enterprises which have made a commitment like Seattle’s, according to BAN.

Under the E-Stewards Enterprise program, Seattle has contracted to send the city’s surplus electronics — everything too outdated for donation to schools — to Total Reclaim, a local recycler in the SODO area that has been approved by BAN as an E-Stewards Recycler. Since last October when the city began contracting with Total Reclaim, the company has processed more than 50,000 pounds of surplus electronics at a cost to the city of less than $300 — a low cost largely attributable to the valuable materials that can be recovered.

For residents throughout the state, thanks to a product stewardship law passed in 2006, the electronics industry provides free drop-off for recycling of televisions, computers, computer monitors, laptops and tablet computers at more than 330 locations. The tens of thousands of products dropped off at E-Cycle Washington locations are sent to Total Reclaim or other electronics recyclers that maintain high standards.

Businesses and governments that generate a lot of electronic waste are not allowed to use the free E-Cycle Washington program. Most contract with various recyclers to dispose of electronics. By adopting the BAN E-Stewards standards, Seattle city government, along with King County and the University of Washington, hopes to encourage other organizations to recycle with companies that adhere to those standards, including the ban on exporting waste to developing countries.

The Basel Action Network advances global environmental health and justice by working against toxic trade, the all-too-common practice of exporting risk and harm to developing countries; promoting a toxics-free future through green design and responsible consumption; and campaigning for global environmental justice, everyone’s right to a pollution-free environment.

“Since U.S. laws do not prohibit the export of waste electronics, BAN’s role is crucial,” said Jim Puckett, BAN executive director.

Total Reclaim was one of the first 12 recyclers to join BAN in a “pledge of environmental stewardship,” back in 2002.

Watch Basel Action Network’s video, e-Stewardship: Taking Responsibility in the Information Age.