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Author Archives: David Daoud

In My Opinion: Gauging ITAD’s standing in the emerging ESG world

Published: April 25, 2024
Updated:

by

Many ITAD-related companies are already releasing ESG reports, but there is more work to be done. | SWKStock/Shutterstock

ESG, short for environmental, social, governance, has become front and center in corporate strategy. Most major companies, particularly the publicly traded corporations who have to respond to growing pressure from institutional investors, either have or are developing ESG plans.  Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories |

In Our Opinion: Industry must commit to Basel e-plastics compliance

Published: February 1, 2024
Updated:

by
Cargo container ship at port.

Two leaders in the e-scrap certification sphere say new Basel rules on e-plastics present both challenges and opportunities. | Peresanz/Shutterstock

We may have started from different perspectives, and we may have different points of emphasis, but the e-Stewards and R2 standards have each played a highly significant role in improving the sustainability of electronics in the last few decades. It is certain that certification programs now serve to differentiate the good actors – the leaders who follow applicable laws, protect the earth, workers and communities – from the laggards, who do not.

As critical baselines, both the R2 and e-Stewards standards require the environmentally sound management (ESM) of electronic scrap or retired assets and legal compliance throughout the recycling chain. Assessing legal compliance can be complicated – particularly when international and national laws are considered, and given that there are varying definitions of materials and wastes. But regardless of the complexity, the requirement to assure legal compliance and ESM is a non-negotiable aspect of any respected standard, including R2 and e-Stewards.

Which brings us to the current hot topic of e-plastics, the Basel Convention, and the discovery of potential wide scale non-compliance with the new Basel plastics amendments.

In January 2021, amendments to the Basel Convention went into effect to begin controlling trade in mixed and contaminated plastic wastes (Annex II, Y48) for the first time. For most countries, this means trade in such materials would be subject to government notification and the receiving country’s consent prior to exportation. It also means any such trade can only take place if the recycling operations involved were deemed by the authorities of both countries to be environmentally sound.

But there’s a key caveat for U.S. stakeholders: The Basel Convention also requires that such trade only take place between countries that have ratified the Basel Convention, unless a special separate side agreement akin to Basel is instituted. The U.S. remains one of the few countries that has not ratified Basel, and only one such special agreement exists for Y48 plastic for the U.S. (an arrangement signed with Canada in 2020). This means that all the other 189 Basel Convention Parties, and in particular non-OECD countries, are highly likely to be legally off-limits to imports of Y48 plastic from the U.S.

The new global trade rules have also placed a spotlight on the Basel-party countries where much of the e-plastic had been flowing from the U.S. – such as Malaysia – with concerns that these countries are turning a blind eye to their own legal obligation to refuse such wastes from the U.S. and that their recycling facilities may not always be maintaining environmentally sound operations for all fractions of the mixed plastics.

What has changed is international law, not our recycling standards, their certification programs nor the good will of good recyclers. Similar Basel amendments controlling non-hazardous e-waste will enter into force on January 1, 2025. It is anticipated that this change will further isolate American recyclers if the U.S. remains a Basel non-Party at that time. It is clear we need to move towards more comprehensive solutions to facilitate proper legal and ESM recycling globally. And it is clear we need to be better prepared for what is coming.

Changes in international law present both pain and possibility

Without the expansion of plastics processing capacity and technology in the U.S., new bi-lateral agreements or the U.S. ratifying the Basel Convention, compliance with Basel rules will likely cause cascading unintended consequences.

Many plastics may be forced to go to disposal instead of recycling, at least in the short-term. With a drop in plastics recycling revenue, the costs of recycling plastics will increase, meaning the total cost of recycling electronic waste will increase. Thus, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs will need to pay recyclers more and manufacturers will likely need to collect more electronics to meet their recycling obligations in various states. Voluntary takeback programs may collapse entirely due to the economics no longer making sense. The bottom line is that the fewer plastics we can safely recycle, the further away we move from circularity and a more sustainable future.

But this situation also creates opportunities: The opportunity to work with OEMs to reassess the life-cycle advantages and disadvantages of plastics versus  metals; the opportunity to increase the quality of recycled plastics and develop the technology to clean and separate plastics closer to home; and an opportunity to enhance and align recycled content sourcing for various domestic industries with the e-plastics supply from the U.S. recycling industry.

Right now, BAN and SERI are both working on the immediate task of helping our facilities comply with the Basel plastic amendments and get ready for the forthcoming e-waste amendments to the Basel Convention coming in 2025 to ensure that all e-recycling is always conducted in a legal and environmentally sound manner, wherever it takes place globally.  Here are some of the highlights: 

  • BAN released a Guide to Plastic Waste Export Compliance for US Electronics Recyclers (a work in progress).
  • SERI has commissioned a report on the recycling of plastics in the R2 network. 
  • BAN is conducting research on the ESM of facilities around the world.
  • SERI will be publishing guidance for integrating the Basel amendments into the R2 management system and legal compliance, and guidance to perform legal compliance audits to the changes. 
  • BAN and SERI will be educating Certification Body (CB) auditors on how to audit each standard with the Basel amendments and take appropriate steps to write and close nonconformities.
  • BAN will be proposing an alteration of its Standard to align better with the Basel Convention on designating Y48 and Y49 (the upcoming e-waste listing) as being considered as Problematic, Components and Materials (PCMs) rather than Hazardous Waste.
  • Both BAN and SERI will be hosting and co-hosting webinars, training, and conference sessions on the topic. 
  • SERI has assembled a plastics workgroup from the R2 TAC and other plastics experts and will continue to facilitate that workgroup and pursue global solutions to recycle more plastics.
  • BAN has engaged its Leadership Council to provide rapid advice on the e-Plastics Challenge.

Both e-Stewards and R2 certification programs are committed to legal compliance and environmentally sound management of electronic assets. As part of that commitment, we will be enforcing legal compliance with the Basel Convention and its new amendments as a core tenet of our certifications.

More broadly we will continue to work together and with all stakeholders in government, manufacturers, enterprises, customers and consumers on the journey towards a more sustainable and circular future.

When challenges to our commitments, like this one, present themselves , we must all work collectively to meet those challenges – not to discard our commitments. Together, we aim to build a more ethical, circular, and sustainable future for generations to come.

Corey Dehmey is the Executive Director of Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), which administers the R2 certification standard.

Jim Puckett is the Executive Director of the Basel Action Network (BAN), which administers the e-Stewards certification standard.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by Resource Recycling, Inc. If you have a subject you wish to cover in an op-ed, please send a short proposal to [email protected] for consideration.

More stories about e-plastics

Posted in News, Top stories |

In My Opinion: Gauging ITAD’s standing in the emerging ESG world

Published: April 25, 2024
Updated:

by

Many ITAD-related companies are already releasing ESG reports, but there is more work to be done. | SWKStock/Shutterstock

ESG, short for environmental, social, governance, has become front and center in corporate strategy. Most major companies, particularly the publicly traded corporations who have to respond to growing pressure from institutional investors, either have or are developing ESG plans.  Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories |

In Our Opinion: Industry must commit to Basel e-plastics compliance

Published: February 1, 2024
Updated:

by
Cargo container ship at port.

Two leaders in the e-scrap certification sphere say new Basel rules on e-plastics present both challenges and opportunities. | Peresanz/Shutterstock

We may have started from different perspectives, and we may have different points of emphasis, but the e-Stewards and R2 standards have each played a highly significant role in improving the sustainability of electronics in the last few decades. It is certain that certification programs now serve to differentiate the good actors – the leaders who follow applicable laws, protect the earth, workers and communities – from the laggards, who do not.

As critical baselines, both the R2 and e-Stewards standards require the environmentally sound management (ESM) of electronic scrap or retired assets and legal compliance throughout the recycling chain. Assessing legal compliance can be complicated – particularly when international and national laws are considered, and given that there are varying definitions of materials and wastes. But regardless of the complexity, the requirement to assure legal compliance and ESM is a non-negotiable aspect of any respected standard, including R2 and e-Stewards.

Which brings us to the current hot topic of e-plastics, the Basel Convention, and the discovery of potential wide scale non-compliance with the new Basel plastics amendments.

In January 2021, amendments to the Basel Convention went into effect to begin controlling trade in mixed and contaminated plastic wastes (Annex II, Y48) for the first time. For most countries, this means trade in such materials would be subject to government notification and the receiving country’s consent prior to exportation. It also means any such trade can only take place if the recycling operations involved were deemed by the authorities of both countries to be environmentally sound.

But there’s a key caveat for U.S. stakeholders: The Basel Convention also requires that such trade only take place between countries that have ratified the Basel Convention, unless a special separate side agreement akin to Basel is instituted. The U.S. remains one of the few countries that has not ratified Basel, and only one such special agreement exists for Y48 plastic for the U.S. (an arrangement signed with Canada in 2020). This means that all the other 189 Basel Convention Parties, and in particular non-OECD countries, are highly likely to be legally off-limits to imports of Y48 plastic from the U.S.

The new global trade rules have also placed a spotlight on the Basel-party countries where much of the e-plastic had been flowing from the U.S. – such as Malaysia – with concerns that these countries are turning a blind eye to their own legal obligation to refuse such wastes from the U.S. and that their recycling facilities may not always be maintaining environmentally sound operations for all fractions of the mixed plastics.

What has changed is international law, not our recycling standards, their certification programs nor the good will of good recyclers. Similar Basel amendments controlling non-hazardous e-waste will enter into force on January 1, 2025. It is anticipated that this change will further isolate American recyclers if the U.S. remains a Basel non-Party at that time. It is clear we need to move towards more comprehensive solutions to facilitate proper legal and ESM recycling globally. And it is clear we need to be better prepared for what is coming.

Changes in international law present both pain and possibility

Without the expansion of plastics processing capacity and technology in the U.S., new bi-lateral agreements or the U.S. ratifying the Basel Convention, compliance with Basel rules will likely cause cascading unintended consequences.

Many plastics may be forced to go to disposal instead of recycling, at least in the short-term. With a drop in plastics recycling revenue, the costs of recycling plastics will increase, meaning the total cost of recycling electronic waste will increase. Thus, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs will need to pay recyclers more and manufacturers will likely need to collect more electronics to meet their recycling obligations in various states. Voluntary takeback programs may collapse entirely due to the economics no longer making sense. The bottom line is that the fewer plastics we can safely recycle, the further away we move from circularity and a more sustainable future.

But this situation also creates opportunities: The opportunity to work with OEMs to reassess the life-cycle advantages and disadvantages of plastics versus  metals; the opportunity to increase the quality of recycled plastics and develop the technology to clean and separate plastics closer to home; and an opportunity to enhance and align recycled content sourcing for various domestic industries with the e-plastics supply from the U.S. recycling industry.

Right now, BAN and SERI are both working on the immediate task of helping our facilities comply with the Basel plastic amendments and get ready for the forthcoming e-waste amendments to the Basel Convention coming in 2025 to ensure that all e-recycling is always conducted in a legal and environmentally sound manner, wherever it takes place globally.  Here are some of the highlights: 

  • BAN released a Guide to Plastic Waste Export Compliance for US Electronics Recyclers (a work in progress).
  • SERI has commissioned a report on the recycling of plastics in the R2 network. 
  • BAN is conducting research on the ESM of facilities around the world.
  • SERI will be publishing guidance for integrating the Basel amendments into the R2 management system and legal compliance, and guidance to perform legal compliance audits to the changes. 
  • BAN and SERI will be educating Certification Body (CB) auditors on how to audit each standard with the Basel amendments and take appropriate steps to write and close nonconformities.
  • BAN will be proposing an alteration of its Standard to align better with the Basel Convention on designating Y48 and Y49 (the upcoming e-waste listing) as being considered as Problematic, Components and Materials (PCMs) rather than Hazardous Waste.
  • Both BAN and SERI will be hosting and co-hosting webinars, training, and conference sessions on the topic. 
  • SERI has assembled a plastics workgroup from the R2 TAC and other plastics experts and will continue to facilitate that workgroup and pursue global solutions to recycle more plastics.
  • BAN has engaged its Leadership Council to provide rapid advice on the e-Plastics Challenge.

Both e-Stewards and R2 certification programs are committed to legal compliance and environmentally sound management of electronic assets. As part of that commitment, we will be enforcing legal compliance with the Basel Convention and its new amendments as a core tenet of our certifications.

More broadly we will continue to work together and with all stakeholders in government, manufacturers, enterprises, customers and consumers on the journey towards a more sustainable and circular future.

When challenges to our commitments, like this one, present themselves , we must all work collectively to meet those challenges – not to discard our commitments. Together, we aim to build a more ethical, circular, and sustainable future for generations to come.

Corey Dehmey is the Executive Director of Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), which administers the R2 certification standard.

Jim Puckett is the Executive Director of the Basel Action Network (BAN), which administers the e-Stewards certification standard.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by Resource Recycling, Inc. If you have a subject you wish to cover in an op-ed, please send a short proposal to [email protected] for consideration.

More stories about e-plastics

In Our Opinion: Getting started with ESG

Published: December 13, 2023
Updated:

by

SWKStock/Shutterstock

Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) is a set of terms that has gained significant prominence in recent years. The core principles of ESG have long been applied by companies and investors using terms such as “sustainability” or “corporate social responsibility.” Regardless of its moniker, the heart of the topic is to embed sustainability into the real economy, whether through the mitigation of risks uncovered through an ESG assessment, or through taking advantage of the many opportunities that ESG offers businesses in the circular economy. For those in the recycling industry, the benefits are even more prominent, though largely untapped. Continue Reading

Posted in News |

Smelter investment, gold prices and other metals news

Published: December 13, 2023
Updated:

by

E-scrap awaiting recycling at Boliden’s Rönnskär smelter in northern Sweden. | Boliden Public Media Library

Aurubis will invest $359 million at a smelter, gold maintains its recent high prices and researchers say recycled copper from e-scrap doesn’t necessarily generate fewer greenhouse gasses than virgin mined metal.  Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged , |

In My Opinion: We need our customers … to change

Published: November 8, 2023
Updated:

by
Obsolete electronics gathered for recycling.

Frank Milia of IT Asset Management Group says businesses need to tighten their protocols for managing end-of-life assets. | Penofoto/Shutterstock

I was doing business development for an ITAD firm during the growth and early maturity phase of the industry. At that time, we were referring to the entire space as the “Wild West” because there were few to no e-waste regulations, certifications were emerging but scarce, and the customers in need of disposal services commonly were unaware of what legitimate options existed.  Continue Reading

Posted in News, Opinion |

In My Opinion: Share your company’s story effectively

Published: October 18, 2023
Updated:

by

Public relations veteran Toni Sottak says growing your company’s presence is all about telling your story. | FrankHH/Shutterstock

“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” – Steve Jobs (1994) Continue Reading

Posted in News |

Guest analysis: Improving ITAD industry sentiments

Published: October 18, 2023
Updated:

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Industry analyst David Daoud sees the current ITAD landscape as a mixed bag, with many ITAD operators reporting increased revenue but device markets still showing slow sales of new electronics. | Boscorelli/Shutterstock

Editor’s note: E-Scrap News and consulting firm Compliance Standards are collaborating on a quarterly ITAD industry markets survey. This analysis, from Compliance Standards analyst David Daoud, explores early takeaways from the third-quarter survey, which remains open for contributions. Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories |

In My Opinion: Engage during Digital Inclusion Week

Published: September 27, 2023
Updated:

by
Electronics gathered for recycling.

Bluskystudio/Shutterstock

In today’s increasingly digital world, access to technology has become more crucial than ever. Digital Inclusion Week, which is next week (Oct. 2-6), is a timely reminder of the ongoing efforts to bridge the digital divide and ensure everyone has equal opportunities in the digital age. Continue Reading

Posted in News |

In My Opinion: Our industry’s ESG ‘natural fit’ isn’t enough

Published: September 13, 2023
Updated:

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In order to truly embody their stated values, ITADs and electronics recyclers need to go the extra mile on environmental, social and governance goals, argues Curt Greeno of Dynamic Lifecycle Innovations. | SWKStock/Shutterstock

A broad spectrum of U.S. companies have integrated environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards into their corporate culture and practices. For the electronics and materials lifecycle management sector, ESG seems like a natural fit, particularly in light of the inherent environmental and data security benefits of key services such as IT asset disposition (ITAD) and electronics recycling. Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories |

How the industry is navigating tough insurance markets

Published: August 30, 2023
Updated:

by
insurance

Industry operators are using fire mitigation technologies and other strategies to keep their facilities covered. | Fradu/Shutterstock

Electronics recycling and reuse companies say insurance has become significantly more expensive and difficult to manage, so they’re employing a number of strategies to cope. Continue Reading

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged , |