R2 reaches milestone – 200 facilities now certified

From R2 Solutions

 R2 passed a significant milestone this month when the number of responsible electronic recycling facilities that hold R2 certification surpassed 200 globally.  The number of certified facilities has doubled in approximately seven months. Organizations seeking responsible solutions for properly disposing of used electronic equipment now have more choice than ever when seeking a recycling partner.

Recyclers are choosing to be certified to the R2 Standard at a much more rapid pace than other standards – the number of R2-certified facilities far eclipses the number of facilities holding other certifications.  This reflects the fact that while the R2 Standard is exceedingly stringent in environmental-protection requirements, it also accommodates innovation, stakeholder input and global operation.

With the addition of newly-certified facilities, R2-certified recyclers are now located in several geographies in North America, Europe and Asia.  The R2 Standard is a strong global standard that places the same requirements on recyclers regardless of geography.  Certified recyclers must demonstrate to independent auditors practices that protect the environment and human health and safety, and each of a recycling company’s facilities must be independently audited.

The newly certified facilities include the first public entity to receive certification, the Waste Commission of Scott County’s Electronic Demanufacturing Facility. The Iowa organization is an inter-governmental agency representing 17 communities and Scott County.  The Commission offers several services including an electronics recycling facility serving residents and businesses in Iowa and Western Illinois.  The Commission can now assure its customers through the R2 certification that it is operating with the highest levels of environmental and human health and safety protection.

“We are proud to be the first R2-certified facility in the state of Iowa,” said Keith Krambeck, special waste manager for Waste Commission of Scott County. “Becoming R2-certified was one of the goals of the Commission’s Environmental, Health and Safety Management System (EHSMS) through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. While we already had an EHSMS in place, the R2 standard was much more rigorous and our staff worked extremely hard to meet those standards. Because of this, we feel we have an outstanding EHSMS that will better protect our employees and better serve the needs of our customers,” he said.

R2 will continue to grow, certification processes are underway at a number of additional facilities which will both expand the capacity of responsible recyclers in key markets such as the U.S., and expand to additional geographies where a responsible recycling industry can grow.

R2 market demand

R2 surpasses two hundred certified facilities, the demand for R2-certified recyclers continues to rise. Companies report requirements for R2 certification in requests for proposals (RFP’s) both in the public and private sectors. In addition, states continue to recognize the importance certification makes in promoting safe and sustainable recycling practices. Five states have recognized R2 directly through laws or rulemaking. In addition, two more states have references directly to R2 in proposed laws and rules. Numerous other references are seen throughout state agencies on guidance and FAQs web pages.

The largest demand stems from the strategic direction the U.S. Government is taking by requiring federal electronic assets (FEAs) to be disposed through companies with R2 or equivalent certification. Beginning with the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, released in July 2011, the Interagency Task Force recognized the important role that industry certification can play in electronics recycling. Similar to the development of the R2 Standard, the interagency task force was a collaboration of multiple stakeholders. As a result of the published strategy, the GSA issued a Bulletin FMR B-34 on February 29, 2012 to guide Federal agencies in the disposition of FEAs.   Further rules are expected in the near future requiring the same practices from Federal agency IT contractors.

The demand for R2-certified companies continues to grow. Although the U.S. Government is one of the largest consumers of electronics, the more important outcome of these steps it has taken is the recognition of R2 certification as an important consideration when selecting electronics recyclers. The precedent set is likely to be adopted by both the public and private sectors.  We have already noticed a trend of R2 certification cascading down the recycling chain to 2nd and 3rd tier vendors. R2-certified recyclers are now requiring R2 certification of their downstream vendors.

There are many market drivers for certification. R2 Solutions will continue to promote the R2 Standard at every level.

R2 and exports

Protecting vulnerable populations from environmental, health, and safety risks is a cornerstone of the R2 Standard. Some have asked, why then, doesn’t R2 establish an outright ban on exports of electronic scrap to developing countries?

The answer has to do with economic opportunity. The stakeholders that developed R2 designed a set of requirements that call for equal environmental, health and safety protections no matter the location. Importantly, the R2 requirements do so in a manner that does not curb the business opportunities of law-abiding, state-of-the-art companies and their workers in developing countries.

Developing countries can be home to both atrocious, and state-of-the-art, electronics recycling and refurbishing operations. In these countries, as elsewhere, we need to shift electronics recycling and refurbishing away from the former and into the latter types of operations. This accomplishes environmental, health and safety goals while also promoting good jobs in some of the areas of the world most in need of economic opportunity.

To ensure exported electronic scrap ends up at state-of-the-art facilities, three key conditions need to be met. First, shipments of exported electronic scrap must be sent and received in accordance with the laws of the exporting and importing countries. Second, all receiving facilities must be evaluated on a regular basis to ensure that they are employing best technologies and practices. And, third, all equipment must be accurately characterized on the shipping manifest. Too often, e-scrap exports are characterized as “reusable” to avoid the added scrutiny and legal requirements that apply to “waste”.

R2 effectively addresses each of these conditions. It prohibits the shipment of end-of-life electronic equipment containing toxic materials to developing countries unless the shipment is legal under the laws of both the exporting and importing countries. It requires that the receiving facility conforms to key R2 requirements and employs technologies appropriate for the materials its processes. Furthermore, “reusable” electronics equipment containing toxic materials is subject to these same requirements unless it has been tested and its key functions are working properly. Finally, all shipments must be accurately labeled.

Through these requirements, the stakeholders that developed R2 achieve the goal of protecting vulnerable populations while supporting legal, safe, environmentally-sustainable, economic development in developing countries.

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