Boulder, Colorado - America Recycles Day, a Keep America Beautiful initiative celebrated every November 15 and in the weeks leading up to the day, is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the U.S. This year, special emphasis is being placed on recycling electronic "gadgets." This is welcome news to Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), a non-profit organization dedicated to safe and sustainable recycling and reuse of electronics, and also the governing body for the R2 Standard for Responsible Recycling of electronics.
"Safely managing the increasing volume of used and obsolete electronics is a growing challenge as new devices are introduced into the marketplace with greater frequency," says John Lingelbach, executive director of SERI.
Why is this a problem? Because more than 50 million tons of e-scrap is generated each year, and many of the materials contained in electronic devices can cause significant harm to human health and the environment if not properly managed. Lingelbach also noted the data security concerns and environmental liability that companies face when they fail to do proper due diligence when selecting an electronics broker or recycler[K1] . Lingelbach added, "Working with R2 certified brokers or recyclers who undergo rigorous annual audits to ensure conformance to the best industry practices reduces the risk of liability for companies using their services." The number of R2 certified recyclers continues to grow to meet this demand, with 550 R2 facilities now operating in 22 countries.
While Lingelbach believes strongly that more improvements within the electronics recycling industry are needed, he is encouraged by the progress being made in the recycling arena by members of SERI's R2 Leader Program, a coalition of corporations, governmental and non-profit organizations working together to provide sustainable solutions for electronics recycling and reuse. He hopes that by calling attention to the successful efforts of R2 Leaders, other companies and communities will be encouraged to follow suit and make a difference in their own spheres of influence.
Here are just a few of the ways R2 Leaders are improving the electronics recycling landscape.
Keep America Beautiful is an effective leader in changing recycling attitudes and habits with initiatives such as America Recycles Day. "People commonly think of paper, plastic, and aluminum as recyclable items, but electronic devices are generally not top of mind," says Brenda Pulley, senior vice president, recycling, Keep America Beautiful and a SERI board member. "The EPA estimates that 70 percent of used electronic devices are stockpiled in homes and small businesses or end up in landfills. It's important to know that every one of these electronic gadgets can be responsibly recycled - and made into new products - which reduces the need to mine for new resources."
XEROX Corporation held its first America Recycles Day event in 2006 for employees, contractors and consultants. More than 57,000 pounds of electronics were collected in just eight hours. Since then, XEROX has expanded the event to include collection of bicycles, clothing and household items. Employees are enthusiastic about the opportunity to get rid of unwanted items, and both the community and environment benefit.
DIRECTV offers its customers the ability to recycle DIRECTV equipment and other small electronic devices for free and invites customers to visit the company's recycle website to print off free shipping labels for eligible electronic devices. More than 16 million pounds of electronics were recovered in 2013, and more than 24 million pounds in 2014 as a result of DIRECTV's e-cycling program. DIRECTV is also working with SERI to help recycling facilities in Latin America get certified to the R2 Standard.
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) created an E-Waste Recycling Event Toolkit to simplify the process for communities holding collection events. Included are resources such as a qualified recycler directory, marketing materials, educational resources and best practices for collection events. Since 2009, ADEQ has held over 100 electronics (e-waste) collection events in approximately 50 cities throughout Arizona.
Goodwill® has more than 2,000 participating Goodwill locations that accept unwanted electronics. Dell Reconnect, a partnership with Dell and Goodwill, is a free drop-off recycling program for consumers that accepts any brand of computer equipment in any condition. More than 425 million pounds of electronics have been collected for recycling since 2004. Donating one working computer to Goodwill provides nearly 7 hours of job training for a Goodwill employee. The revenues from this program enable Goodwill to expand its services to people who are unemployed or underemployed in local communities.
SourceAmerica® established CyclePoint®, a network of 46 non-profit electronics recyclers that promotes environmental stewardship in local communities, and employs more than 220 people with disabilities. To date, CyclePoint has safely and securely recycled more than five million pounds of electronics,ensuring data security for both businesses and consumers.
CyclePoint from SourceAmerica, is a 2015 national sponsor and the official electronics recycler of America Recycles Day. Together with its partners, CyclePoint will be hosting 50 electronics recycling events across the country in honor of America Recycles Day.
How YOU can make a difference:
- Businesses can partner with an R2 certified recycler to host collection events or provide permanent drop-off locations for their employees and customers.
- Neighboring municipalities can join forces to make transporting recycled items more economical.
- Schools and other organizations can host collection events in conjunction with other scheduled activities.
- Individuals can partner with an R2 certified recycler to organize collection events or permanent collection sites on behalf of their school, club or organization.
Organizers of America Recycle Day events are encouraged to register their event at AmericaRecyclesDay.org to gain access to valuable resources to help plan, promote and host an event.