Given that more and more enterprise and midsize businesses are studying what they should do with their e-waste and how they should deal with it, it's little wonder that there are several different industry efforts cropping up to claim their attention.
In my mind, there are two big organizations for you to watch: The Basel Action Network (BAN), which is an advocate for the strict provisions of the Basel Convention governing hazardous wastes, and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (aka ISRI), which is approaching the problem from the recycling industry's point of view.
Each organization is touting their own certification program to help businesses choose recyclers that are supposedly following responsible e-waste business practices.
Jim Puckett, executive director of BAN, says that the BAN e-Stewards is the more stringent of the two certifications, because there is a layer of independent audit involved to ensure that recyclers and waste management companies are upholding the letter of the law when it comes to the Basel Convention. Among other things, the convention forbids the export of non-working technologies to certain countries and it forbids the use of prison labor in processing. Puckett says that many technology OEMs remain in denial about the acuteness of the problem. "We need to get the OEMs to wake up to the brand liability," he says.
Two big exceptions to this rule are Dell and Hewlett-Packard, which have been very public about their support of the Basel Convention, even if they haven't yet declared their position on the e-Stewards program. Puckett says the jury is still out on Apple, although it is apparently evaluating its policies; he isn't familiar with the public stance of IBM, because he hasn't seen anything in writing.
So far, there are approximately 35 e-Stewards doing business in North America. Bob Houghton, president and CEO of Redemtech, which is one of the listed e-Stewards, says some of his company's customers have begun requiring the certification. In fact, Redemtech is negotiating a relationship with a leasing partner that plans to use Redemtech's services as a way of offering sustainable technology leases that guarantee the responsible disposal, refurbishment or reuse of technology when a lease term is up. "The large enterprise that leases often has an environmental policy," he says.
ISRI's approach to the e-waste problem is tied to the EPA's Responsible Recycling Practices effort. BAN's Puckett says that these practices are merely a subset of what the e-Stewards program provides in terms of being confident that your technology isn't winding up where it shouldn't wind up.