Challenges in ProductStewardship and Management ofWaste Electronics Dwight Clark, CHMM Presented at the 10th Annual Semiconductor Environmental Health and Safety Association (SESHA) Mini Conference
Presenter Dwight Clark is an Environmental Engineer and Certified Hazardous Materials Manager with over 25 years of experience in a wide array of environmental projects.Dwight is as an ISO 14000 Lead Auditor as well as an auditor to the Responsible Recycling®, e- Stewards®, and Recycling Industry Operating Standards® (RIOS) certification programs.
BasicsElectronic waste (e-waste) is a termthat is used loosely to refer toobsolete, broken, or irreparable "What is in a Computer?"electronic devices like televisions, Rekacewicz, P. (2004) Vitalcomputer central processing units Waste Graphics(CPUs), computer monitors (flat [map]. http://screen and cathode ray tubes), maps.grida.no/ go/graphic/laptops, printers, scanners, and what_is_in_a_ computerassociated wiring. E-waste hasbecome a concern in the UnitedStates due to the high volumes inwhich it is generated, thehazardous constituents it oftencontains (such as lead, mercury,and chromium), and the lack ofregulations applicable to itsdisposal or recycling.
Toxic Substances in a Monitor Image from GAO Report No. GAO-08-1044
Toxic Substances in a CPU Image from GAO Report No. GAO-08-1044
The ProblemDiscarded electronics is one of the fastest growing segments of our nation’swaste stream, already accounting for 5% of the total waste volume.Researchers estimate an additional 75% of old electronics are stuck in storage,in part because consumers don’t know what to do with them. If properlyhandled; these materials pose little risk and can be recycled or reused safely.The problem extends to the Original Equipment Manufactures’ through theelectronics take back programs and other extended producer responsibilityprograms. The brand image is a worst case scenario.
Federal Regulatory Framework• Federal: The US does not yet have national regulation specific to the disposal for electronics waste, with the notable exception of the CRT Rule and (Printed Circuit Board) determinations as scrap metal. • The regulatory scrutiny is primarily the high lead levels in the CRTs and the PCBs. • Additional concerns for the other electronics which may contain cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and chromium is growing within the regulated community• State and Local: The absence of Federal Regulation has resulted in 23 states and New York City having implemented some form of electronics waste law.
Regulation of the Recyclers• The Federal Programs, which allow most electronics waste to be exempt if being recycled, also do not place requirements on the recycling activities specifically. This typically includes export, with the noted CRT Rule requirements.• The speculative accumulation requirements are the common driver which can place the materials once thought to be recycled back into regulation.• Several recyclers that have been visited were unaware of the universal waste regulations for batteries, mercury devices, and certain lighting devices.• Regulations such as air permitting will apply based on the process.
CERCLA Interaction• The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) aka Superfund regulations have many implications in the recycling business. The joint and several liability provisions can easily apply if the recycler is not managing the materials properly.• The Superfund Recycling Equity Act of 1999 (SREA) allows for the exemption of certain recyclable materials from Superfund liability, and contains particular statutory criteria that must be satisfied in order to qualify for the exemption. This is an important exemption the waste generators to have documented.
International Regulations• Organization for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) • Members include the “Developed World” - primarily Europe, and North America • Regulates trans-boundary movement of hazardous wastes• Basel Convention • 170+ countries, notable exception of US • Further regulates movement of hazardous wastes to non-developed countries. • Expands scope of Hazardous Waste Regulation
So toxic, why recycle? In 2001 the United States Geological Survey (USGS), yes the Geology People, issued a Fact Sheet 060-10 that concluded “Obsolete computers contain significant amounts of recoverable materials including metals from wires and circuit boards, glass from monitors, and plastics from casings. For example, 1 metric ton (t) of electronic scrap from personal computers (PC’s) contains more gold than that recovered from 17 t of gold ore. In 1998, the amount of gold recovered from electronic scrap in the United States was equivalent to that recovered from more than 2 million metric tons (Mt) of gold ore and waste.”
Material Fractions in Electronics ScrapFrom: Effective electronic waste management and recycling process involvingformal and non-formal sectors, S. Chatterjee and Krishna Kumar, InternationalJournal of Physical Sciences Vol. 4 (13) pp. 893-905, December, 2009
Analysis of Printed Circuit Board Recovery ValueFrom: Effective electronic waste management and recycling process involvingformal and non-formal sectors, S. Chatterjee and Krishna Kumar, InternationalJournal of Physical Sciences Vol. 4 (13) pp. 893-905, December, 2009
Typical ProcessingThe recycling business for electronics is based on the scrap value of the components.• The typical recycler will preferentially sell the equipment for re-use as this is the highest revenue stream.• If the unit is not functioning, the high value parts may be removed and re-used• The remaining material is then segregated and recycled.The processing of this material can be a labor intensive and an environmental damaging function; therefore overseas markets are very attractive. One report has documented that the cost to manually separate a computer system in the US is approximately $20 and the same system in India has a labor cost of $2, creating a margin of $18.
Differences in Recyclers• A recycler that removes hazardous constituents from e-scrap, sorts and disassembles its e-scrap, and exports the waste to a responsible recycler or confirms that devices are in working order before exporting them for reuse, will likely offer its services at a significantly higher rate than a recycler that simply ships unsorted e-scrap abroad.• The recycler that ships unsorted e-scrap can still make the claim that it is operating in a “green” way because it diverts the waste from landfill disposal.• A recycler can also claim that it does not export its waste, but that is a claim that would be very hard for the average consumer (or even a state or charitable organization using the recycler) to confirm.
GAO Study Excerpts• The study conducted a search of one Internet e-commerce site and observed brokers from around the world place 2,234 requests to purchase liquid-crystal display (LCD) screens. On the same site, we found 430 requests for central processing units and 665 requests for used computers.• In an extensive search of two Internet e-commerce sites over a 3- month period, brokers in developing countries made over 200 offers to purchase over 7.5 million used CRTs. Over 75 percent of the brokers’ requests offered $10 or less per unit, and almost half offered $5 or less. Low prices (under $10 per unit) indicate a high likelihood that these items will ultimately be handled and disposed of unsafely. About 70 percent of the requests came from developing countries in Asia, with China and India posting the largest number by far; the remaining requests came largely from Africa.• These results indicate that the demand is strong for CRTs, likely for recovery of metals.
Map of Country’s requesting Used CRTs during GAO internet research
More GAO Findings• The 2008 GAO Study reviewed claims of several recyclers by interview as the GAO gauging the effects of the CRT rule on their business and by setting up a fake broker for overseas customers. The results include: • 43 companies responded to requests for export of CRTs from the US. Of those only one was registered for export and not to the country indicated in the request.
GAO Study• A regional manager for a trading company in California stated that he was not aware of CRT rule notification requirements, but his company does not export CRTs. In an e-mail to our fictitious broker in Pakistan, however, he offered to sell “as-is” CRT monitors. In addition, his company offered 900 as-is CRT monitors, some with power cords cut, on a Chinese e-commerce Web site.
GAO Study• A sales representative for a large electronics recycler in New Jersey said that he was not aware of the CRT rule and was not the right person to speak to about this issue. This same individual, however, told our fictitious buyer from Hong Kong not to worry about U.S. laws’ holding up export of untested CRT monitors. He explained that “it’s the laws at [the port of Hong Kong] that you have to find out about.”• A representative of a metal-recycling company in Illinois told us that the CRT rule does not apply to this company because it sends all of its CRT glass to a lead smelter in the United States. In response to an e-mail inquiry to ship nonworking and untested CRT monitors to Southeast Asia, however, this person wrote back, “What are you paying for the monitors? Let me know and I’ll give you an inventory count.”
GAO Study• A representative of an electronics-recycling company in Colorado told us that the company does not export CRTs; instead, all CRTs are recycled in-house, so the CRT rule does not apply. This same person offered to sell 1,500 CRT monitors and 1,200 CRT televisions, which were ready for immediate shipment, to our fictitious broker in Hong Kong.• A representative of an electronics-recycling company in Washington State told us that all of its CRT monitors are sent to its shredding facility in Oregon. A sales associate at the company, however, offered to sell 4 containers of CRT monitors (approximately 3,200 units) in April 2008 and another 20 containers (approximately 16,000 units) in June 2008 to our fictitious broker in Hong Kong.
GAO Conclusions on Export“Many of the companies that responded to our fictitious foreign brokers, particularly the electronics recyclers, actively promote an environmentally responsible public image. Nearly all of the electronic recyclers claimed to be environmentally friendly, with at least 17 of these companies citing on their Web sites the hazards of improper disposal of used electronics equipment. At least 3 of these recyclers held Earth Day 2008 electronics- recycling events. Some of the electronics recyclers accept used CRTs at no charge, while others charge the consumer, ostensibly to cover recycling expenses. One Maryland electronics recycler, for instance, charges from $10 to $30 for CRT monitors, depending on size, to cover its “responsible, domestic recycling costs.”
Potential Solutions• The industry has responded to the concerns and two separate third party accredited standards were developed for certifying recyclers. Responsible Recycling® (R2) and e-Stewards®• These standards are similar in nature to ISO certification through a Certifying Body
Responsible Recycling• At a multi-stakeholder electronics summit in 2005, EPA was asked to lead an effort to develop a set of sound recycling practices and a system for certifying electronics recyclers who met them• EPA convened a multi-stakeholder group to develop a set of practices• R2 document process: • Drafted by neutral facilitator (EPA funded) in a consensus-driven process • Reviewed by 4 experienced auditors • Field tested at 6 recyclers (included a range of sizes and processes) • EPA’s role in helping to get documentation from foreign countries was tested (China, Hong Kong, India)
R2 Practices• Sets a high bar for environmental and worker protection• Establishes environmental, worker safety, and public health practices• Includes 13 general principles, and specific practices for recyclers to follow• The practices largely go beyond what is required under regulation –recyclers are not required to be certified to R2• Some States have, or are, developing standards in their electronics regulations based on R2, e.g., Washington, Oregon
R2 Features• Signifies an upgrade of existing practices • Due diligence requirements, documentation of legality from countries of import • Proper on-site practices are identified • Requires clearing personal data from memory• Allows export of materials if shown to be legal and if goes to sound recyclers• Through field testing, R2 was found to be a practical approach that can be integrated into existing ISO systems.
E-Stewards• Certified e-Stewards: • Requires a certified ISO 14001 environmental management system • Prohibits all toxic waste from being disposed of in solid waste landfills and incinerators • Requires full compliance with existing international hazardous waste treaties for exports and imports of electronics, and specifically prohibits the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries • Prohibits the use of prison labor in the recycling of toxic electronics • Requires extensive baseline protections for and monitoring of recycling workers • Is written for international use
ISO Certifications and RIOS• ISO 14001, ISO 9001, and OSHAS 18001 are helpful, but may be too costly for smaller recyclers.• The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industry (ISRI) has developed an industry specific Quality, Environmental, and Health and Safety (QEH&S) Framework (management system) the is called the Recycling Industry Operating Standard (RIOS). This system is comparable (or a light version of) to a combined 14001, 9001, and 18001 system.
Potential Risks• Illegal export• Data Security• CERCLA liability from dumping or improper facility operations• RCRA issues is speculatively accumulated• Brand image • Imagine you property tag, box, carton, or branded equipment in the previous photos.
Recycler Selection• Certifications such as R2 and e-Stewards are an excellent starting point. • Accepting the third party certifications alone is risky, many of the larger players (Dell, HP, Sony, etc…) still audit for their own compliance certification• Look for transparency in operations and downstream processors.• Document SREA due diligence • Prevent CERCLA Liabilities from the receiving site • Specific documentation requirements• Remember no recyclers are EPA Approved or permitted for recycling operations
References• Electronic Waste: EPA Needs to Better Control Harmful U.S. Exports through Stronger Enforcement and More Comprehensive Regulation. GAO Report No. GAO-08-1044 http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d081044.pdf• Obsolete Computers, “Gold Mine,” or High-Tech Trash? Resource Recovery from Recycling, USGS Fact Sheet FS-060-01 http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs060-01/fs060-01.pdf• Managing Electronic Waste: Issues with Exporting E- Waste, Congressional Research Service, September 27, 2010 http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40850.pdf