The United States is one of the world’s largest producers of e-waste, producing almost 7,000 tons of e-waste in 2021.

When e-waste isn’t properly disposed, it can pollute the environment with harmful chemicals, negatively impacting the living conditions of local and global communities.

Ensuring devices are handled ethically is essential to creating a greener world.

e-Stewards follows international and local e-waste laws to provide a safe and practical standard for the recycling, refurbishment, and reuse of electronics.

In this article, we’ll get into the basics of e-Stewards, explaining what it is, why it’s important, the history behind the e-Stewards standard, and the benefits of working with certified vendors.

What is the e-stewards Standard?

The e-Stewards Standard provides visibility into the management and movement of retired IT assets, and is the best and most recommended standard for the responsible recycling and reuse of electronics.

The e-Stewards Standard adheres to strict protocols to ensure devices are handled sustainably and responsibly.

When it comes to discarding electronics, the e-Stewards standard has a system in place to prevent toxic e-waste from being disposed into landfills, exported to the Global South, or recycled using forced labor. e-Stewards conducts unannounced inspections to ensure recyclers are adhering to responsible recycling protocols.

e-Stewards also randomly sends scrap electronic devices with embedded GPS trackers to e-Stewards recycling vendors to ensure companies fulfill their downstream obligations for electronic waste. e-Stewards recycling vendors can purchase more GPS trackers through the EarthEye™ program for their own use, which provides the vendors’ customers with even more confidence that the vendor can account for materials moved downstream.

e-Stewards provides end-to-end accountability throughout the entire recycling process. Working with an e-Stewards certified recycler ensures sustainability is at the forefront of your recycling efforts, protects your organization against risk, and reduces costs.

The e-Stewards Standard for electronics recyclers and IT asset managers requires:

  • Secure Data: All data stored on devices must be properly destroyed
  • Best Recycling Practices: Recyclers must manage hazardous e-waste following best management practices to protect employees and the environment
  • Responsible Downstream Management of All Toxic Materials: e-Stewards recyclers must track all hazardous materials downstream of their facilities
  • Ethical Labor: Forced labor is not permitted
  • Legal and Responsible Exports: Exporting toxic e-waste to the Global South is not permitted due to international law (Basel Convention)
  • Corporate-wide Conformity: All facilities and operations belonging to an organization are certified in each country

Why is the e-stewards Standard Important?

The e-Stewards Standard is important because it stops the illegal exporting of e-waste to the Global South.

Even though the Basel Action Network (BAN) established an international treaty against the export of toxic waste, e-waste is still often illegally exported to the Global South.

This, unfortunately, includes the United States, as it has not ratified BAN’s international treaty, which means they are not required to follow BAN’s guidelines. The US has virtually no legislation or enforcement in place to prevent e-waste from being shipped overseas.

Working with an e-Stewards certified vendor is essential. They go beyond compliance to ensure electronics are responsibly recycled and provide the best possible asset disposition process.

The History of e-Stewards

The e-waste crisis has been brewing for decades, becoming worse year after year. The e-waste crisis is a critical situation for corporations because if not addressed, future generations will have to live with the repercussions of e-waste discarded by today’s enterprises, which has already led to a steady decline in our current environmental climate.

A global group of thirteen recycling vendors recognized this issue and discovered how enterprises can minimize the toxic e-waste attributed to their companies—through e-waste recycling. However, the existing e-waste disposal process was not effective. 

The group of recyclers discovered that corporations often resorted to exporting e-waste to the Global South without proper approval, contaminating the air and water with harmful chemicals. Exporting e-waste is not a sound solution because it doesn’t solve the issue; it only moves e-waste to another part of the world to be forgotten. 

So, they worked to revolutionize how e-waste is disposed of and recycled. 

In 2008, the group of recyclers—later known as the e-Stewards Founders—approached the Basel Action Network (BAN), a non-profit organization creating a sustainable world where society’s discarded items remain a force for good, offering to fund a new standard.

The founders wanted a stand-out solution that would differentiate them and ban any export of toxic e-waste to the Global South. 

BAN spearheaded the new project, hiring certification experts and bringing in leaders from recycling, asset management, health, and safety sectors to create the e-Stewards Standard—the cleanest, most globally responsible standard for e-waste recycling.

The Benefits of Working with an e-Stewards Certified Vendor

Aside from being the highest and strongest standard of e-waste recycling, e-Stewards adheres to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards—specifically, a three-step process of guard, sanitize, and test to prevent any risk of legacy data staying on devices after the device is data wiped and resold.

e-Stewards vendors are frequently audited to ensure they follow proper procedures and have systems in place to stay up-to-date on laws surrounding electronic waste and asset disposition—such as HIPAA, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Privacy Act, which protects consumers’ personally identifiable information (PII).

Committing to work with e-Stewards certified vendors shows that your organization is dedicated to recycling IT assets in the most ethical way possible.

The e-Stewards Standard verifies that e-waste recycling is performed with core objectives of data security, health and worker safety, responsible export practices, and zero use of prison or child labor, dumping, or incineration. e-Stewards is the only standard that follows all international and local e-waste laws.

Working with e-Stewards certified recyclers shows your organization is actively working to alleviate the e-waste crisis and its correlating environmental issues, as e-Stewards recyclers can demonstrate the downstream disposition of all hazardous waste throughout their supply chain.

Learn how adopting an IT asset recovery and disposition solution like Mobile reCell ensures a responsible, circular end-of-lifecycle for your IT assets.


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