If you’re reading this blog, you are using an electronic device – whether it’s a computer, smart phone, or e-reader. But one of the things you may not know is that electronic devices can have serious consequences on the environment. All electronic devices use heavy and other precious metals which, when they are mined and are returned into the ecosystem can have a detrimental effect on the health of local ecosystems and watersheds.
Recycling electronics is a huge step in ensuring that our devices do not harm the environment. But in some instances, recycling electronics only means that recycling companies remove the valuable metals – like gold – and dissolve the rest in an acid bath, which often reenters the watershed.
Fortunately, there are organizations which serve as watchdogs to ensure that the electronics that you recycle are done so in a responsible manner, which has no negative impact on the environment.
The Basel Action Network (BAN) is one of the most important international organizations today working to ensure the efficiency of electronic recycling industries. According to their website, they tackle important issues of environmental justice relating to the toxics trades, confronting “the issues of environmental justice at a macro level, preventing disproportionate and unsustainable dumping of the world’s toxic waste and pollution on our global village’s poorest residents. At the same time we actively promote the sustainable and just solutions to our consumption and waste crises — banning waste trade, while promoting green, toxic free and democratic design of consumer products.”
BAN runs a certification program called e-Stewards which serves as a watchdog to ensure that e-recyclers meet sustainable standards. To date, they have certified over 40 e-recyclers with 100 locations across the United States that meet “globally responsible, safe means to process e-waste.” These standards represent best practices in the e-waste processing industry, including no disposal in landfills or incinerators, no prison labor, and no export to poor communities.
In New York City, responsible e-waste recycling isn’t so difficult to do! The Lower East Side Ecology Center runs a city-wide recycling program that responsibly recycles e-waste, and throws several e-waste recycling programs throughout the year. To learn more about the LESEC’s recycling programs in NYC, you can visit their website here.