When recycling electronics, make sure you work with R2-certified recyclers. Here’s why. 

Although most companies have heard of the R2 certification, not everyone may fully appreciate how important it really is. When a multinational corporation like Morgan Stanley can neglect to hire R2 certified recyclers — a decision that turned into a class-action lawsuit, it goes to show the message can’t be driven home often enough. 

So, how do R2-certified electronics recyclers stand out from the non-certified? 

The story of the R2 certification cannot be told without introducing SERI, best known as the housing body and ANSI-accredited Standards Development Organization for the R2 Standard. SERI’s mission is straightforward but momentous — to solve the world’s electronics sustainability problem. 

Its mission statement reads, SERI works to create a world where electronic products are reused and recycled in a way that results in resource preservation, the well-being of the environment, and the health and safety of workers and communities.”

Changing the world for the better

But the nonprofit organization obviously cannot go it alone. That’s why SERI is committed to bringing institutions, policymakers, businesses, and individuals together to spur real change

To borrow its own words, “We want everyone to think about electronics differently, to act more responsibly, and to make decisions with our electronics using sustainability as our guiding North Star. Because when we do, we’ll protect people and the environment, while making sure our electronics do a world of good.”

A pillar of SERI’s work is the administration of the R2 Certification Program. First released in 2008, it is now the world’s most widely adopted standard for the responsible recycling of used electronics. 

The standard grew out of a multi-stakeholder effort, initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to create a voluntary, market-based mechanism for ensuring best practices in electronics recycling. While the initial focus was on protecting the environment, the standard has evolved. It now puts greater emphasis on facilitating a truly circular life cycle for electronics. 

In summary, the R2 Standard is:

  • A roadmap, not a hammer: It creates solutions that make real business sense, both for facilities and for those looking to manage their used electronics responsibly and sustainably.
  • Flexible, without sacrificing responsibility: It’s global, applicable to all types of facilities regardless of size, expertise, or location. Doing the right thing, SERI points out, knows no boundaries.
  • Comprehensive: It addresses the full reverse supply chain from first use through end-of-life and includes environmental, health and safety, quality, and data security standards, all in one package.

What does it take to become one of the 1,000 R2-certified recyclers?

The R2 recycling certification process includes six steps that take up to a year to complete. As of today, there are more than 1,000 R2-certified facilities in 35 countries. In short, they have all gone through the following:

  1. Education: The first step includes a deep dive into requirements of the R2 Standard. On-demand training resources provide an initial introduction. 
  2. Implementation: Focus then turns to documenting and revising processes and procedures at the facility. Facilities can use certain external standards to address specific R2 requirements. Those standards include, for example, ISO 14001:2015 (Environmental Management Systems) and ISO 9001:2015 (Quality Management System). 
  3. Collect records and evidence: It’s almost time to impress the auditor. To prove compliance, faciltites gather records and evidence. For example: Records on equipment and materials flow tracking, data destruction, trans-boundary shipment legality, and more.
  4. An internal audit: In preparation for the big day, many companies enlist a consultant to perform an internal audit to assess readiness and identify any corrective steps. 
  5. Certification audit: The moment has arrived. Facilities must pass an audit by a SERI-approved Certification Body. For first-timers, it’s a two-step process that stretches over a few months. 
  6. Maintaining the R2 certification: Facilities must pass an annual audit to demonstrate ongoing conformance to the R2 Standard, and pay the annual R2 License Fee.

What do you gain from working with R2-certified recyclers?

We have stressed this point many times and SERI does it as well, “Electronics are a golden opportunity in every business to highlight your sustainability and corporate social responsibility.” 

The issue is not only what you choose to do with your retired electronics, but also the quality of those choices. In the end, your decision is what will make the difference between positive and negative outcomes. 

Short-sighted decisions may solve an immediate problem but lead to long-term negative consequences for the environment and lives around the world. We have — as has SERI — cautioned against using the lowest cost service. In the now infamous case of Morgan Stanley, the result was a devastating data breach. In other instances, it may be the dumping of electronics in countries with no oversight or tools for safe recycling. 

To quote SERI, “The reality is it takes people, machines, transportation, and a network of recycling vendors to fully process your electronics. This costs money, but to protect your business, your brand, your customers and employees, and the environment, doing it right is absolutely worth it.”

Final word

You get all of these safeguards when you partner with R2 certified recyclers like Global Electronic Recycling. We and other R2-certified recyclers have demonstrated through audits and other means that we continually meet the highest environmental standards for the safe management and recycling of used electronics. Try us. 

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Make sure to read:

Turning your corporate e-recycling green is not as complicated as you may think

The most important facts about computer recycling

Business e-waste as Olympic medals: It’s only the beginning 

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