Activists launch certification for e-waste recycling

With concerns over the disposal of electronic waste, a group of activists launch a certification program for electronic recycling while new services sprout up.

Updated November 11 at 3:50 a.m. PT with link to e-Stewards web site linking to all firms involved in the effort.

Activists groups on Monday launched a certification program meant to identify responsible recyclers of electronic gear in North America.

The program, called the e-Steward Initiative, was organized by the Basel Action Network, the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, and recycling firms such as Electronic Recyclers International.

The launch of the program was timed with the release of a 60 Minutes segment that publicized problems in the electronic waste recycling industry.

"Unfortunately today, most companies calling themselves electronics recyclers are scammers," said Sarah Westervelt, e-Stewards project coordinator at the Basel Action Network (BAN) in Seattle, in a statement. "They simply load up containers of old computers and ship them off to China or Africa."

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The point of e-Steward Initiative is to certify that toxic materials from computers and cathode-ray tubes are not dumped in developing countries, local landfills, or incinerators. It is also meant to audit the use of prison labor or unauthorized release of private data.

Take-back and recycling services
Meanwhile, there is a growing number of services aimed at taking back electronics either for resale or recycling.

Second Rotation, a company that offers a take-back service for consumer electronics, said on Monday that it has raised a series B round of funding worth $6 million. The company's Gazelle's service will buy back used electronics. Data is erased and the products are then resold or recycled.

Another firm, called Flipswap, offers a trade-in service where it buys back used cell phones and iPhones to resell them. The company is expected to raise a round of funding in the coming weeks.

Another new company in tech recycling and repurposing is TechForward, which launched a buy-back program offered to consumers at the point of sale.