Posts Tagged ‘e-waste’

While technology continues to improve it consequently outdates the average computer faster than ever. In 2007 roughly 40 million computers became obsolete which has doubled since 1998 (cleanair.org).  Major electronic corporations have implemented sustainability practices and taken ownership of their own influence on the massive amounts of computers that are no longer up to par.  However, the green industry and eco-Americans throughout the country have been patiently awaiting our own government to step up and implement responsible e-waste recycling plan for their own electronics that contribute significantly to the e-waste problem.

On July 20, 2011 in Austin, Texas the White House Council on Environmental Quality, General Services Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency representatives met to discuss the future of Federal electronics. They were accompanied by the CEO’s of Sprint and Dell along with executives from Sony to reveal a National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship. 

The strategy addresses responsible electronic waste disposal in three areas,  the design of products, purchasing consumer electronics responsibly, and promoting research to find acceptable ways to recycle and reuse the materials within electronics. A major aspect of the proposal was to ensure that Federal electronics are processed by CERTIFIED recyclers so they can ensure their data is erased properly and the products are handled responsibly throughout the entire de-manufacturing process.  Educating individuals on the hazards of using an non-certified company is very important and having the Federal governments support makes this goal much more attainable.  Promoting certified American recycling companies also enhances U.S employment and stimulates the economy within our borders.

One issue that was not addressed by the task force is the exporting of hazardous materials overseas to third-world countries. While CompuCycle does not support the exporting of non-working materials overseas in any way we do however support international electronic trading of working electronics.

For more information on the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship please visit any of the following sites:

Environmental Protection Agency:


The Huffington Post:



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Volunteers at e-cycling drive

Volunteers from 2011 KTRK ABC13 Houston Earth Day E-cycling Drive unload the last car.

Now that I’ve made it through my first Earth Day (more like month) while employed by CompuCycle, I think I’m ready to tackle tips on how to host a successful e-cycling drive. There’s no exact science and your results will always vary based on several factors. None the less, my first tip is what seems like the most obvious, but is often the tip least followed.


Contract with a Certified Electronics Recycler

Before you decide you want to provide a service to your employees, tenants, community or whoever you want to help recycle their electronics, make sure you have a safe and eco-friendly outlet to do so.  Many “recycling” companies will offer free recycling, but make sure you do your homework on the company before you hand over your hard drives and e-waste.

As I mentioned in the last blog, unless you are using a Certified Electronics Recycler (R2 or E-steward Certified) there is no guarantee that your electronics are being disposed of properly and sensitive information is safe. 


Find a venue that is suitable

If you plan on doing a one-day e-cycling drive, choose an outdoor area where recyclers can easily pull-up and unload. Typically recyclers are asked to not get out of the car and workers or volunteers will unload the vehicle for them, allowing for fast and easy drop off.  Shade is always also a plus for workers and volunteers to escape the sun.

If you plan on doing a multiple day e-cycling drive, choose a centrally located area that is big enough for at least 1 gaylord box for collection of electronics.  CompuCycle would drop off the box(s) prior to the event and would pick them up at the host’s instruction.


Know the extent of your resources

Determine beforehand how much labor the recycling company will provide and how many volunteers you will have. The more organized your event is, the more successful your event will be. You want your recyclers to want to bring their electronics next year and spread the word to friends and family.  Word of mouth should be one of your top referrals. 


Anchor your event with other events or times when recycling interest at its highest

Obviously in April, around Earth Day, is when recycling is at the top of everyone’s agenda. The Earth Day buzz is  a great way to help create awareness of your e-cycling drive.  Other times to anchor your event to are: America Recycles Day (Nov. 20th), right after New Years (Give us all the electronics you just replaced at Christmas!), Spring Cleaning (Clean the old electronics out of your closet!)


Set a time that is convenient for your audience

It’s always important to keep in mind your audience.  If it’s your employees or tenants, a weekday recycling drive would probably be the most successful option. Really, who wants to drop by work on a Saturday? If it’s members of your community, a Saturday collection is most convenient for those that have 9-5 jobs. 


Consider extending your drive

Instead of a one-day drive, consider offering a week-long collection event in a central area, if you have one available. This is will allow recyclers a chance to bring more electronics and will allow more to participate. 


Be clear as to what items are accepted and how many items can be brought

The last thing you want to encounter on your drive day is frustrated recyclers.  Who wouldn’t be frustrated after you loaded up your 60″ Monster Big Screen TV only to find out the drive you are dropping off at does not accept TVs over 36″. 

Make sure to mention in all media if there is a limit on the number of items and the items that are not acceptable, such as appliances (microwaves, refrigerators and so on).  



The most important step is to of course make sure your audience knows the event is happening! How do you let them know, you say? There are many avenues to reach your audience in this day and time. Some effective outlets are: Flyers, Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.), Newsletters (digital and print), Emails (Your own, that’s right, send some emails!), Newspapers, Blogs and Word of Mouth (Tell some people!).   

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It seems that I read an article every week about some e-waste drive or a new charity that accepts electronics.  Which is great!…..But in retrospect, I can’t help but wonder what really happens to those electronics.

The truth of the matter is I do know what happens to those electronics because I work for a certified electronics recycler, CompuCycle.  Do those donating or recycling know what is happening to their old electronics? Most of them, do not. 

I have no doubt the people hosting e-waste drives and charities accepting electronics have the best intentions. However, unscrupulous “recyclers” often pray on the good intentions of the public. It all boils down to a lack of education about the importance of using certified electronics recyclers.

One staggering statistic released by watchdog, The Basel Action Network, states that up 80% of electronics recyclers are not actually recycling the equipment, but are exporting to developing countries where the electronics are banged with rocks, burned with acid or set on fire, often by children.  

If you are ready to part with old, outdated or surplus electronics, these are the questions you should ask before you hand over your electronics, whether it’s a charity (intended for reuse) or an e-waste drive (intended for recycling): 

Questions for a charity:

1. How does the charity erase the data?

It is important to know that simply deleting the data from the hard drive or formatting the hard drive does not erase the data. Both processes really just remove the information the hard drive needs to find the data, not the data itself. Deleted files can be undeleted and formatted hard drives can be recovered.

To be sure that data is removed beyond all practical ability to recover it, a wiping or erasing utility should be used. These tools overwrite every sector of the hard drive with binary 1’s and 0’s. Those that meet Department of Defense security standards even overwrite each sector multiple times for added protection.

2. What happens to equipment that charities can not reuse?

Donations of unusable equipment often burden charities with the task of getting rid of what can not be fixed or reused.  Many small charities often have no means of properly disposing of the material. It is important to only give working equipment (usually that 5 years old or newer and has the operating system already installed) so that the charity can productively use the equipment.

If the charity does not have a clear plan of action, equipment that cannot be used may ultimately end up in a dumpster destined for a landfill.

At CompuCycle, we have a Charitable Donation program where we can clean, fix and install the operating system for you to donate to your chosen charity.


Questions to ask at a E-waste or E-cycling Drive:

1. Is the company handling the electronics a certified electronics recycler? (either R2 or E-steward Certified)

If the company handling the electronics is not a certified electronics recycler, then there is no guarantee that the electronics are being recycled properly.  Certificates of  recycling and pledges mean nothing if there is no Third-Party Certification.

There are only two certifications that guarantee responsible recycling in the United States: R2 (Responsible Recycling) Certification, which is accredited  by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and The Basel Action Network’s E-Steward Certification.

Many companies may claim certification by saying that they are “EPA Approved,” have “EPA Approved Facility” or have a “EPA Permit”.  The EPA does not “approve” anyone.  The EPA will issue a Hazardous Waste Permit to track the transportation of  hazardous waste. This does not apply to electronics as they are not classified as hazardous waste. The permit requires no third party audit or site visit of any kind.

It also important to know that “E-steward Pledged” is different from being certified.  The pledge, while it indicates intentions of responsible recycling, does not indicate that the company has been audited by a third-party and thus certified.

All certified companies are listed on organization websites.

R2 Certified Recyclers


E-Steward Certified Recyclers


2. How does the company  ensure data destruction?

If the company reuses the hard drive, it is important that they use Department of Defense Compliant Erasure Software  (DoD 5220.22-M).  At CompuCycle, we use Blancco software.

If the company is simply recycling the hard drives, the drives should be shredded using an industrial strength shredder intend for this purpose.

Some companies may use a drill press to destroy the drives, experts however maintain that data may still be extracted if the drive is not totally crushed as it would be in a shredder.

When you use a Certified Electronics Recycler, you can be assured that your electronics are being responsibly recycled and that your information is completely destroyed.  Here at CompuCycle, we pride our self on being the first electronics recycler in Houston to obtain certification.  Whether you are looking to recycle your outdated equipment or donate surplus equipment, CompuCycle has the knowledge and tools to ensure you are completely satisfied. 

Residents may drop of their e-waste at CompuCycle Monday – Friday at no charge.  A nominal fee is charged for TVs only.

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The only US federal regulation on e-waste is the CRT Final Rule. (An EPA ID number specifies that you have registered with the EPA as a waste generator, but does not require proper handling or disposal of waste. Learn more about EPA ID numbers here. You can even look up who has an EPA number by zip code!)

Even with the low amount of regulation, e-recyclers are getting around the Final Rule, as reported by the Government Accountability Office last year by hiding shipments of CRTs to developing countries and failing to report the export to federal regulators.

So what does the CRT Final Rule regulate? A summary is listed below:

Used CRTs (Broken and Intact) Exported for Recycling

  • Notify EPA (OECA) of an intended shipment 60 days before the shipment. Notification may cover exports extending over a 12-month or shorter period. Notification must include contact info about the exporter and recycler, and an alternate recycler. It must also include a description of the recycling, frequency and rate of export, means of transport, total quantity of CRTs, and info about transit countries.
  • OECA will notify the receiving country and transit countries. When the receiving country consents in writing to the receipt of the CRTs, OECA will forward the consent to the exporter. The exporter may not ship the CRTs until he receives the consent.
  • If the receiving country does not consent or withdraws a prior consent, EPA will notify the exporter in writing. Exporters must keep copies of notifications and consents for three years following receipt of the consent.
  • Consent is not required from transit countries, but EPA will notify the exporter of any responses from these countries.

CRT Glass Exported for Recycling

  • Processed glass (i.e., CRT glass that has been sorted) is not subject to export requirements. Unsorted glass would be considered a “broken CRT” and would be subject to export requirements.

Used Intact CRTs Exported for Reuse

  • Persons who export used, intact CRTs for reuse must submit a one-time notification to the appropriate EPA Region with contact info and a statement that they are exporting the CRTs for reuse (see 40 CFR 261.41). They must keep copies of normal business records demonstrating that each shipment will be reused.  Records must be retained for three years.

Unused Intact CRTs Exported for Reuse or Recycling

  • No regulatory requirements – these are considered commercial products or commercial chemical products being reclaimed.

A common way that “recyclers” bypass the Final Rule is to classify your CRTs as “working,” or don’t label them at all. The GAO reports that Hong Kong officials have sent back 26 containers of CRT monitors to the US from 2007 to 2008. And enforcement for the rule breakers? The GAO also says that the EPA’s ability to enfore their regulations is lacking. Even with the names of 43 “recyclers” that contacted an undercover GAO agent to sell broken CRTs overseas, the EPA doesn’t crack down.

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Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced Senate Bill 1397 last Monday, July 6. The bill proposes funding a grant program to research novel solutions to the electronic recycling issue. The ‘Electronic Device Recycling Research and Development Act’ will set up million dollar budgets to be handed out by the Environmental Protection Agency in accordance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

So what issues have we to face down in this fast-paced, technological era? SB 1397 and many e-recycling proponents wish to stem the ever-increasing waste stream and believe the steps to take are:

  • Increased efficiency of collection and recycling
  • Expanded uses for the material make-up of machines
  • Find environmentally friendly alternatives to toxic components that currently do the job
  • Find environmentally friendly way to dispose of the existing toxic elements
  • Reconsider product design to make more recycle-able systems
  • Reduce the rapid obsolescence of electronics
  • Make upgrades and reuse easier
  • Increase awareness about the need to e-cycle

Have any ideas?

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At the Turn In Your Tube event in Houston, Texas, on June 12, CompuCycle’s Commercial Vice President Clive Hess and Procurement Officer Denia Mejia taught over 500 children a little bit more about the electronics they use in their home every day.

Did you know that a 36″ TV with a weight of 119 pounds has the following material make-up:

  • Plastic – 20 lbs.
  • Boards – 5 lbs.
  • Speakers – 1 lb.
  • Wire – 4 lbs.
  • Yoke & Neck – 1 lb.
  • CRT Glass – 88 lbs. (Remember, CRT glass contains an average 6 to 8 pounds of lead!)

Stopping by our booth was Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, our partner in the preceeding day’s press conference to push for mandatory TV manufacturer recycling programs.

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PBS Frontline ran a sobering documentary last night detailing the trade of e-waste from US homes and businesses to Chinese, Ghanaian, and Indian landfills.

Watch it here now.

Accompanied by graduate students, Correspondent Peter Klein tracks two PCs from California to Hong Kong, interviews an e-waste broker, and discovers wedding pictures from a resold hard drive in Ghana.

Feeling a little less secure about your recycling options? One striking part of the film is during the secretly taped interview with the e-waste broker. He repeats: Recycling always costs money. Watch the documentary to understand why its worth it.

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