The e-Stewards Initiative is a project of the Basel Action Network (BAN), which is a 501(c)3 non-profit, charitable organization of the United States, based in Seattle, Washington. It is against the backdrop of the growing e-waste crisis that the e-Stewards Initiative was born. Without appropriate national and international legislation or enforcement in place in many regions, it is unfortunately left up to individual citizens, corporations, universities, cities – all of us – to figure out how to prevent the toxic materials in electronics from continuing to cause long term harm to human health and the environment, particularly in countries with developing economies.
Basel Action Network
The Basel Action Network (BAN) was founded in 1997 and named after the Basel Convention, the United Nations treaty that restricts trade in hazardous wastes and was intended to stop the dumping of toxic waste on developing nations. In the last decade, BAN has exposed the toxic trade issue to the world via investigations, reports and documentary films on two of the largest illegal hazardous waste streams traded internationally today: electronic waste and toxic ships destined for ‘recycling’ in developing countries. Today, BAN is not only the leading global source of information and advocacy on toxic trade and international hazardous waste treaties, but it has also developed market-based solutions that rely on the highest standards for globally responsible recycling and rigorous independent certification to those standards.
Tens of millions have witnessed BAN’s images of children handling poisonous electronic waste in sweatshop conditions in Asia and Africa. Despite BAN’s success targeting the e-waste problem, our surging consumption and disposal of technology means more electronic waste than ever is drowning poor communities in toxins around the globe. Laws and regulations aren’t enough, and regulatory solutions in the United States and elsewhere continue to be opposed by powerful industry groups and others seeking to maintain today’s cheap and dirty status quo. See the BAN website for a full listing of BAN’s activities to stop the tide of toxic waste around the world.
The history of e-Stewards
In 2003, BAN followed in the footsteps of Fair Trade Coffee, the Forest Stewardship Council, and other NGO efforts by helping consumers and businesses make the right choices, and launched the e-Stewards Pledge program. Over 40 e-recyclers with 100 locations across the US were qualified by BAN as meeting a pledge to use only globally responsible, safe means to process e-waste. BAN’s Pledge remained the only program in North America that made significant strides to establish and ensure e-recycling best practices for the toxic materials: no disposal in landfills or incinerators, no prison labor, and no export to poor communities.
In January 2006, BAN set aside early efforts to transition the Pledge program into an independently audited certification program in order to fully participate in the US EPA-funded “Responsible Recycling” (R2) multi-stakeholder process to create a voluntary e-recycling standard in the U.S. After contributing significantly to this process for two and a half years, the environmental community gave up on it because the multi-stakeholder group, including industry and trade associations, voted to field test a draft R2 standard that would knowingly allow the violation of laws in importing countries, as well as allow toxic substances in solid waste disposal facilities. BAN was subsequently asked by leaders in the recycling and asset recovery industries to create a truly rigorous, internationally compliant certification program that would assure full conformance to a comprehensive suite of e-recycling best practices. The e-Stewards Certification for electronics recyclers was initiated in late 2008, and in early 2010 the first certified e-Steward recyclers and the first three accredited e-Stewards certification bodies were announced. At the same time, the first U.S. businesses, including several Fortune 500 companies, committed to targeting the use of e-Stewards Recyclers for their electronic asset disposition services and became e-Stewards Enterprises.
What’s next for the e-Stewards Initiative?
The e-Stewards certification program for electronics recyclers is designed to provide market incentives that drive the certification of the entire recycling chain that is managing the toxic materials. In addition, early efforts are underway to develop a program to qualify or certify companies who collect and transport electronics, in order to increase the total volumes of electronics managed in a globally responsible manner. Together, these programs will create a network of responsible collection and processing entities, ensuring businesses and consumers alike that their old technology will not poison vulnerable populations, recycling workers or the global ecosystem.
In November, 2008, over 14 companies and 6 foundations demonstrated their commitment to fair and just recycling practices and became e-Stewards Founders through generous contributions funding the creation of a robust e-Stewards certification program.
BAN is a 501(c)3 charitable organization of the United States, based in Seattle, Washington.