How Certifications In Electronics Recycling Are Shaping Export Realities

An excerpt from, E-Scrap News by Bobby Elliott

How R2 views shipment abroad

The R2 standard, meanwhile, does not ban shipments of e-scrap to developing countries. But it does require firms to ensure that such shipments, including those that contain potentially hazardous components – known as “focus materials” under R2 – are legal and follow the standard’s guidelines on documentation, downstream due diligence and management.

“I think that our missions are different,” said Corey Dehmey, SERI’s R2 director. “Here at SERI and R2, we’re looking at ensuring the responsible reuse and recycling of electronics around the world.”

Dehmey said, however, that R2 puts a strong focus on understanding where material is going abroad and how it is being managed once it arrives. “We’re concerned that it’s legal and that it’s being managed by a qualified downstream vendor that has the capabilities to properly manage it,” Dehmey stated.

Under the standard, certified firms shipping non-working devices or items containing focus materials (such as lead or mercury) are required to prove, first and foremost, the legality of the shipment. This requirement covers material that is sent to a downstream vendor or intermediary before being shipped to its ultimate destination.

Without certification, there is no confidence that exports are proper.
— Paul Burck of Orion Registrar

According to the standard, “Prior to shipment, the recycler shall identify the countries that are receiving or transferring such shipments, obtain documentation demonstrating that each such country legally accepts such shipments, and demonstrate compliance of each shipment with the applicable export and import laws.”

Dehmey added, “The standard doesn’t assume that it’s legal. Each R2-certified company is required to demonstrate that it’s legal with the documentation to support that.”

For instance, if a company attempts to send shipments containing focus materials to a country that has ratified the Basel Convention, it would likely be deemed illegal and therefore not permitted under R2. “If countries want to ban it or not, that’s up to them to decide and we respect that and require that it’s followed,” Dehmey said.

Downstream partners of R2-certified firms are not required to be certified to the standard, but are expected to manage the material “in a manner protective of worker health and safety, public health, and the environment,” the R2 document states.  This includes following a pre-established processing plan for focus materials and complying with the standard’s baseline on-site environmental, health and safety requirements.

For shipments of what it deems to be working devices, R2 has less demanding requirements. In addition to allowing tested and fully functional devices to be shipped overseas without extensive consent and legal documentation, the standard also allows shipments of devices that have been tested for “key functions.” This criteria, which does not exist under e-Stewards, is defined as “the originally-intended functions of a unit of equipment or component, or a subset thereof, that will satisfactorily serve the purpose(s) of someone who will reuse the unit.”

Dehmey stated that waste regulations abroad don’t often come into play with devices that are fully functional or have been tested for key functionality. “Tested, working devices are typically not considered a waste and therefore, in most countries, the waste regulations for import wouldn’t apply,” he noted.

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How Thailand Became the Latest Dumping Ground for the World's Electronic Waste

Latest e-waste Dumping Ground.png


May 30, 2018

China used to be one of the world’s premier dumping grounds for electronic waste, but that ended last year when the government banned such imports—yes, there are valuable materials that can be recovered from old computers and phones, but there’s a lot of poisonous stuff in there too, and people involved in the recycling industry were suffering chronic health problems.

So now it’s Thailand’s turn. As detailed in a new Reuters report, the authorities there are now battling illegal imports of discarded electronics, by companies that have no license to bring them in.

“Electronic waste from every corner of the world is flowing into Thailand,” said Thailand’s deputy police chief, Wirachai Songmetta, as he showed reporters seven seized shipping containers on Tuesday.

e-End gives everyone the opportunity to empty their storage rooms of unused electronics and have them 100% recycled. We strictly adhere to Responsible Recycling (R2) standard to reduce electronics waste.

That seizure was accompanies by charges against three recycling and waste processing companies that, Wirachai said, “don’t have a quota to import even a single ton of electronic waste.” The containers were filled with around 22 tons of waste.

China’s ban on the importation of dozens of types of foreign waste led some to fear that the waste would just end up elsewhere in the region. “Especially after China’s ban, Thailand could become one of the biggest dumping grounds for e-waste,” Penchom Saetang of Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand told Reuters, warning that the country needed better enforcement of its laws to combat the problem.

Last week, Thai police raided at least four factories near Bangkok, finding almost 100 tons of electronic waste.

The authorities said they suspected a Taiwanese company had imported the waste using a loophole that permits the importation of second-hand appliances. Workers at the factories were dismantling the waste while wearing only basic face masks and cloth gloves for protection.

Electronic waste processing can harm people’s health by bringing them into direct contact with materials such as lead and cadmium, and by exposing them to toxic fumes.


Apple's GDPR Privacy Upgrade: Everything You Need To Know

Included in Apple's update to comply with the EU's GDPR, customers will be able to download all the information Apple keeps about them.

Apple is updating its products and services to bring the company in line with the EU’s forthcoming privacy protection rules, General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Among other improvements, customers will be able to download all the information Apple keeps about them.

What Apple has done so far

Apple recently introduced updated privacy protections across all its products, which now offer a new Data & Privacy screen during setup. This explains how Apple and apps use your data and promises that the company’s solutions are designed to minimize the collection and use of your data. It also describes how on-device processing is used whenever possible.

What is GDPR?

The GDPR rules are designed to bring existing data protection laws into the 21st century. They give individuals the right to see what information companies hold about them, oblige business to handle data more responsibly, and put a new set of fines and regulations in place. Almost any entity that handles personal data will be impacted by the GDPR rules.

These changes may be taking place in Europe, but there is expectation most big tech firms will apply similar protections outside Europe, which will give more effective protection to most people — which is a good thing.

Why it matters

Europe’s tough stance on personal privacy had already prompted many in the tech industry to get their act together. The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal means many more of us now understand why such protection matters, particularly at a point in human history at which so much of what happens next will be defined by artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics. This information is powerful.

“We’ve never believed that these detailed profiles of people, that have incredibly deep personal information that is patched together from several sources, should exist,” Apple CEO TimCook recently said. They can be “abused against our democracy,” he observed.

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How e-Plastics recovery could increase with new solvent breakthrough

by Colin Staub

Researchers from the University of Illinois have developed a non-toxic method for recycling polycarbonate plastic, which is often used in electronics and other products but has been difficult to cost-effectively divert from the waste stream.


The researchers, Sriraam Chandrasekaran and B.K. Sharma, found that the solvent they chose can recover a clean stream of polycarbonate (PC) from e-plastics. It is particularly effective for plastics that contain just two polymers, such as PC and polyamide (PA).

The PC resin is known for durability and its ability to insulate electrical components. In addition to electronics, it is used regularly in construction and automotive applications.

The approach from Chandrasekaran and Sharma offers a non-toxic solution for recycling materials that have often been exported or sent to disposal. A select few North American facilities process e-plastics.

The research team hopes the solvent they studied, which is called N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP), can help make an impact quickly.

“The idea we had right from the beginning was commercialization,” said Chandrasekaran. “NMP is a commercially used solvent and it’s economically feasible as well.”

Chandrasekaran and Sharma are based at the Illinois Sustainability Technology Center (ISTC), a program of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois. They presented their research in a paper titled “Materials and energy recovery from e-waste plastics,” published in February in the ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering journal.

Connecting with phone processor

The team has worked on plastics recovery previously, targeting other resins and investigating the use of pyrolysis for materials that are not typically recovered in MRFs. After publishing a number of papers focused on that sector, the researchers came in contact with HOBI International.

HOBI processes mobile devices at a number of locations, including a Chicago facility near the researchers. HOBI leaders described to the research team how plastics in e-scrap are less frequently recycled than the higher value metals found in the stream.

“Most of the time it’s either incinerated or it ends up in a landfill,” Sharma explained. “We started researching how we can extract some useful polymer out of these plastics.”

Existing recovery methods often use other solvents and aim to dissolve the entire polymer, recovering the monomers for reuse. It can be “quite intensive, and not cost effective,” Chandrasekaran said.

There are also health and environmental concerns with existing practices. One common solvent, DCM, has a relatively low boiling point at about 35 degrees Celsius, and puts out carcinogenic vapor.

“We do not want to use some kind of solvent that, even at slight leakage, would threaten the environment,” Chandrasekaran said.

A cleaner solution

The team wanted to come up with a safe method of polymer recovery, and also wanted it to make use of a solvent that already exists and is commercially available. They set out on a research project funded in part by HOBI and by ISTC’s Hazardous Waste Research Fund.

Chandrasekaran and Sharma found their solution with the NMP solvent. It’s been used in the paint and petrochemical industries to strip off polymers in those applications. NMP has a boiling point of nearly 200 degrees Celsius and is non-carcinogenic. That means it can be heated to the point at which the polymers dissolve, without fear of vaporizing the solvent itself.

The team found NMP provides 89 percent recovery in certain cases.

For the best results, the process should be used on plastics that contain polycarbonate and one other polymer, such as polyamide. NMP yields polycarbonate of high purity, suitable for reuse in a variety of applications including electronics, construction materials and more.

The process is less well-suited for more complex materials that include additional polymers such as ABS or PMMA.

“For those types of plastics we found we can still recover polycarbonate from it, but it’s not very energy efficient or economical,” Sharma said.

The team tested a pyrolysis method to convert those more complex mixtures into oil. Doing so reduces the solid content of the plastic to about 40 percent of its original mass, and that material can be landfilled.

Next, the researchers plan to investigate solvent reuse, to determine how many times NMP can be recycled before it loses its potency. So far, they’ve found that it can be reused at least twice without losing efficacy.

“Once we demonstrate it on a larger scale, this is something that can be done in a centralized facility,” Sharma said.

The Possible Cure for Global e-Waste Problem

Video: Researchers at University of British Columbia may have just taken a significant step towards the zero-waste cellphone

The numbers behind smartphone waste are staggering. About 2 billion new phones are sold each year, and while many retailers, manufacturers, and waste management companies offer programs for e-waste recycling and resale, electronics still make up about 70 percent of the toxic waste in landfills. For example, according to Recode, the amount of gold currently sitting in landfills today is equivalent to about 11% of the gold mined each year.

The precious metals are a lucrative commodity for those willing to process the old electronics. If used phones can't be sold on the second-hand market, they typically wind up with e-waste recyclers who try to harvest the precious metals like silver, gold, palladium, and copper. While this is an improvement, it still leaves a lot of old phone components, like circuit boards, on the scrap heap.

Well, University of British Columbia researchers may have just taken a significant step towards the zero-waste cellphone. The researchers have created a process to separate fiberglass and resin, materials that are typically incinerated or tossed into a landfill after the metals have been harvested. In landfills, these components cause issues as they leach chemicals into the groundwater and soil.

The university's urban mining innovation center uses techniques, such as gravity separation, to process the fiberglass in an environmentally neutral way. The techniques isolate the fiberglass and resin based on the differences in their densities. After processing, the fiberglass can be used as a raw material for construction and insulation. If their process can be improved, it's possible that the fiberglass could even be used for new circuit boards.

The researchers have partnered with recycling company Ronin8 to try and develop a large-scale commercial model of the process. If successful, the technique could not only lead to a great reduction in e-waste but one day the elimination of electronics waste altogether.