Setting the Standard for Responsible Recycling of Electronics

Chris Cleet photo

Open, balanced and transparent standards are a critical part of the electronics industry, allowing manufacturers to develop parts that easily connect and interact with each other; better manage materials information in the supply chain; use uniform testing methods to determine regulatory compliance, and even develop the best way to display electronic pictures and videos.  More recently, standards have been used to set requirements for how to reuse, refurbish and recycle used electronics equipment in an environmentally-friendly manner.  

The Responsible Recycling (R2) standard is the only electronics standard in the world with a certification program that has been developed in an open, transparent process, having followed all generally accepted practices for due process, openness and balance, including meeting all of the requirements for “voluntary, consensus standards” in OMB Circular A-119.  It is an outcome-based standard that requires responsible management of materials through the entire recycling process, prohibits illegal export, transport and import of materials, and requires recyclers to set up processes that make sure recycling is safe and secure.  The R2 Standard is in the process of completing a significant update to become the R2:2013 Standard, making the standard more robust, clearer and easier to audit.  Additionally, in conjunction with the update, significant steps are being taken to ensure the quality of the R2 certification, making sure that recycling companies and the auditors that certify them are following the stringent requirements of the standard. 

The original R2 standard was developed several years ago by representatives of Government, the OEM community, recyclers, and other interested parties.   These stakeholders gathered to discuss the issue of improper electronics recycling, and what can be done to help fix it.   These stakeholders came up with the idea of developing the first-ever standard specific to environmentally-sound reuse and recycling of electronics.  From these meetings came the R2 Standard.  This standard set, for the first time, a high performance bar for the electronics recycling industry.  Once the standard was finalized in October 2008, I worked with a small group of the R2 “Founding Fathers” to help choose a home for this nascent standard.  The FFs looked at several options, eventually naming R2 Solutions as the administrator for R2.   This initiative makes it easy for consumers to know, when they see the R2 logo, that their used electronics will be safely managed in a sustainable manner, and that their personal data will be properly erased from their device. 

In 2011, R2 Solutions initiated the process of updating the original standard to reflect lessons learned from years of implementation, as well as to firm up sections of the standard that were clear on intent, but could benefit from further clarity on auditing and implementation.  As one of the co-chairs of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), I was co-responsible for ensuring that the process of updating the standard met all of the essential requirements for openness and balance, and I am pleased to say that we did.   The R2:2013 Standard was developed by a multi-stakeholder group, and the update met or exceeds all of my expectations for ensuring that the standard was clearer and more easily auditable.  Where appropriate and supported, the update even further ratcheted up the already high environmental standards contained in the original R2 standard.   I commend my fellow co-chair, Rike Sandlin of HiTech Assets, Inc., and the rest of the TAC in pushing the R2 standard to become even better.  

ITI continues to support open, transparent standards as solutions to technical issues, and I look forward to continuing to support R2 Solutions in the final stages of the R2:2013 update.  




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