Photo via Iowa Spirit Walker
The "Responsible Recycling (R2) Practices for Use in Accredited Certification Programs for Electronics Recyclers" is a new guide from the EPA that tells electronics recyclers how to run safe and eco-firendly operations.
However, what good it will actually do is up for debate.Here is a bit about what the guidelines hope to accomplish:
The R2 guide lists 13 principles to help electronics recyclers ensure their material is handled safely and legally in the U.S. and foreign countries. It calls on recyclers to establish a management system for environmental and worker safety; develop a policy that promotes reuse and material recovery over landfill or incineration; and use practices that reduce exposures or emissions during recycling operations. The principles also call for recyclers to use diligence to assure appropriate management of materials throughout the recycling chain, including materials that are exported to foreign countries.
But there is one giant caveat. The guidelines that promote the health and safety of both the environment and recycling plant workers is voluntary.
From Susan Parker Bodine, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response: "These voluntary guidelines will help assure Americans that their used electronics will be recycled safely and responsibly."
Really? Do voluntary guidelines really do much to assure us that safe practices are being followed?
It's great that the EPA puts out guides such as this. But it would be even better if it actually enforced guidelines. We've seen from the past that the EPA isn't exactly a leader in effective e-waste regulation. And a set of voluntary guidelines isn't exactly the best way to establish actual leadership. Taking action, such as what Waste Management has done, would be more to the point.