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Many electronic items can be repaired and reused in second hand markets in the developed or developing world. Additionally, almost all electronics are recyclable, containing valuable metals and plastics that when separated can be resold as useful commodities. Unfortunately, many electronics are not recycled, instead finding their way into landfills or other disposal channels where rudimentary practices can cause serious human health and environmental harm.
In response to these challenges, a coalition of stakeholders including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, electronics manufacturers, major retailers, NGOs, electronics refurbishers and recyclers, and others, created the Responsible Recycling (R2) standard for safe, environmentally sustainable management of used electronics. Developed through a transparent, consensus-based process, the goal of the R2 standard was to develop a voluntary, market-based mechanism for expanding and encouraging the use of best practices for electronics refurbishing and recycling.
Responsible electronics recycling practices ensure that used electronics are handled in a way that encourages repair and reuse, safely reclaims metals, plastics and other materials for commodity resale, and guards against human health issues and environmental contamination brought on by improper recovery and disposal. R2 certification has been integral to the growth of responsible recycling worldwide and new changes to the standard aim to take these principles even further.
The R2 standard begins 2014 with incredible momentum. Over 500 facilities in 14 countries are now R2 certified with more becoming certified every week. Last July’s release of R2:2013, the first major update to the original R2 standard, added increased record keeping and reporting requirements, mandated certification to generally-accepted environmental health and safety requirements, and tightened requirements regarding how facilities that refurbish and recycle electronics address some of the most pressing environmental and human health risks associated with managing used electronics.
On 5 June 2014, R2 Solutions announced that a new organisation, Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), would succeed R2 Solutions in developing and promoting the R2 Standard.