You think you’re doing the right thing by hiring an R2* certified company to recycle your old technology, and in 70% of the time, you’re right. But a PBS News Hour investigation revealed that not all companies can be trusted.

According to PBS, “dead electronics make up the world’s fastest-growing source of waste. The United States produces more E-Waste than any country in the world. Electronics contain toxic materials like lead and mercury, which can harm the environment and people. Americans send about 50,000 dump trucks worth of electronics to recyclers each year.”

Jim Puckett, executive director and founder of the Basel Action Network (BAN), decided to verify if American recycling businesses are actually doing what they promise to their clients.

Puckett and the BAN team conducted a two-year investigation to determine what happens to dead electronics when they are in possession of recycling companies. To do so, BAN partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to place 200 geolocating tracking devices inside technology marked for recycling, such as computers, TVs and printers.

Guiyu - E-waste village

BAN dropped off the tracked items at donation centers, recyclers and electronic take-back programs all over the country. All the companies that processed the tracked devices advertise themselves as “green,” “sustainable,” “earth friendly” and “environmentally responsible.” Some are even R2 certified.

Puckett and his team found out that, instead of being recycled, a third of the tracked devices were exported overseas. BAN found tracked electronics in Mexico, Taiwan, China, Pakistan, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Canada and Kenya. But the most popular destination for E-Waste turned out to be rural Hong Kong.

Puckett decided to go to Hong Kong to find out where E-Waste was shipped to and what happens to it once in overseas facilities. Puckett witnessed illegal workers working without masks or any safety measures.

But technically, American companies are allowed to export E-Waste. In fact, the United States is the only developed country that hasn’t signed the Basel Convention. The Basel Convention is an international treaty designed to prevent industrialized countries from shipping hazardous waste to less developed nations.

So when recycling old technology, make sure the company you hire is R2 certified and actually respects what the certification entails.

The magazine Facility Executive talked to John Lingelbach, executive director of SERI (Sustainable Electronics Recycling International) to know what SERI is doing to keep bad actors out of the R2 program.

This is what Facility Executive reported:

  • “Conducting unannounced audits of certified facilities, focusing primarily on their documentation of outbound shipments and downstream companies’ qualifications;
  • Implementing new auditor competency requirements, including a rigorous multi-day training course and examination; adding auditor qualifications regarding knowledge of the industry; and ultimately requiring full-fledged accreditation of each auditor by an independent auditor accreditation body;
  • Establishing new audit methodologies that will help auditors identify suspicious outbound shipments of equipment;
  • Enhancing requirements concerning the evidence auditors must collect and evaluate as they determine whether a recycler meets R2’s requirements;
  • Reviewing each auditor’s evidentiary reports and the certification decisions based on them.”


At ICT, transparency is key. Every technological device is processed by R2 certified staff in the ICT facility in Malden, Mass. ICT knows how important trust is and values its relationships with its customers. ICT cares about preserving our planet and helps companies all over the country to recycle E-Waste.


*The R2:2013 Standard is the latest version of R2, the electronics recycling industry’s leading certification. Each provision of the R2 Standard is designed to help ensure the quality, transparency, and environmental and social responsibility, of R2 Certified electronics recycling facilities.


READ MORE: How Your Old Flatscreen Ends Up In Hong Kong (via OPB)

At ICT, we’re all for anything that keeps electronics out of landfills. That’s why we tailor our electronics recycling solutions to fit each company’s unique needs.

Author Bio: Audrey Adam is the marketing manager at ICT. She has a background in journalism and blog writing.

Facility Executive
PBS NewsHour

Photo credit:, Creative Common License. Video Credit: EarthFixMedia



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