R2 Recycling – Electronic Waste and R2 Certification

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The United States is one of the largest producers of e-waste in the world. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans generated approximately 6.92 million metric tonnes of e-waste in 2019, which accounted for about 14% of the total global e-waste generated in the same year.

Only a tiny percentage of this waste is correctly recycled, with a significant portion ending up in landfill or exported to developing countries, where it is often mishandled, causing environmental and health issues.

Why Is E-Waste A Problem?

Electronic waste—or e-waste—is a significant global problem.

The volume of e-waste is an issue with rapid technological advancements leading to faster replacement cycles and more obsolete items. Electronics often contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. If not properly disposed of, these materials can leach into the environment, causing significant contamination that poses risks to human health. In addition, e-waste may contain valuable resources like gold, silver, copper, and rare earth metals, meaning that the improper disposal of such items results in wasted resources. Many electronics are still functional when discarded and can be refurbished and reused instead.

The health risks of improper e-waste treatment are also an issue, exposing workers to dangerous substances. According to the World Health Organization, only 17% of e-waste is properly processed. Materials such as lead can be released into the environment through activities such as open burning of landfills, putting children and pregnant women at particular risk.

There is a growing issue with illegal e-waste exports from developed to developing countries, leading to unsafe recycling practices and environmental hazards.

Read our guide to waste management and business recycling tips.

Why is e-waste a problem? - e-waste at landfill

What is R2 (Responsible Recycling) Certification?

R2 (Responsible Recycling) certification is an industry-leading standard for electronics recycling. Issued by SERI (Sustainable Electronics Recycling International), it ensures that organizations manage and recycle electronic waste safely, responsibly, and sustainably.

The standard also aims to prevent unnecessary recycling and promote reusing products with some operational life left. This supports the secondary market for consumer electronics (CE) and explains why the R2 standard is essential to CE manufacturers, OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), retailers, and resellers.

What does R2 certification cover?

R2 certification ensures that electronic waste is managed responsibly, focusing on environmental sustainability, data security and worker health and safety. It assures customers, partners, and regulatory authorities that the certified organization follows best practices in handling electronic waste.

The R2 standard covers a comprehensive range of areas, including:

  • Environmental, health, and safety management systems (EHSMS)—This ensures certified organizations have robust processes to mitigate environmental impacts, protect worker health and safety, and handle emergencies. For more details about EHS management systems, watch this short video here.
  • Reuse and reallocation—The standard strongly emphasizes reusing and refurbishing electronic equipment whenever possible instead of discarding it.
  • Data destruction—The R2 standard includes strict guidelines for data destruction to guarantee the privacy of sensitive information on electronic devices is maintained.
  • Legal compliance—R2-certified organizations are expected to comply with all applicable local, state, federal, and international laws and regulations regarding e-waste management.
  • Downstream management—R2 certification requires organizations to monitor and manage their recycling chain, ensuring that e-waste is handled appropriately at each stage.
  • Storage and security—The standard outlines specific requirements for securely storing e-waste and safeguarding against unauthorized access. View a summary of all R2 Core Requirements here.

Attaining R2 certification involves an in-depth audit of an organization’s practices by an independent third-party certifying body such as Orion Registrar. It is a rigorous process, ensuring a business operates to the highest standards in electronics recycling. Organizations that achieve R2 certification must also undergo regular audits to maintain their status. To find out more about building a robust internal audit program, click here.

Your organization will also need to hold an existing certification in Environmental, Health and Safety Management System (EHSMS), such as ISO 14001 as a framework.

This is because R2 expands on this framework and will involve an internal document audit followed by a practical audit.

Find out what ISO 14001 means for your business, and access our free ISO 14001 training to get started.

What does R2 certification cover?

What Organizations Should Get R2 Certification?

Organizations that should consider obtaining R2 certification include those involved in managing, refurbishing, and recycling electronic waste (e-waste). These may include:

  • E-waste recycling facilities—Companies or organizations that recycle electronic waste, including the dismantling, refurbishing, and processing of electronic devices.
  • Electronics refurbishers—Companies that refurbish used electronic equipment for resale or reuse.
  • IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) providers—Companies that handle the end-of-life management of IT assets, including the secure disposal and recycling of electronic devices.
  • Waste management companies—Businesses that handle electronic waste as part of their services.
  • Electronic manufacturers—Some electronics manufacturers may seek R2 certification as part of their commitment to responsible and sustainable product life cycle management.
  • Government agencies—Government organizations responsible for managing electronic waste in their jurisdictions may also seek R2 certification to ensure environmentally sound practices.
  • Non-profit organizations—Non-profits involved in e-waste management and recycling may seek R2 certification to demonstrate their commitment to responsible practices.

Read our guide to how your business can be more sustainable.

Why Your Business Should Get R2 Certification

With today’s focus on e-waste and environmental issues, having R2 certification is no longer a luxury but a necessity.

The benefits of R2 certification, including enhanced reputation, regulatory compliance, and access to new markets typically far outweigh the costs and effort involved in obtaining and maintaining the certification.

The primary benefits of R2 Recycling certification include:

Reputation and Credibility

Gaining R2 certification communicates to customers, partners, and stakeholders that your business follows best practices for electronic waste recycling. It helps your company or organization stand out in a crowded market and builds trust.

Compliance With Regulations

By ensuring compliance with local, national, and international e-waste regulations, R2 certification can help your business avoid fines, legal issues, and reputational damage.

Environmental Responsibility

R2 certification helps demonstrate your business’s commitment to environmental sustainability. This can be a powerful marketing tool and can help attract environmentally conscious customers and partners.

Risk Reduction

Adhering to R2 certification standards reduces the risk of data breaches and accidents due to improper handling of electronic waste.

Access to New Markets

Many organizations and government agencies require their electronics recyclers to be R2 certified. Having this certification can make your business more competitive and open up new, potentially lucrative markets.

Efficient Business Operations

Obtaining and maintaining R2 certification encourages businesses to regularly review and improve their operations. This can lead to greater efficiency and cost savings.

Employee Safety

The R2 standard includes requirements for protecting employee health and safety. This can lead to a safer work environment and potentially lower insurance costs.

Benefits of the R2 certification checklist

Start Your Journey to R2 Certification

Our team of expert advisors here at Orion are on hand to help you on your journey to R2 Certification. Start your certification journey today.

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Written by

Julian Russell

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