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July 1, 2011 > e-Stewards recycling ordinance

e-Stewards recycling ordinance

Electronic waste-collection activities required to use certified recyclers; recyclers encouraged to become certified

Submitted By Gwendolyn Mitchell and Lingxia Meng

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has adopted the e-Stewards Recycling Ordinance which regulates e-waste collection in the unincorporated area of the county and encourages proper management of electronic waste.

"Many county residents leave their e-waste at private recycling drives organized by schools and charities," said Supervisor Liz Kniss, District 5, who initiated the ordinance. "These residents believe they're doing the right thing by recycling their e-waste. However, there is no way for residents to be sure their e-waste will be ultimately recycled in a safe and globally responsible manner unless it goes to an e-Steward recycler. I'm proud Santa Clara County is the first government in the nation to take this step."

The e-Stewards Initiative is a program created by the Basel Action network, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization. All e-Stewards recyclers are committed to using best environmentally sound practices for the disposal of e-waste which include no disposal in landfills or incinerators; environmentally safe working conditions; no prison labor and no export to developing nations where e-waste is either dumped in landfills, incinerated or dismantled and handled by the young, the elderly and the socio-economically disadvantaged.

The ordinance requires all electronic waste collection activities in the unincorporated county, including curb-side and drop-off recycling, to use e-waste recyclers that are participants or certified in the e-Stewards Initiative.

"The e-Stewards Recycling Ordinance is the right thing to do to ensure proper disposal of used electronic devices," said President Dave Cortese, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. "The county is taking an important step to protect our environment, workers and communities."

To become e-Stewards certified, recyclers must meet the following requirements: attain International Standards Organization 14001 certification; maintain an annual licensing agreement with Basel Action Network; and be audited annually by one of the four independent auditing agencies qualified by Basel Action Network.

The direct cost of certification for businesses to become e-Stewards varies according to the size and complexity of the operation. The County's Household Hazardous Waste Program recycler is investing approximately $37,500 per facility to complete the certification process and expects to spend approximately $19,000 per year per facility to maintain the certification.

"My staff has met with a number of local businesses to discuss the ordinance over the past few months," said Kevin O'Day, Director of the County's Department of Agriculture and Environmental Management. "It's encouraging to see local e-waste recyclers initiating actions to become certified even before the ordinance was passed."

County staff conducted extensive outreach to local communities in anticipation of the Supervisors' consideration of the ordinance. The Board's adoption of the e-Stewards Recycling Ordinance is expected to encourage more local e-waste recyclers to obtain e-Stewards certification. Currently, there are four recyclers in Santa Clara County, none of which is in the unincorporated areas.

The ordinance takes effect on January 1, 2012.

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