Electronic Recyclers International (ERI) has become the first in the recycling industry to adopt Basel Action Network’s new EarthEye electronic waste tracking system. By providing a downstream performance audit every 24 hours, the system promises to help organizations detect fraud or contractual violations.
EarthEye works through the installation and deployment of trackers that allow corporations, governments, and institutions to see exactly where their e-waste is globally at any time.
Tracking units with non-lithium-ion batteries send GPS location data directly to a secure, third party server. A customized user interface lets EarthEye subscribers access their data at any time on computers or mobile devices, Basel Action Network’s site explains.
Traditional audits, inspections, and diligent compliance officers aren’t enough to protect a company’s reputation and resources, notes Basel Action Network (BAN), a Seattle-based charitable organization focused on ending toxic trade and hazardous electronics waste dumping. E-waste can be mined by criminals for business data, exported to polluting operations, and dumped illegally.
“Really bad things can happen if you don’t know precisely where your old electronics end up,” said Jim Puckett, BAN’s executive director. “Our tracking studies have shown that there are just too many risks and too many so-called recyclers willing to take them. It is vital therefore that any company verify vendor promises.”
Electronics recycling, when done correctly, can be both sustainable and economical. A study published this year showed that recovering gold, copper, and other metals from electronic is actually 13 times cheaper than extracting metals from mines. However, BAN found that more than 40% of e-waste tracked from the United States was exported mainly to polluting operations in Asia.
BAN’s electronic waste tracking techniques have led to federal indictments, convictions, and prosecutions against a number of companies for fraud and environmental crimes, according to the organization. That includes recyclers used by many Fortune 500 companies, BAN says.
Aaron Blum, ERI’s co-founder, chief operating officer, and chief compliance officer said that BAN’s tracking systems have long proven to be ahead of the curve. He added that EarthEye would help his company demonstrate responsibility and transparency around due diligence, environmental stewardship, and data security.
ERI isn’t alone in using EarthEye. Dell noted in the company’s recent corporate social responsibility report that they will send 40 electronic devices containing hidden EarthEye trackers into their US consumer disposition stream. The company’s pilot program with BAN is an effort to see if electronics end up where they’re intended to go.