All About ITAD e-Recycling Certifications

IT asset disposition is a very complex service and it can be confusing for organizations looking for a partner to dispose of their retired IT assets. Which certifications should a partner have? What data destruction methods does it use? This post is meant to illustrate what to look for in an ITAD partner and what the certifications mean so you can know as much as possible when you begin the selection process.

Why is working with a certified ITAD provider important?

Electronic devices contain many harmful metals, elements, and components, and to avoid them being disposed of in landfills where they degrade and contaminate the soil and water table, they must be responsibly recycled.

Working with a certified ITAD partner means you help:

  • Reduce the environmental and human health impacts from improper e-waste disposal
  • Increase access to reusable and refurbished technology to those that need it
  • Reduce the environmental and social impact of mining and processing of required elements and metals and conserve scarce natural resources
  • Ensure that your retired data-bearing devices are completely wiped and all data irrevocably destroyed, eliminating data risk

What electronic recycling standards are there?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes two accredited certification standards: the e-Stewards ®Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment” and the Responsible Recycling (R2) “Standard for Electronics Recyclers.”

Electronics recycling certifications exist so companies performing the work meet high environmental standards and safely manage used electronics. Independent 3rd party auditors called registrars perform audits to ensure the ITAD provider follows guidelines and continually meets the repair and recycling requirements in the standards.

Let’s start with an explanation of these two e-recycling certifications.

What is e-Stewards?

e-Stewards is an electronic waste recycling standard created in 2009 by the Basel Action Network. It was created to help solve the global issue of e-waste, and specifically that electronic waste from wealthy countries was being shipped to developing countries, where dismantling and processing the waste exposed workers, often under-aged, to toxic substances.

The “e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment” set standards for becoming a Certified e-Stewards Recycler, a program to differentiate responsible recyclers from those that aren’t. It calls the standard “the most stringent environmentally and socially responsible practices when recovering hazardous electronic materials.”

e-Stewards certified recyclers are required to have an ISO 14001 environmental management system in place, NAID AAA certification  for securely destroying data, achieve performance requirements, and guarantee it does not export hazardous electronic wastes to developing countries, does not use prison labor, and doesn’t dispose of toxic materials in landfills.

What is R2?

R2 is an abbreviation of Responsible Recycling and is an electronics recycling standard created by Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI) to promote the environmentally responsible repair and sustainable recycling of unused electronics.

The latest version of R2, which became effective January 1, 2022, is based on circular economy and sustainability principles. R2 requires that electronics be reused and recyclable materials recovered, even if it costs more than disposal.

What are the differences between e-Stewards and R2?

The two main electronic waste recycling standards applicable to ITAD providers are e-Stewards and R2. Responsible companies can obtain either certification after passing rigorous testing and evaluation, and both standards hold the recycling provider accountable for their processes and practices. So, what’s the difference between the two?

First, here are what both have in common:

  • Registered and supported by the U.S EPA
  • Verifiable adherence to safety and environmental compliance standards
  • Implemented processes to control and process e-waste according to EPA standards
  • Compliance with ISO 14001, an international environmental management system

But there are a few differences between the standards:

  • While both Standards require adherence to local, federal and international laws, e-Stewards cites specific international agreements and international laws that are required to adhere to (Basel Convention, Basel Ban, plastics controls)
  • e-Stewards requires that all corporate ITAD facilities be certified, which is not a requirement of R2
  • R2 has requirements to mitigate data security risks in it’s standard, e-Stewards requires all processors receive NAID AAA certification, the highest standard available for data destruction

Again, both organizations have common objectives – responsible electronics recycling and handling – but each has different guidelines for accomplishing the goal.

What about RIOS?

Another name and logo you’ll see on ITAD providers’ websites and marketing materials is RIOS, which stands for Recycling Industry Operating Standard – a program designed for recycling companies to improve their environmental, health, and safety performance.

RIOS is not an e-recycling certification in itself, rather, it is a quality, environmental, health and safety system that both e-Stewards and R2 accept as an alternative to the ISO 14001 certification.

One more acronym: NAID AAA

Another certification logo that many ITAD providers display online is NAID AAA.

NAID AAA the highest standard available for data destruction (the National Association of Information Destruction is the non-profit, standard-setting entity for the information destruction industry). To become NAID AAA certified, a company must go through comprehensive NAID training and then be subject to annual, unannounced third-party audits to ensure compliance.

ITAD organizations must pass these audits to maintain NAID AAA certification.

Regardless of who you decide to work with to dispose of your end-of-life technology, work with a partner that is certified in both sustainable and responsible e-waste recycling and data destruction. This decreases your data risk, the burden discarded electronics place on our environment, and the need to mine for natural resources required by technology.

The MCPC Old Brooklyn ITAD processing facility is e-Stewards, NAID AAA, and ISO 14001 certified. 

If you’d like to learn how an ITAD partner like MCPC can help you reach your sustainability and ESG compliance goals, contact us to have an introductory conversation because security and sustainability are built into everything we do..

We’re the Outcome Engineers. MCPC is a global endpoint management company, founded in 2002, and our approach inspires not just endpoint defense, but business offense. By protecting your devices, bringing simplicity to endpoint management complexity, and empowering employee performance, we reduce your business risk and increases digital innovation. Our consultative approach creates a true partnership where your endpoints are just the starting point.