How Fake Recyclers Try to Greenwash You


How can you know if you are dealing with a responsible recycler or a fake recycler?

The best thing is to work with an e-Steward, a recycler who uses responsible recycling practices. But many community recycling events use other vendors. So how can you know if they are exporting your old products or not?

You can’t really know for sure. It takes specially trained auditors to review them, which is why we recommend using a certified e-Steward.  But here are some warning signs and common misleading statements we hear from fake recyclers. Don’t settle for these as proof that these are legitimate recyclers.

Top ten warning signs and misleading statements by exporters

1. “We are EPA certified.”
Really? There is no such thing as EPA certification of recyclers. They might have an EPA ID number, but that has nothing to do with whether they export.

2. “We have a no landfill policy.”
That’s good, we don’t want e-waste in the landfill. But that has nothing to do with whether they are exporting or not. If that’s the extent of their statements about environmental objectives, be concerned.

3. “We follow all applicable state and federal laws.
The problem is that there are virtually no laws that stop U.S. companies from exporting e-waste. There is one regulation that addresses exports of Cathode Ray Tube TVs, but it doesn’t prevent them from being exported.

4. “We use a fully permitted facility”
There is nothing in any permitting process that addresses whether they export used electronics.

5. “We don’t export any equipment. Beware of tricky wording!  But do they sell to a broker who exports the equipment?  Commonly e-waste travels that route – from collector to a broker who arranges the actual export. “We don’t do it” isn’t the same as “we follow the chain of custody all the way to final disposition and we can guarantee that nothing is exported to developing nations.”  This is the most common language that exporters hide behind.

6. “We don’t export any e-waste.”  Beware of tricky wording!
Many companies (and their industry association) never call old electronics “waste.” They call it scrap. They don’t consider your old TV to be waste, so they are not exporting waste according to their own definitions. This is not the same as saying they don’t export used, non-working electronics.

7. “We provide a certificate of destruction/recycling
So can your ten year old kid. Anyone with a laser printer and a simple word processing program can print out a certificate. There is no oversight of this kind of certificate. Companies should never accept these as the only proof.

8. “We process everything in the U.S. and only export commodities for recycling.” More tricky wording! A commodity is anything that someone else will buy. So “exporting only commodities” is often a code for “we export whatever someone else will buy” even if it’s full of toxics.

9. We are R-2 Certified. 
R-2 is a standard that some electronics recyclers have been certified to. But it’s a weak standard that allows recyclers to export toxic e-waste to developing countries, under some conditions. It’s only the e-Stewards standard that prohibits exporting non-working or untested e-waste to developing countries.

10 We are ISO 14001 Certified
ISO 14001 is a standard for how a company sets up and runs its environmental management system. But it doesn’t give any guidance for what the the company will or won’t do regarding exporting e-waste.

Follow the Money.

Who is paying for the recycling? If they are collecting consumer products for free, either someone is paying the recycling costs, or they are probably exporting. If they are collecting TVs for free (or a small fee) then be particularly suspicious, as it costs money to process tube TVs safely. You may be in a state where there is a mandated e-waste program that the manufacturers pay for. But find out who is paying.