According to environmental non-profit Basel Action Network (BAN), electronics recycling may not be quite as straightforward as consumers believe. While some electronics are safely dismantled and have their components scrapped or re-used, the recycling process consists of a complex, multi-step supply chain that ends in the developing world, where e-waste is often exported for treatment and oversight is minimal.
BAN indicates that unsafe environmental and labor conditions are common and have a devastating impact on the countries receiving electronics recyclables. Increased transparency, however, could offer a potential solution — and HP Inc. is ready to rise to the challenge.
“HP is disclosing its recycling partners to raise the bar for transparency in our industry and to highlight the high standards we set for those vendors,” said Annukka Dickens, HP Director of Human Rights and Supply Chain Responsibility. “We challenge other companies in and outside of the high-tech industry to follow our lead and disclose recycler vendor standards and performance, as well as the list of recycling vendors they employ globally.”
HP is currently one of high tech’s most active recyclers, having recaptured and recycled more than 3.3 billion pounds of computer and printing hardware and 682 million ink and toner cartridges since 1987.
A key part of HP’s circular economy strategy is responsible recycling of used electronics, which encompasses industry-leading recycling and reuse standards, a robust recycler audit program and close engagement with recycling partners. The company is working towards reducing resource consumption by reinventing product design to extend the life of products, shifting to service models and transforming how whole industries design, make and distribute products through disruptive technologies, such as 3D printing.
Through its HP Planet Partners program, HP offers takeback and recycling programs to keep used electronics and printing supplies out of landfills in more than 70 countries and territories. It also collaborates with governments and industry stakeholders to promote innovative solutions for managing electronics equipment at the end of its life cycle.
As part of the company’s stringent recycling vendor management process, HP requires every specialist vendor to execute environmentally-responsible processing techniques, comply with relevant government regulations and achieve additional commitments like ethical labor practices and conformance to the Basel Convention, which limits shipment of non-functional electronics between countries.
In addition, vendors must attain third-party certification, such as **e-**Stwards, R2 or WEEELABEX, where applicable, and must also submit to regular audits.
In 2015, HP conducted audits at 58 facilities in 20 countries, including audits to follow up on previous findings and confirm ongoing commitment to responsible practices and improved performance. In extreme cases, vendors are not allowed to continue recycling on HP’s behalf if they do not work to address nonconformance identified during audits.
“People should know how and where their equipment is recycled. We encourage customers to ask questions about what really happens to the equipment they return,” said Dickens.