Globally Focused Organization Replaces R2 Solutions
By: Dan Leif

The administrators of the R2 standard today introduced a new organizational structure that they say will help open the door to safer handling of used electronics in developing nations.

R2 Solutions, the group that up until now has administered the R2 certification, is dissolving to make way for an organization called SERI (Sustainable Electronics Recycling International). John Lingelbach, who led R2 Solutions and is now SERI's executive director, said the R2 certification and all other R2 Solutions assets are being transferred to the new group.

"Our primary focus remains the R2 Standard – its administration and promotion," Lingelbach told E-Scrap News. "We will not be reducing the level of effort or service we put into the R2-specific work. Beyond this, having the standard housed in an organization that does more to advance responsible electronics recycling around the world will increase awareness and the stature of the certification."

The R2 certification is one of two major North American standards employed by e-scrap recycling organizations to verify their operations follow best practices in the environmental, health and safety (EHS) realm – e-Stewards is the other main industry standard. According to a SERI press release, more than 540 facilities in 17 countries currently hold R2 certification.

But while the vast majority of those R2 facilities are located in North America and other wealthier areas across the globe, the shift to SERI seems to have been driven in large part by a desire among Lingelbach and other R2 leaders to influence policy and practices in less-developed nations. The move also provides the funding structure to make such projects a reality.

The SERI website, which went live today, outlines projects the group is undertaking in Kenya and India, two nations that have not traditionally been pegged as e-scrap dumping grounds but which are generating large tonnages of old electronics and which don't have many formal reuse and recycling procedures in place.

The Kenya initiative is already underway, Lingelbach told E-Scrap News. SERI is working with two e-scrap companies in the African nation and working to analyze how their operations can be improved from environmental and worker safety perspectives. U.S.-based auditing firm Greeneye Partners is assisting on the effort.

In India, SERI is set to begin a partnership with Switzerland-based Sofies SA, a firm that helps bring environmentally focused practices into industrial applications. Sofies has a branch in the Indian city of Bangalore, and SERI's goal with the partnership is to develop EHS guidelines for small and medium-sized electronics recyclers in the country.

"Kenya has the only e-recycling facilities we are aware of in Africa, other than South Africa, that are already in a position to develop and utilize EHS management systems," Lingelbach said. "In India, we were approached about doing a project with smaller companies that want to do the 'right thing' but don’t have sufficient capital to get certified. We anticipate work in Nigeria and China, and potentially Ghana. We just haven’t gotten there yet."

Lingelbach said the immediate goal in India and Kenya will be establishing guidelines and procedures for processors. Rolling out the actual R2 standard in those markets may come at a later time. It's worth noting that three Indian companies already hold R2 certification.

Lingelbach also noted financial strategy played a major part in the decision to dissolve R2 Solutions and launch SERI. Both organizations were built as nonprofit groups, but R2 Solutions was classified as a 501(c)(4), a broad category and one which does not allow for charitable contributions made to groups to be tax deductible for the contributor.

SERI, on the other hand, was formed as a 501(c)(3) organization, which means it can accept funding from foundations. This fact will likely help SERI land funding for global initiatives.

"It is an important piece of the change because it will enable us to support financially the work that goes beyond administering and promoting the R2 Standard," Lingelbach said.

According to the SERI website, the group will also aim to advance e-scrap education in markets worldwide.

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