Many of the sustainability challenges that we prioritize at Samsung – whether it be realizing a circular economy or optimizing energy efficiency – are enhanced through partnerships and collaborative initiatives with credible, knowledgeable, and innovative brands, environmental organizations, and industry groups. Together with these like-minded eco-friendly allies, we are putting our scale, global presence, and pioneering spirit to work on building a more sustainable and equitable future. As part of our “Partners in Sustainability” series, Samsung’s esteemed partners are sharing their views on how tackling environmental challenges requires unparalleled cooperation.
Name: John Shegerian
Years working together: ERI has been working with Samsung since 2010.
Partnership focus: The focus of the relationship is the responsible recycling and data destruction of electronics that have reached the end of their useful lives. By the end of this year, ERI will have responsibly recycled approximately 550 million pounds of electronic waste for Samsung.
1. Known in the industry as the “recyclers’ recycler,” ERI maintains eight NAID-, e-Steward-, and R2-certified, state-of-the-art electronic waste (e-waste) recycling centers, processing and responsibly recycling hundreds of millions of pounds of e-waste every year. What does sustainability mean to ERI?
ERI’s sustainability mission is to help our partners and customers achieve their zero waste, zero landfill, zero emissions goals. We are also laser-focused on helping businesses of all sizes engage in the circular economy, where all commodities go to beneficial reuse.
2. How is the Company achieving its sustainability goals?
In terms of carbon impact, ERI is already net positive and has achieved our Zero Waste goals. The next step in our sustainability mission is to help create generational change as we help move our society from a linear to circular economy and to improve access to safe and secure e-waste recycling to all.
3. How are you realizing those goals in partnership with Samsung?
We can never accomplish our sustainability mission without partners like Samsung. Samsung has been a client and partner for over 12 years and an industry leader in sustainability since the inception of our relationship. The company’s unwavering commitment to high standards and desire to make the world a better, more sustainable place, has helped to inspire us to continually improve our processes and procedures as well as those of our partners. This long-term partnership enables us to build our collection networks and to ensure that we have the material needed to support a circular economy.
4. Why do you think collaboration is one of the keys to unlocking solutions to the climate crisis?
Collaboration is one of the absolute keys to overcoming climate issues because no one can get there alone. There’s an exponentially positive result that occurs when a good collaboration takes hold. Samsung reduces its climate impact by working with partners such as ERI to ensure its products are recycled at the end of their life and by sourcing materials towards circularity, while recyclers like ERI need the support of partners such as Samsung to sustain strong collection networks. Strategic collaborations allow us to make the world a greener, better, and more sustainable place faster than if we were to try to accomplish these goals alone.
5. What are some ways you’re encouraging businesses to join the responsible recycling effort?
Education has always been a priority for ERI. For example:
We have spent millions of dollars over more than a decade creating and curating the Impact Podcast, where sustainable leaders from around the world are given a forum to tell their stories and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.
We have also spent many years and resources developing RecycleNation, a tool designed to improve environmental sustainability and circular economy initiatives that features the world’s largest recycling database, with more than 100,000 unique data points for over 100 different recyclable items, all offered to the public free of charge. Since 2007, RecycleNation has helped over 10 million customers find recycle locations. Today, RecycleNation now helps over 300,000 unique visitors per month with their specific recycling needs.
We also recently published our ESG impact report to serve as a motivational and informational form of education to illustrate to other businesses how we are successfully tackling the problem of e-waste.
Historically, as part of our drive to educate the public about the importance of responsibly recycling electronics, the cofounders of ERI speak and deliver educational presentations at as many public events per year possible. Through our efforts, businesses have also begun to understand that responsible e-waste recycling is also tied closely to their data security requirements as more and more products contain personal and protected data.
6. Recently, you opined that “2022 needs to be the year that technology recycling goes mainstream.” Tell us more about this strong circular stance.
Responsible electronic waste recycling is one of the best kept secrets of the growing circular economy. When we started our company almost 20 years ago, e-waste was the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Because of the ubiquity of electronics today (automobiles being computers on wheels, wearables everywhere and on everyone, the Internet of Things, A.I., the switch from 4G to 5G, etc.) has made e-waste not only the fastest growing waste stream in 2022, but the waste stream that is growing 3-5 faster than the second fastest. And here’s the best kept secret of the circular economy: when electronic waste is responsibly recycled, it’s a zero waste, zero landfill, zero emissions business – with all commodities going back into the circular economy for beneficial reuse. As we’ve seen over the past few years, as demand grows, our global supply chain is in a delicate situation, and the reliance on the imports of crucial materials from around the world. Circularity is no longer an environmental goal, but a geopolitical necessity.
7. Besides being an environmental issue, ERI considers e-waste to be a cybersecurity matter as well. Can you share more about the personal and professional risks?
All the data that is contained in our old tech and hardware needs to be destroyed when the device comes to its end of life. Whether the hardware is coming from our homes or our businesses, if this hardware gets into the hands of cybercriminals, catastrophic results can occur, exposing the private information of individuals, families, or businesses.
A sad but true fact is that cybercriminals successfully sold over three trillion dollars of stolen data in 2015. In 2021, that number has risen to over six trillion. Just because we protect ourselves using cybersecurity firms, firewalls, and protective software does not mean the data on our hardware is safe or that an employee doesn’t have protected information saved outside those protections. This has been a particularly important issue as we have shifted towards BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and remote work. If we allow our hardware to be mishandled or misappropriated when it comes to its end-of-life, we are putting ourselves, our organizations and even in some cases our homeland security in peril.
For more on the link between responsible recycling and cybersecurity, check out this Fortune Magazine article.
In recognition of Samsung’s continued environmental leadership and innovation, Samsung Electronics America has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including with a recent Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Gold Tier Award – the EPA’s highest award for the responsible recycling of e-waste. Interested recycling your Samsung device? To find a device drop-off location near you, please visit: https://www.samsung.com/us/aboutsamsung/sustainability/environment/responsible-recycling/programs/.