Microsoft is officially a founding member of R2 Leaders, a group dedicated to responsibly recycling used electronics. The company joins other technology companies including Sony America, Xerox and Goodwill Industries in this endeavor.
"This reflects Microsoft's commitment to support the development of standards for better reuse and recycling of electronic devices around the world," said Josh Henretig, group manager of Environmental Sustainability at Microsoft. "We are excited to demonstrate our commitment to the responsible recycling of electronics by becoming a founding member of the R2 Leaders program," he said in a statement.
The R2 Standard calls for recyclers to take into account stringent environmental, health and security requirements for the safe handling of electronics. This standard "ensures that more toxic material streams are managed safely and responsibly by downstream vendors—all the way to final disposition," according to Henretig. Currently, 540 facilities across 17 countries carry an R2 Standard certification.
Henretig added that R2 "prohibits e-recyclers and their downstream vendors from exporting these more toxic materials to countries that have enacted laws making their import illegal."
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), of the 29.4 million computers disposed of in 2009, only 18 million were recycled, or only 38 percent of their total weight.
The figures are even worse when it comes to mobile devices; an estimated 129 million mobile devices were disposed of in 2009, but only around 11.7 million were recycled. By weight, only 8 percent were reintroduced to the electronics manufacturing supply chain.
Microsoft says that it will reduce the number of devices that end up contaminating the environment. One way is to extend the lifecycle of used electronics. To that end, Microsoft is encouraging "Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher" (MAR) and "Microsoft Registered Refurbisher" programs "to look at certification as a way to improve their business. For example, the new R2 2013 Ready for Reuse option is a great way to demonstrate the value of the refurbished PCs they offer," said Henretig. R2 will also be taken into consideration when Microsoft evaluates IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) suppliers for its recycling programs.
Microsoft runs recycling programs for its own Surface, Xbox and Nokia devices.