Consumers Warned of e-Waste Recyclers that Don't Recycle
the wake of the Christmas electronic gadget buying season, the Basel
Action Network (BAN) and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition (ETBC)
cautioned consumers not to be fooled by the many hundreds of businesses
nationwide calling themselves electronics recyclers but in actuality
most don't do any recycling but instead ship electronic waste to
developing countries. There it is dumped or processed with primitive,
dirty technologies that threaten workers health and the global
The environmental groups have created a list of responsible
recyclers and are asking consumers to do business only with recyclers
on that list.
"We may think we're doing the right thing by giving our old
electronics to a 'recycler' or a free collection event," said Sarah
Westervelt, BAN's e-Stewardship program director. "But many of those
businesses calling themselves recyclers are little more than
international waste distributors. They take your electronic items for
free, or pocket your recycling fee, and then simply load them onto a
sea-going container, and ship them to China, India or Nigeria."
Once on foreign shores, your old computer or TV is likely to become
part of a cyber-age horror story, the groups stated. In China, woman
and children breathe in the lead-tin solder vapors as they cook circuit
boards, dioxins are produced when wires are burned and acids baths are
flushed into the rivers . In Nigeria the imports that are not
repairable are dumped and burned in swamps.
According to BAN and ETBC, the practice of shipping electronic waste
continues unabated in the United States because the government refuses
to ratify the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment,
international accords prohibiting trade in hazardous waste to
developing countries. As such exports are in contravention of
international law, but not U.S. law, U.S. "recyclers" are able to claim
they abide by all environmental laws, the groups stated.
To help distinguish between these exporters and globally responsible
recyclers, BAN and ETBC created the e-Stewards Initiative, a program
identifying North America's most responsible e-Waste recyclers that
have agreed to adhere to strict criteria created by the non-profit
environmental groups. The criteria require that no hazardous
electronics equipment or parts (as defined internationally) will be
exported to developing countries or be processed by captive prison
labor, and that none of it will end up in landfills or incinerators.
Responsible recyclers can be found at www.ban.org/pledge1.html or www.computertakeback.com/responsible_recycling/index.cfm.
Consumers are urged to avoid recyclers not on this list, including free
e-waste collection events that do not state that they only use
e-Stewards recyclers on this list.