Toxic e-waste exports by electronics recycler are uncovered
08 July 2011
The Basel Action Network (BAN), a toxic watchdog group, has announced that Illinois electronics recycler Intercon Solutions will be the first company denied the e-Stewards certification, which is available to electronics recyclers that can demonstrate that they operate in a truly responsible manner. BAN’s denial was based on ‘compelling evidence’ that Intercon Solutions had been engaged in exporting hazardous electronic waste to China.
Intercon Solutions has boasted to customers in brochures and on its website that it does not export any used electronics entrusted to it for recycling. However, on two separate occasions, BAN investigators photographed and tracked containers of electronic waste leaving property leased by Intercon Solutions in Chicago Heights on its way to China.
BAN alerted Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department, and, as the shipment contained hazardous waste, they subsequently required the shipment to be returned to the US. Hong Kong law forbids the importation of hazardous waste electronics such as cathode ray tubes and batteries.
Furthermore ,the import by developing countries of such wastes from the United States is also illegal under the United Nations’ Basel Convention.
“It is very sad that many e-waste recycling companies continue to pose as ‘responsible recyclers’ while they continue to export toxic waste,” said Basel Action Network's Executive Director, Jim Puckett. “In this case, we can take some satisfaction that our e-Stewards Certification screening methods and audit caught what BAN has every reason to believe is a violator.”
The final decision by BAN to deny the certification took place only after an on-site audit had been conducted and after direct discussions between BAN and Intercon Solutions failed to convince BAN that Intercon Solutions had not exported the toxic containers. Such export is a violation of the e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment, and is likely also to violate the importation laws of Hong Kong, the US federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and Illinois State Law governing the conduct of registered electronics recyclers.
BAN is the organisation that first revealed the primitive and damaging recycling that takes place in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and China, where US electronic waste is broken, melted, and burned often by children and pregnant women, resulting is severe environmental contamination and adverse health effects. High levels of lead have been found in the blood of the children in Guiyu, China, as a result of these dangerous recycling operations that receive US exported e-waste. More recent studies have linked DNA damage to exposure of Chinese workers at these operations. BAN’s initial discoveries of the crisis in 2001 lead to the development of the e-Stewards Certification programme to recognise responsible recyclers that do not export their toxic wastes to developing countries.
“The exportation of toxic e-Waste is harming communities around the world while consumers are being duped into thinking these recyclers are doing good. We need strong laws and robust certification programs to ensure this kind of unfair and damaging trade is stopped once and for all,” said Puckett.
In addition to the e-Stewards Certification, BAN and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition strongly support the recently introduced Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, which prohibits the export of toxic electronic wastes to developing countries.
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