Beware Free Electronic Waste Collection Events 'For the Environment'
Activists Voice Concern over 1-800-GOT-JUNK? April 19 Event
BAN Press Release
15 April 2008 (Seattle, Washington) – In anticipation of a national electronic waste collection event next Saturday, the Basel Action Network (BAN), a global toxic-trade watchdog organization, warned consumers today not to be fooled by electronic recyclers or recycling events calling themselves "responsible" and "good for the environment". While many consumers and event organizers are well intentioned, more often than not, the toxic e-waste ends up being exported by so-called "recyclers" to developing countries. According to BAN, between 50-80 percent of all electronic waste delivered to recyclers in North America does not get recycled at all in Canada or the US, but is quickly placed on a container ship bound for Asia or Africa for alleged reuse or recycling. There it is most often dumped or processed with primitive, dirty recycling technologies that threaten workers health and the environment. Due to the Basel Convention, in international treaty which is now ratified by 170 countries, such trade from the US is illegal, but the US, being the only developed country failing to ratify the treaty, leaves open a door to illegal waste traffic. Further, many so-called recyclers often fail to take steps to wipe the data from the hard-drives leaving one's private data available to be read by anyone.
||A typical "free" e-waste
"The e-waste road to hellish recycling activities in developing countries is paved with good intentions," said Jim Puckett, coordinator of BAN. "But don't be duped by claims of 'recycling', 'responsibility' and keeping toxic wastes out of our landfills. Global dumping in the name of these things is the norm leading to damage and disease to human health and the environment and leaves consumers vulnerable to identity theft, fraud, or blackmail."
BAN feels compelled to raise the alarm this week in anticipation of a massive North American free e-waste collection event sponsored by the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? disposal franchise company. The e-waste event is scheduled to take place on April 19th in about 60* cities in the US and Canada with the slogan "One earth, one day, rid your junk the right way". BAN contacted 1-800-GOT-JUNK? several weeks ago after they observed that exporting recyclers were listed as companies to be used for handling the collected waste. BAN then warned the company that their event, which was telling the public it could do things the right way and protect the earth, would likely have the opposite effect. BAN offered to work with 1-800-GOT-JUNK? to identify responsible recyclers for their program, but the company declined the offer. Next BAN urged the company to only use recyclers that agreed in writing to not export any of the hazardous materials for any reason, otherwise it was likely that they would be contributing to illegal trade and poor waste management. According to all information now provided to BAN by the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? representative in charge of the event, the company has again declined to do this. Rather they have asked for a statement ensuring "no export for improper disposal". However, as every irresponsible recycler can claim they do not export for "disposal" but rather for purported recycling or reuse, the gesture is meaningless. In any case, activities in other countries are impossible to verify and exports for either disposal or recycling still violate the laws of importing countries. To make matters worse, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? also removed the "recycling company" names from their website after BAN made its concerns known, thus making it more difficult for the public to determine in advance whether the company is responsible or not.
"We are very disappointed that a company purporting to create a waste collection event for the earth is in no position to assure the public that their old computers and private data will not simply get dumped in developing countries," said Sarah Westervelt, BAN's E-waste project coordinator. "This lack of proper due diligence, based as it is on inadequate statements, is highly likely to result in an "earth day" event that will allow a significant quantity of toxic e-waste from 60 US and Canadian cities to be illegally traded to backyard recycling operations in Africa or Asia."
To help distinguish between exporters and globally responsible recyclers, BAN and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition 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 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. These responsible recyclers can be found at: www.e-Stewards.org. Consumers are urged to beware "greenwashing" recycling events and avoid any programs that do not provide full transparency, fail to guarantee against export of hazardous materials, or fail to provide full data security.
For more information contact:
Sarah Westervelt at BAN in Seattle: 1.206.652.5555, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Puckett at BAN in Seattle 1.206.354.0391, email@example.com.
For photographs of electronic wastes dumped in Africa and China: http://www.ban.org/photogallery/index.html
For a list of responsible recyclers (e-Stewards): www.e-Stewards.org
* List of Cities involved in 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Event – See: http://www.1800gotjunk.com/earthday/
LA Metro (Hollywood)
Salt Lake City
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