EPA's Electronic Waste Recycling Standard Denounced for Allowing Global Toxic Dumping
Condones Illegal Trade to Developing Countries
BAN Press Release
23 June 2008 (Seattle) – The Basel Action Network (BAN) today slammed the Environmental Protection Agency for caving in to an industry association demand that will result in the U.S. government sanctioning the continuing practice of allowing exports of toxic electronic scrap to countries that forbid its importation. The new voluntary national standard for e-waste recycling, called “Responsible Recycling [R2] Practices,” has been negotiated in a multi-stakeholder process for the past two years. Although the standards are not yet finalized, they are now being “field tested” this month with the full support from EPA –and with likely illegal results.
As most countries are not able to import hazardous wastes from the United States under the United Nations’ Basel Convention, R2 negotiators started with the fundamental principle of not violating other countries’ laws. However, at the last minute, the EPA capitulated to a demand from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) that some toxic circuit boards be allowed to be exported without getting approval from the recipient nation. The EPA supported this position along with industry participants. BAN, another of the stakeholders in the negotiation, responded by walking away from the process and expressing disappointment at the EPA capitulation to industry demands to the extent of fostering illegal traffic to developing nations.
“Two years of effort to finally put a halt to uncontrolled export and dumping of toxic U.S. electronic wastes has now been derailed by our so-called ‘Environmental Protection Agency’ and a scrap industry that are willing to call continued, uncontrolled toxic trade to developing countries a ‘best practice.” said Jim Puckett, coordinator of the Basel Action Network. "It is stunning that our own government is now sanctioning illegal traffic in hazardous waste.”
There are additional serious flaws in the new “responsible recycling” standard. While the R2 standard was originally meant to provide the public with a legitimate way to identify responsible recyclers in the US, the draft standard now being tested will instead continue to allow recyclers to:
- Put lead, mercury, cadmium, and other toxins from e-waste into municipal (non-hazardous) landfills and incinerators;
- Use prisoners to process hazardous electronic waste; and
- Freely export some toxic components, such as certain types of circuit boards and toner, which are likely to be illegal for many countries to import from the US.
BAN, an active participant in the negotiations, claims that, ironically, the disposal and prison loopholes in the draft standards were insisted upon by the EPA, who would not allow stakeholders to set standards above current regulations and policies. In addition, the draft R2 standards will continue to allow mercury-containing devices to be shredded by US recyclers, further contributing to the build up of this immortal toxic element in the food chain and in human beings.
“The public and corporate customers have been missing from the EPA dialogue from the beginning, and now we have the EPA and a scrap industry association defining “responsible” when we know very well that much of the public does not agree that dumping our toxic problems on developing countries, on prisoners, or in local landfills is anything of the sort,” said Sarah Westervelt, e-Waste Project Coordinator at BAN.
For consumers that want to do the responsible thing with their electronic waste, BAN and Electronics TakeBack Coalition have developed the e-Stewards program, listing the most socially and environmentally responsible recyclers in North America. These recyclers have joined with the environmental community and refuse to use prison labor, export hazardous e-waste to developing countries, or dump it in landfills or incinerators. See www.ban.org/pledge1.html.
“Our e-Stewards standard may not have the EPA seal of approval,” said Westervelt, “but in these times, with leaders in the industry showing more responsibility than our EPA, that is a good thing.”
For more info, contact:
Sarah Westervelt of BAN, (206) 652-5555. email@example.com,
Cell: (206) 604-9024
For a full critique of the R2 Standard see: www.ban.org/Library/R2Critique.html
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