Toxic Trade News / 26 May 2009
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Fake Recycling Events in Pittsburgh Uncovered
EarthECycle Exports Humane Society's Techno-Trash to China and Africa
BAN & ETBC Media Release
  Container loaded with large computer monitors from Humane Society free e-waste collection event. Container was tracked to South Africa after "recycler" claimed no export.

Copyright BAN 2009.
26 May 2009 (Seattle, WA.) – EarthECycle, the electronic waste handler for two recent Humane Society charity e-waste collection events held in the Pittsburgh area, did not recycle the collected e-waste as claimed, but instead crammed the collected techno-trash into at least 7 sea-going containers and exported it to developing countries. Despite assurances made by EarthECycle owner Mr. Jeffrey Nixon, in a Pittsburgh press conference held with Western Pennsylvania Humane Society Executive Director Ms. Lee Nesler and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato in March, that all recycling would be done locally, the global pollution watchdog group Basel Action Network (BAN) proved otherwise.

BAN followed the trucks, to two area warehouses and then some days later observed the waste being reloaded onto 40 foot ocean-going containers. They then tracked 6 of the containers to Hong Kong and one to South Africa. BAN has warned authorities about their imminent arrival and actions are now underway to halt and return the shipments.

“Sadly, once again the American public appears to have been duped by a fake recycler and become the unwitting accomplice in what is really an international crime,” said BAN e-Stewardship Director Sarah Westervelt. “People think they are doing a good deed helping animals, and that their old stuff is getting recycled safely but the reality is that this is a scam.”

In 2002 and 2005, BAN released two documentary films “Exporting Harm” and “The Digital Dump” shining a spotlight on the horrors of the global e-waste trade and its very damaging impacts of toxic constituents in electronic products on the workers and environments of communities in Africa and China. Recent studies in Guiyu, China, “ground zero” of the international waste trade, and where much of the Humane Society collection waste was likely to have ended up, show some of the highest levels of dioxin, lead and other cancer-causing pollutants ever recorded. Blood levels in 80 percent of the children in Guiyu are elevated and already demonstrable brain impairment has been recorded.

Last fall BAN was featured in a CBS “60 Minutes” episode when they exposed a Colorado recycler now under investigation by US EPA. While exporting most e-waste remains legal in the United States, the export of cathode ray tubes (CRTs), found in old computer monitors and TVs, without notification and consent from the importing countries is illegal under US law. BAN has photographs showing CRTs inside the containers. Even when the exports are not illegal under US law, they are likely to be illegal in the countries of import.

After BAN warned importing country governments of the Humane Society/EarthECycle waste, Hong Kong authorities took immediate action and asked the shipping company to return the containers to sender. Five of the six Hong Kong bound containers, three of which were expected to be trans-shipped to Vietnam, have so far been intercepted and returned to EarthECycle. The shipment to South Africa is due to arrive in the port of Durban today[i].

BAN, together with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition (ETBC) is seeking national legislation[ii] to ban the export of toxic e-waste to developing countries as European countries have already done. And BAN has created the
e-Stewards Initiative – a list of responsible e-cyclers* that have agreed not to export hazardous e-wastes to developing countries.

“This toxic trade is the height of global irresponsibility,” said Sarah Westervelt. “Our country must pass loophole-free federal legislation to put a stop to what happened in Pittsburg and what is happening all over America every day.” said Sarah Westervelt. “And, consumers must be very careful and make use of the e-Steward recyclers who have agreed not to export toxic e-waste to developing countries.”

EarthECycle promises charities up to $10,000 for every 100,000 pounds of e-waste collected. The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society event was thought to have collected 150,000 pounds of e-waste from the public. It is not known whether the charity ever got paid. Meanwhile EarthECycle appears to be hiring organizers all over the country to create a large nationwide e-waste network to “partner” with other charities in other cities and collect more of the public’s accumulating mountains of techno-trash.


Photos, research and documentation available.

Research Report: “The EarthECycle Pittsburgh Recycling Scam” is available at:

Photographs available at: and others upon request.

*For a list of e-Steward Recyclers including Pittsburgh area recyclers visit:

Contact: Sarah Westervelt: 206-604-9024; Kathleen Goldstein 202-841-0295


[i] BAN warned the following officials: In South Africa, Ms. Nolwazi Cobbinah Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Tel: (+27 12) 310 3356, e-mail: In Hong Kong, Mr. Gary Tam of the Environmental Protection Department. E-Mail:

[ii] A bill introduced last week by Congressman Thompson and Green, is unfortunately insupportable as it allows a massive loophole for exports claimed to be sent for “reuse”, a common ruse of unscrupulous exporters.

FAIR USE NOTICE. This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The Basel Action Network is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Select images courtesy of Chris Jordan