Toxic Trade News / 8 June 2009
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Electronic waste recycler to empty Monroeville warehouse
by Thomas Olson, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
  Jeff Nixon, CEO of EarthEcycle, stands among piles of electronic equipment he has stored in Levin Furniture's Monroeville warehouse Monday. Levin Furniture has ordered EarthEcycle to empty the warehouse due to concerns about the company's recycling practices.

© Keith Hodan/Tribune-Review
8 June 2009 – The head of controversial recycler EarthEcycle has begun sorting through mounds of used electronic equipment stuffed in a Monroeville warehouse and will pay the charity behind the collection drive on Wednesday, he said today.

CEO Jeffrey Nixon temporarily stored about 2 million pounds of old computer terminals, cell phones, laptops, microwave ovens and other gadgets at a former Levin Furniture showroom and warehouse. The equipment had been collected in late March during a drive sponsored by the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

The North Side charity is supposed to receive $150,000 for all the equipment and will get paid in stages over the next two weeks, starting Wednesday, said Nixon.

A watchdog organization had claimed that EarthEcycle has sent used electronics abroad for recycling that endangers the health of workers in China and Africa. The claims were made in late May by the Basel Action Network, or BAN, an e-waste watchdog group based in Seattle.

Levin executives donated the use of the former warehouse for the humane society, but told Nixon to remove the equipment after the controversy emerged over EarthEcycle's activities was reported.

"Nothing has been done wrong here," replied Nixon during a stop at the warehouse today.

Nixon is hiring a crew to remove the equipment stocked inside the warehouse, separate it in the parking lot over the next several days and transfer it out to be refurbished or recycled.

EarthEcycle's recycling activities are also being investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to an agency spokesman in Philadelphia.

But Nixon vowed to continue his recycling activities in Western Pennsylvania.

"I absolutely will do more charity events here," said Nixon, whose company is based in Tulsa, Okla.

Computers, televisions and other electronic equipment contain metals such as lead, which can cause brain damage in children. Mercury, which can cause birth defects, is found in batteries and liquid crystal display (LCD) screens.

EarthEcycle also had been criticized for slow-paying two other area charities — the Washington Area Human Society and the Humane Society of Westmoreland County — for their March collection drives.

"The charities have been paid," said Nixon. He said he covered each group's $10,000 check with funds wired to his company's account on Friday.

Another local charity, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, collected electronic equipment during a drive at the end of May. But the tally has not been made yet.

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Select images courtesy of Chris Jordan