Toxic Trade News / 18 September 2009
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Controversial e-waste generates renewed complaints
by Thomas Olson, Tribune-Review
18 September 2009 – An environmental group's outcry on Thursday over removal of electronic waste from a Monroeville warehouse by a controversial recycler could wind up costing warehouse owner Levin Furniture — which just wants to see it disposed of properly.

Nearly 50 pallets of plastic-wrapped televisions and computer monitors belonging to EarthEcycle of Tulsa, Okla., sit in the warehouse parking lot along Route 22. The recycler three months ago was supposed to remove the e-waste, amassed from collection drives by local charities to which Levin donated the space. A tractor trailer was parked ready for loading at the warehouse yesterday.

But the environmental watchdog group Basel Action Network, or BAN, yesterday interceded when it learned that EarthEcycle apparently arranged a small shipment of monitors to Vietnam almost two weeks ago, according to documents obtained by the Tribune-Review.

BAN wrote furniture company President Robert Levin expressing outrage that EarthEcycle may be arranging to ship this much larger amount of e-waste to Vietnam.

"There are not only U.S. laws that are likely to be contravened if the wastes involve ... TVs or monitors, but also there are international laws which, if contravened, make the export of this material illegal trafficking in toxic waste," said the letter from BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett.

Hazardous materials — such as lead in cathode-ray tubes and mercury in computer equipment — can cause birth defects and brain damage in children. Improperly dangerous extraction of these metals for money, especially in poorer parts of Asia, was the focus of CBS's "60 Minutes" last fall.

"None of the 50 pallets have moved yet," said Basil Hawanchak, chief financial officer of Levin Furniture. "We'll have to dispose of them ourselves, if Nixon can't do it."

That's Jeffrey Nixon, president of EarthEcycle, who could not be reached. His company was cited by the Environment Protection Agency in June in a case of shipping e-waste from Pittsburgh to Hong Kong without notifying the EPA, as required by law. The case is pending.

Concerned about Nixon's shipping plans, Levin contacted the EPA about a week ago but it indicated "there was no problem," said Hawanchak. "They seemed to take a very defensive approach."

The EPA would only say yesterday that the existing case is open

"Never in our wildest dreams did we think this could get so convoluted," said Hawanchak. "All we wanted to do was clean up our building."

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