Toxic Trade News / 28 December 2009
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Holiday e-Waste? Beware Fake Recyclers!
Old TVs and Computers are Likely to be Dumped in Developing Countries
BAN Media Release
  Accra, Ghana 2009

Images: © Basel Action Network

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28 December 2009 (Seattle, Washington) – For those of you that got that new flat screen TV as a holiday gift and are wondering what to do with that old cathode ray tube dinosaur now parked in the garage, the Basel Action Network (BAN), a global toxic-trade watchdog organization, warns that old electronics are hazardous and should not be handed over to just any company calling itself a recycler.

"The sad little secret of our high-tech world is that we are creating mountains of this new form of toxic waste, and most electronics recyclers do not recycle the material at all, but simply throw it into a seagoing container and export it to destinations like China, India and Africa," said BAN's e-Stewardship Director Sarah Westervelt. "In these developing countries, your old computer or TV will be smashed, melted, and burned in highly dangerous and polluting operations by a desperately impoverished and unprotected workforce."

Even major electronics retailers and manufacturers’ "take back" programs do not guarantee your old toxic e-waste will not be shunted offshore. State legislation is also unable to prevent exports to developing countries.

To make sure that your electronic discards do not end up harming the planet and the poor, BAN urges consumers to use only licensed e-Steward™ recyclers. The e-Stewards have been vetted by BAN and have agreed not to export hazardous electronics despite the profits that can be made by avoiding the real costs of proper domestic recycling. Find e-Steward recyclers here:

BAN was the first to document the cyber-age nightmare of the global e-waste trade and has since led teams from PBS's Frontline and CBS's 60 Minutes to the global e-Wastelands of Africa and China. BAN investigators returned from a trip last month to Ghana where they witnessed slum dwellers burning US televisions and computers in a wetlands with children rummaging through the toxic ashes for bits of metal.

The United States is the only developed country in the world that does not strictly control the export of hazardous waste. For this reason, BAN and the Electronic TakeBack Coalition are promoting legislation to ban e-waste exports in addition to the consumer based e-Steward solution.

"Our government is acting irresponsibly, so this holiday season, we all need to do our part to spread good will on earth and not toxic e-waste," said Westervelt. "In 2010, let’s be sure to give our recycling business only to those companies that handle e-waste without harming others: e-Stewards."


For more information contact:

Sarah Westervelt at BAN in Seattle: 1.206.604-9024, or
Jim Puckett at BAN in Seattle 1.206.354.0391,

For photographs of electronic wastes dumped in Africa and China, see

For a list of e-Steward recyclers, see

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