E-waste shipment from U.S. under dispute
by Grant Gross, Computerworld (IDG News Service)
1 March 2010 – A Massachusetts recycler of electronic waste is disputing reports from an environmental group that a recent shipment to Indonesia was illegal and contained computer monitors with hazardous materials.
A press release issued Monday by environmental watchdog Basel Action Network (BAN), accusing CRT Recycling of illegally shipping CRT (cathode ray tube) computer monitors to Indonesia is inaccurate, said Peter Kopcych, general manager at CRT Recycling.
BAN issued a statement saying that Indonesia in November rejected nine containers filled with CRTs and other electronic waste shipped by Advanced Global Technologies for CRT Recycling. The Ministry of Environment in Indonesia rejected the shipment after BAN raised concerns that the shipment violated Indonesian law and an international treaty on hazardous waste, the Basel Convention, BAN said.
But the shipment, which has been returned to the U.S., didn't contain illegal materials, Kopcych said.
The seals on the containers shipped to Indonesia were not broken, meaning authorities could not have inspected the contents, Kopcych said. BAN needs to "get their facts straight," he said.
A representative of Advanced Global Technologies confirmed that the seals had not been broken. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspected the shipment Monday morning, he said.
The EPA and the state of Massachusetts will find that "none" of the BAN claims are true, Kopcych added.
"Who do they think they are?" Kopcych said of BAN. "I have the EPA and the state of Massachusetts to answer to. They're all happy with what I do."
The shipment to Indonesia contained some used television sets with tubes that can reused, Kopcych said. There was "not one" computer monitor in the shipment, he said.
The problem is that the EPA rules are inadequate, said Jim Puckett, BAN's executive director. The EPA does not ensure that e-waste shipments comply with the laws of the country they're exported to, and the U.S. has not signed onto the Basel Convention, he said.
"This guy obfuscates a lot," Puckett said of Kopcych. "What I was told by Indonesian authorities was that it was old TVs and monitors. Whether it is CRTs in the form of TVs or CRTs in monitors is immaterial. CRTs are listed in the Basel Convention ... as a hazardous waste."
More than 170 countries have signed the Basel Convention, which lists TV and computer CRTs as hazardous waste. The U.S. and other industrialized nations are banned from exporting hazardous waste to poorer nations under the treaty.
BAN and some other environmental groups have been campaigning for years to create tougher e-waste export laws in the U.S. Tons of electronics from the U.S. are shipped overseas where they're torn apart using dangerous methods, BAN and other environmental groups have complained.
In September 2008, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a reporting criticizing the EPA for doing little to enforce a 2007 rule that requires e-recyclers to notify the EPA before exporting CRTs.
Multiple U.S. electronics recyclers appeared to be shipping used equipment containing CRTs overseas in violation of EPA rules, the GAO said then.
"The point is that the company has not violated any U.S. law because adequate laws do not exist," Puckett said. "However, [CRT Recycling's] exports and those of so many so-called recyclers that go out of this country every day violate the laws of the importing countries."
CRT Recycling sets used electronics to countries where they or their parts can be reused, Kopcych said. More than half of the TV sets in the shipment were working and the rest had good tubes that could be reused in other TVs, he said.
"If a television works, and there's people in Haiti that can use it, by God, we should send it to Haiti," he said. "[BAN] doesn't want that. They don't want the reuse of products. If somebody wants to repair a computer and ship it over to China, ship it over to India, ship it over to Africa, they should be able to do that."
But Puckett questioned whether CRT Recycling had tested all the electronics before shipping. Many countries are starting to require that electronics be tested before they're imported for reuse.
"You need to test for functionality, you can't just claim it," he said. "This is what countries are demanding because they're getting swamped with a bunch of stuff they can't use. It's not repairable, it's junk."
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