Toxic Trade News / 21 April 2010
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Target Stores Won't Tell Public Where Their Collected Electronic Waste Will Go
Earth Day Collection Program Lacks Transparency
BAN Media Release
21 April 2010 (Seattle, WA.) – Customers hoping to take advantage of Target’s new Earth Day 2010 recycling program are faced with more questions than answers. Having learned that all recycling is not necessarily responsible recycling, conscientious consumers have been asking their local Target stores, “Where will my things be recycled?” The usual answer they receive from Target employees: “We don’t know.”

A growing number of consumers are realizing that buying a product means taking full responsibility for that product, even when it is no longer useful. This is particularly important for goods like electronics that contain hazardous materials that are detrimental to the environment when disposed. Exposes on 60 Minutes, Frontline, 20/20 and others have documented how most electronics collected for ‘recycling’ in the US are shipped to developing countries where the hazardous materials are destroying the environment and poisoning workers and residents.

Toxic trade watchdog group the Basel Action Network (BAN) was alerted to the problem when e-Scrap News, a trade journal for the electronics recycling industry, reported that Target “did not say” who would be doing their processing. BAN aimed to find out if anybody in Target stores or headquarters would say.

BAN volunteers made inquiries in person and by phone to Target stores in 12 different US cities and to Target’s Minneapolis headquarters. In every case, Target employees were either unwilling or unable to say what would happen to the toxic e-waste Target is collecting. According to BAN, the lack of transparency about how the used electronics would be recycled is alarming because BAN estimates that about 80 percent of what consumers deliver for recycling in programs such as these is exported to developing countries.

“There’s no good reason for hiding responsible recycling, so Target’s lack of transparency is troubling,” says Sarah Westervelt, BAN’s e-Stewardship Policy Director. “People asked the same simple question over and over again in Target stores across the country and just got the same run around.”

In 2008, the Government Accountability Office echoed BAN’s concerns and reported that the US government does not adequately regulate and control irresponsible and environmentally damaging toxic e-waste exports. Private data is often left on hard drives and phones, creating opportunities for fraud or identity theft. Or the waste can be diverted to municipal landfills or dangerous prison operations.

BAN recommends that the public always avoid any e-waste collection program that will not provide data destruction or assure full transparency and instead use recyclers that will not export hazardous e-waste to developing countries. Last week, BAN launched its e-Stewards Certification program to identify recyclers who manage e-waste in a globally responsible manner. That program has been endorsed by over a dozen leading corporations, along with nearly 70 environmental groups worldwide.

“The public needs to be vigilant not only with Target, but with any e-waste collection event or program” said Westervelt.

BAN documented public inquiries to Target Stores in the following cities: Houston, Texas; West Houston, Texas; San Francisco, California; Westminster, Colorado; Atlanta, Georgia; Granger, Indiana; Vestal, New York; Portland, Oregon; Dickson City, Pennsylvania; Tacoma, Washington; Seattle, Washington and the Minnesota, Target headquarters.


For More Information Contact:

Sarah Westervelt, BAN e-Stewardship Policy Director, e-Mail:, Telephone: 206-652-5555

Lauren Roman, BAN e-Stewards Business Director, e-Mail:, Telephone: 973-224-7632

For Target Store Volunteer Call Summary Log Sheet:

To contact any of the volunteers to hear their story, call BAN, 206-652-5555.

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