E-Recycler Intercon Accused of China Shipments, Takes Legal Action

Intercon Solutions, an e-waste handler, took legal action yesterday after a certification program accused the company of shipping hazardous waste to China. Watchdog group the Basel Action Network announced on Tuesday that the Chicago Heights, Ill., electronics recycler would be the first company denied BAN's e-Stewards certification, which aims to recognize e-waste recyclers that operate responsibly.

BAN said its decision was based on "compelling evidence" that Intercon had been exporting hazardous electronic waste to China, in violation of the UN's Basel Convention. The non-profit said that two freight containers containing such waste were shipped from Intercon premises to Los Angeles and then to Hong Kong.

"Intercon Solutions has boasted to customers for a long time in brochures and on its website that it does not export any used electronics entrusted to it for recycling," BAN said in a press release. "However on two separate occasions BAN investigators photographed and tracked containers of electronic waste leaving property leased by Intercon Solutions in Chicago Heights on its way to China.

"BAN had alerted Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department. As the same for any other cases, given the shipment contained hazardous waste, they subsequently required that the shipment be returned to the US," BAN adds.

But Intercon said the containers did not belong to the company. On Wednesday the firm filed a petition for presuit discovery with the circuit court of Cook County, Ill., to force BAN to provide more information about the allegations.

"Petitioner [Intercon] did not deposit the containers on the premises, and petitioner has no record of them being on the premises," the filing states. "The containers did not belong to petitioner. Petitioner did not load them. Petitioner did not ship anything in [the] containers. nor cause them to be transported by trucking company, rail nor by ocean freight."

Intercon says that one or more persons must have trespassed on its premises to deposit the containers, then load them with hazardous waste for shipment. By forcing BAN to provide relevant documents, such as export declarations, bills of lading, waybills, express bills, packing lists or invoices, Intercon says it could discover the identity of the trespassers.

An attorney for the company, Cathy Pilkington, told Environmental Leader, "Intercon Solutiosn respects the mission of BAN, but strongly disagrees that the evidence justifies the conclusion that BAN has reached."

BAN's press release and evidentiary report caused another agency, R-2, to immediately de-list Intercon, according to the company, which says it has also suffered reputational damage with its suppliers and customers.