A trial by jury convicted Executive Recycling, formerly of Englewood, Colorado and two of its top executives in a Denver Federal Court this morning for illegally exporting hazardous waste electronics to developing countries. Executives Tor Olson and Brandon Richter were convicted of criminal charges for illegal export of hazardous waste, smuggling, obstruction of justice, and wire and mail fraud. Brandon Richter was the former owner and CEO of Executive, an electronics recycler that also had locations in Utah and Nebraska. Executive Recycling has since changed its name to Techcycle. The charges came after the Basel Action Network (BAN), a toxic trade watchdog organization, observed and photographed 20 seagoing containers leaving the Executive Recycling loading docks and tracked them overseas. BAN then gave the information to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Enforcement, the Government Accountability Office, and CBS News. Executive Recycling was then featured in a sting type investigation on CBS News' 60 Minutes in an episode entitled “The Wasteland” which followed one of Executive's containers to China with BAN's Executive Director Jim Puckett. Following that episode, EPA Enforcement and Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), indicted Executive Recycling on 16 criminal counts. BAN claims that the export activities of the company are still a very common practice in North America and most often companies get away with it.
“This conviction is very welcome, but sadly as we speak, there are many hundreds of other fake recyclers out there that are loading up Asian-bound containers full of our old toxic TVs and computers,” said Puckett. “Every day about 100 containers of toxic e-waste arrive in the Port of Hong Kong alone. We hope this conviction sends a very strong message to business and the public that they should only use the most responsible recyclers.”
To help the public make good choices for their electronic waste (e-waste), BAN joined forces with business leaders to create the e-Stewards Certification program. e-Stewards is the only electronic recycling certification program that ensures through annual audits that companies will never export hazardous wastes electronics to developing countries. Areas like Guiyu township in China have been seriously contaminated by toxic e-waste imports. Lead levels in the blood of children there are some of the highest in the world.
BAN also maintains that clear and strict legislation is needed to make such export activity explicitly illegal in the United States as it is in the rest of the world. According to BAN, prosecuting the Executive case was very difficult for the government as they were forced to make their case using fraud, smuggling, and other charges, as the environmental export laws we have are vague and ineffective. BAN has joined forces with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, as well as the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER) in support of the bipartisan Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, which, if passed, will bring the US in compliance with international Basel Convention decisions forbidding export of hazardous electronic waste to developing countries.
“Executive Recycling was caught this time,” Puckett said, “but it has been almost impossible for the government to prosecute this kind of very common activity due to a lack of appropriate legislation. If we can pass the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act in Congress we could put a quick halt to the horrors of criminal waste trafficking.”