E-waste Nightmare in Utah

Following a serious fire at a yard full of electronic waste in Parowan, Utah, the environmental watchdog group, the Basel Action Network (BAN) has completed an initial investigation and report of the fire site, as well as other facilities operated by Stone Castle Recycling LLC. BAN found alarming concerns, including:

  • No physical barrier or even rope cordons or warning signs at fire site to prevent children or others from entering what is expected to be a highly toxic area
  • Cracked CRT glass which would release toxic phosphors to the environment
  • No evidence of concern expressed on the part of state authorities (Utah DEQ) with respect to downwind or onsite and sewer contamination by dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and heavy metals
  • The facility in Parowan did not possess a permit for storage of hazardous waste or even an operational plan lodged with the State
  • Outdoor storage of CRTs and Projection TVs was allowed even though lenses in the projection equipment could readily cause self-combustion in the sun
  • Another site operated by Stone Castle, in Clearfield, Utah, revealed further alarming amounts of CRTs and CRT glass and projection TVs stored outdoors, including breached boxes with CRT glass spilling onto the soil
  • No evidence that Stone Castle had been prosecuted for unsafe, and lengthy stockpiling/storage of electronic waste

What I witnessed in Utah, was every bit as horrible as what I’ve seen in Ghana or China,” said BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett. “The fire has created a toxic soup of dioxins, heavy metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons all lying there, without a fence around it, or barriers to keep the children away.

The Basel Action Network has been investigating irresponsible trade and dumping of Electronic Waste for over a decade, and first revealed in 2001 the global trade in toxic e-waste to China and to Africa. Lately, it has become apparent that obsolete TV and computer monitor picture tubes or cathode ray tubes (CRTs) are beingdiscarded en masse in favor of flat screen displays. The resulting mountain of CRTs, possessing little inherent value and few recycling options, has created a waste management emergency.

Remarkably, we are finding ourselves in a CRT crisis with our old computer monitors and TVs haunting us at end-of-life,” said Puckett. “We have seen cavernous warehouses full of them, we have seen mountains of glass stored outdoors, with promises of miracle recycling technologies to come, we have seen lawsuits over ownership, we have seen massive exports to developing countries, and now we are seeing fires.

BAN’s report comes with a full set of recommendations but according to BAN, the most important lesson is to ensure that all consumer products are designed with their end-of-life in mind.

The scale of consumption today requires that we design all of our products toxic-free and with longevity, recycling and reuse firmly in mind. Without a new way of thinking in this regard, everything we buy punishes our children and our children’s children,” said Puckett.

To read the full report: click here