E-waste Recycler Lawsuit Against Environmental Group Dismissed

New Evidence Published of Mass Global Trafficking in e-Waste by
Chicago's Intercon Solutions

On October 9, the United States District Court for Northern Illinois, presided over by Judge Kendall, dismissed with prejudice a defamation lawsuit brought by a prominent Chicago area electronics recycler against Basel Action Network (BAN) in 2012. The lawsuit was lodged after the environmental watchdog group caught and reported Intercon Solutions exporting electronic scrap to Hong Kong in March of 2011 and subsequently denied their application to join BAN's prestigious e-Stewards Certification program. 

BAN volunteers had photographed intermodal shipping containers at Intercon's secure yard that then quickly traveled by rail and ship to China. One of these containers was opened by Hong Kong authorities and found to contain contraband e-waste. Despite this, Intercon asserted that the container photographed and tracked from their yard was not theirs and continued to claim to their customers that they never exported electronic waste. 

 

 Intercon Solutions office and facility in Chicago Heights, Illinois. 2014. Copyright BAN.

Intercon Solutions office and facility in Chicago Heights, Illinois. 2014. Copyright BAN.

Now in a short report, published today, entitled Intercon Solutions: A Record of Deception and Dumping, BAN shows substantial evidence of not just one, but 167 containers exported in likely contravention of international, Chinese, and U.S. law.

This previously unreleased evidence of exports during 2010-2011 was obtained from sympathetic whistleblowers and was then corroborated using Commerce Department data. BAN had been collecting and holding this evidence for an expected court trial. However, this month's dismissal with prejudice of Intercon's lawsuit means that the suit is over and can never be brought again. Nevertheless, BAN believes that the evidence provides an important lesson and warning for all of us that must dispose of old electronic equipment. 

"We are satisfied that the suit was finally dismissed and we can show conclusively that we were not the ones lying. At the same time we are able now to reveal a massive corrupt business model that simply involved packing and shipping unsuspecting customer's waste overseas instead of recycling it as they claimed," said Jim Puckett, BAN's director. 

In 2002, BAN first revealed the polluting and dangerous recycling operations in China importing US e-waste in their report and film "Exporting Harm." In 2008 BAN traveled with CBS's 60 Minutes to show the route from the US to Hong Kong to the township area of Guiyu – known as "ground zero" for e-waste devastation. 

 

 Close-up of Intercon Solutions' sign touting their Certifications. 2014. Copyright BAN.

Close-up of Intercon Solutions' sign touting their Certifications. 2014. Copyright BAN.

In its recent report on Intercon, BAN also revealed that the company received more than $430,000 in taxpayer-funded government grants which were awarded to Intercon based on false assertions that the company sustainably recycled e-waste and did not export it. 

"The picture painted of Intercon by the evidence we have collected was of a company engaged in a massive con game. While claiming they never exported or used landfills, they did so regularly, without concern for where the hazardous e-waste ended up," said Puckett. "We blew the whistle on them in 2011 and that caused many of their customers to do their own due diligence and slowly realize we were right.

Intercon Solutions is reported to have gone out of business a few months ago, and is not answering their phones. 

After being denied e-Stewards Certification by BAN, Intercon continued to operate for several years while holding a less rigorous R2 Certification. BAN warns that there are many more companies claiming to be recyclers that simply ship e-waste off to developing countries where it is more often than not mismanaged, harming workers and the environment. 

"There are many other Intercons out there," said Puckett. "We therefore urge consumers and businesses to never expect recycling to be done for free and to seek out only recyclers certified to the e-Stewards Standard. In this way you can be sure that your old TV or computer does not end up poisoning the earth or workers at home or abroad.

The e-Stewards Certification is the only electronics recycler certification that ensures that hazardous e-waste will not be exported to developing countries. 

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