According to reports last week from English-language media outlets in China, all informal e-scrap processors in Guiyu will be required to move their businesses to a newly built industrial park by the start of 2016. As of late November, 400 "large workshops" had been persuaded to make the move. Still, approximately 3,000 small businesses had yet to vacate their operations, news reports indicated.Read More
Samsung has finally made a public apology to the victims of a leukemia cluster at its chip plants and promised compensation for them — seven years after the SHARPS campaign borne out of the death of Hwang Yu-mi, the first publicly known victim of the cluster, and six months after stalled negotiations with the victims’ families and the advocate group.Read More
At this week’s meeting of the Basel Convention – an international treaty designed to protect developing countries from international toxic waste dumping -- computer and other electronic equipment manufacturers are pressing hard for exemptions from established controls on the export of electronic waste or e-waste. The proposed exemptions would allow untested or non-functional electronic waste, often containing toxic lead, cadmium, mercury and brominated flame retardants to be considered a non-waste and subject to free-trade in many circumstances so long as the exporter can claim that that the old equipment might be ‘repairable’.Read More
A record-breaking number 365 toxic-laden ships were sent for breaking by European shipowners to the beaches of South Asia in 2012, according to a list released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a global coalition of environmental, human rights and labor rights organisations working for safe and sustainable ship recycling. This number represents a 75% increase from 2011, when 210 EU-owned ships were sent for breaking in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.Read More
The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) has adopted a new policy that effectively terminates the federal artificial reefing program that allowed the scuttling of old ships for so-called “artificial reefs” – a practice that dates back to the Liberty Ship Act of1972. Since the program’s inception, approximately 45 ships have been disposed of at sea, along with untold tons of toxic substances such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals built into each vessel, as well as many millions of dollars worth of steel and non-ferrous metal resources. U.S. based environmental organization Basel Action Network (BAN), which has actively campaigned against the government-sponsored ocean dumping program, hails this news as a victory for U.S. jobs in the domestic ship recycling industry and a win for the environment. “The Obama Administration got this one right, and they should be commended for finally putting into place a more conservative policy that protects our resources, our jobs, as well as the marine environment,” said Colby Self of the Basel Action Network.
MARAD’s new policy has not been announced publicly but became effective on 29 May 2012, according to Curt Michanczyk, Director of the Office of Ship Disposal of the Maritime Administration. MARAD’s new policy excludes from artificial reefing consideration of any vessel that was built before 1985 (and likely to contain PCBs). PCBs are a persistent toxic chemical family that is described by the U.S. EPA as potentially carcinogenic to humans and builds-up in the marine food chain. They are banned from use and production under the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act.
Currently, all 38 so called “non-retention” ships that are designated for disposal in MARAD’s National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF), mostly made up of ex-naval vessels, were built before 1985 and will thus all go to domestic recyclers. Of all the 125 vessels owned by MARAD in the NDRF, all of which will be designated “non-retention” at some point in the future, only one of these vessels was built after 1985. This is the only vessel that could be considered for artificial reefing when it is designated for disposal, but only if it is not viable for recycling within two years after disposal designation.
There is little doubt that the post-sinking monitoring study of the sunken Ex-Oriskany aircraft carrier in Florida played an important role in the development of MARAD’s new policy. This study, conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, was not publicly available until BAN highlighted its findings in their July 2011 report entitled Dishonorable Disposal: The Case Against Dumping U.S. Naval Vessels at Sea. The study found PCB migration into the marine food chain from the sunken aircraft carrier Ex-Oriskany and for the first time called into question the practice of sinking ships containing toxic bioaccumulative substances.
The U.S. Navy’s artificial reefing policy also appears to be heading in a similar direction as MARAD’s, as evidenced by the Navy’s sudden decision last year to recycle the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal and three other carriers, rather than scuttle them. This decision came in 2011 following a shorter BAN report and submission to the Navy, entitled Jobs and Dollars Overboard: The Economic Case Against Dumping U.S. Naval Vessels at Sea, highlighting the favorable economics of recycling. The Navy later informed BAN that the decision to recycle these vessels was made on economic grounds due to the price of scrap commodities.
BAN applauds the government for rejecting the “dump first” MARAD policy in favor of recycling but is now seeking a similar stance with respect to the Navy’s SINKEX (sinking exercise) program. SINKEX sinks non-retention vessels during live-fire target practice without complete removal of toxic pollutants, including PCBs. Sinking preparation for SINKEX is much less stringent than required of artificial reef preparation, as the EPA exempted the Navy and SINKEX from environmental regulations that would otherwise require removal of regulated concentrations of PCBs. Since this exemption in 1999, the Navy has sunk 117 vessels, the most recent of which included three sinkings near Hawaii in July 2012.
Approximately $20.5 million in fully recoverable scrap steel, aluminum and copper and hundreds of recycling jobs were lost with the scuttling of these three vessels. A fourth vessel is planned for sinking in 2012 via SINKEX in the coming months. BAN has joined with the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity in a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for continuing to allow the SINKEX program to sink toxic vessels at sea.
The Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has begun an independent examination into the environmental and public health issues associated with the transboundary movement of spent lead-acid batteries across North America. This study will include examination of the recent increase in transboundary shipments of spent lead-acid batteries within North America for the purposes of recovery and recycling of lead for remanufacture. Factors to be examined include the concern that, in addition to global market forces, differing costs of compliance with environmental and health regulations may be affecting decisions on where to locate certain recycling activity within our three countries.
Lead is a persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic substance that can cause developmental harm, especially in children. Even in small doses, exposure to lead dust and vapors—in lead-contaminated air, water, or soil—has been associated with nervous system impairment in fetuses and young children, resulting in learning deficits and lowered IQ.
The Secretariat’s examination will assemble the most recent information on the flow of spent auto and industrial batteries and examine trade- and compliance-related issues in preparing a comprehensive report to the CEC Council—the cabinet-level environmental officials in each of Canada, Mexico and the United States. The independent report will conclude with recommendations concerning steps to improve the environmental management of spent lead-acid batteries and to diminish the pollution and environmental health effects impacting vulnerable populations adjacent to certain recycling operations, particularly in Mexico.
The CEC Secretariat’s study and report is being prepared pursuant to Article 13 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). This provision allows the Secretariat to prepare an independent report to the CEC Council. In preparing this study and report, the NAAEC Article 13 provides for the Secretariat to draw upon any relevant technical, scientific or other information, including information submitted by the Parties to the NAAEC, the CEC’s Joint Public Advisory Committee, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The results of public consultation among North America’s battery recycling and related industries, communities, NGOs and specialists will be considered in the development of the report and recommendations.
The CEC Secretariat report is expected to be completed in 2012 and a work-plan and schedule of consultations will be published in the near future. Interested persons and organizations are encouraged to contact the Secretariat should they wish to provide any related information and/or to be included in such consultation.
LAHORE: Hazardous E-waste has become one of the biggest health risks of this century in Pakistan, with rising trend of bulk imports of used and obsolete computers and other electronic equipment from the West, taking full advantage of “yet to be enacted E-waste laws” in the country. The people, especially the youth, are buying ‘E-Waste of the West’ as branded computers due to lack of awareness about the grave risks it is posing to the environment, human life and animals.
“No one knows when Pakistan will be able to effectively cope with the problem of hazardous E-waste, perhaps not before the adults and children start suffering from serious health disorders by exposing to lead and other lethal chemicals present in E-waste,” says M Jamal, an environmental expert.
According to environmentalists, the toxic materials found in computer equipment include lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, barium etc, warning that - older the computer, the higher the level of toxic elements.
According to reports, one of the most toxic equipment is Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) present in monitors and monitor-converted TVs, which contain deadly metals such as lead, which damages the nervous and reproductive systems and poisons the blood and kidneys. It also adversely affects plants, animals and microorganisms. Cadmium, found in chips and infrared detectors, accumulates in kidneys and damages them.
Another heavy metal, mercury, which is used in a large number of electronic items, enters the food chain and harms the brain and kidneys.
There is no law in the country to effectively deal with E-waste hazards. The existing Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997 does not cover the safe handling and disposal of hazardous E-waste and prevention of its import.
“Proper legislation and its implementation is the need of the hour to control this menace,” says M Jamal.
According to experts, E-waste is a global phenomenon, but the problem in Pakistan is of greater magnitude, as it has become a dumping ground for obsolete electronic products.
Talking to Daily Times, Punjab Environment Protection Agency Director General Maqsood Ahmad Lak has said that there is a dire need for focusing on the management of E-waste, which is a modern era threat to the environment.
Although Pakistan is a signatory to the Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, the government has done little to check and regulate toxic imports.
According to a UN report, the world collectively generates 20 to 50 million tonnes of E-waste every year.
Sensing the gravity of the problem at global level, an international conference, Environmentally Sound Management of E-waste, is being held on January 8 to 11, 2012 in Tehran. A delegation from Pakistan has also been invited to participate in the conference.
It is learnt that tens of thousands of used computers, its accessories and other obsolete electronic equipment, which contain large amount of hazardous waste, are being shipped to Pakistan with complete disregard to their lethal effects.
These obsolete electronic products, which are difficult and expensive to dispose of in developed countries because of their hazardous nature, are imported and used as cheap and ‘second-hand machinery’ in Pakistan.
“It is a well known fact the developed countries get rid of their undesirable computers and other equipment considered scrap by sending shipments out to developing countries and Pakistan is a prime example of such behaviour,” says environmental expert Dr Iqbal.
It is observed that a large quantity of computers, its accessories and related gadgets are used in houses and offices, exposing adults and children to toxic elements. “In order to avoid such type of waste and consequent hazards, it is important not to import old and out-dated electronic gadgets, especially computers and cellular devices,” says Dr Iqbal. He says besides a host of heavy metals – which continue to pollute our water bodies, land, soil, and air – the disposal of computers and other E-waste requires scientific supervision and proper channels. This modern era problem has not so far received much attention from non-governmental or environmental bodies in the country. So it is alarming that the workers in the computer recycling industry as well as consumers who buy used equipment due to its low cost are oblivious to the threats to their health.
Two waste companies have been fined £5,000 each after an illegal shipment of mixed waste destined for India was stopped at Felixstowe Port by Environment Agency officers.
In a case heard at Norwich Magistrates Court on Thursday (October 6), Nuneaton-based waste carrier and broker Williams Recycling (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to transporting mixed waste to India without the pre-written notification and consent of the authorities. The company was fined the maximum penalty of £5,000.
The material came from Norwich-based waste paper recycling MW White (Norwich) Ltd, which had described the waste as ‘mixed paper’. MW White pleaded guilty to mis-describing the waste on its waste transfer notes and was also fined the maximum penalty of £5,000.
The companies were also ordered to share full costs, which amounted to £6,655 each.
The waste was in a shipment of 10 containers stopped during a routine inspection by Environment Agency officers in January 2010. In total, 225 tonnes of waste was discovered, much of it very smelly from rotting food and nappies among other waste such as plastic, tin cans and textiles. There was also some waste paper.
Prosecuting, Mrs Miriam Tordoff told the court it would have been difficult to recover waste paper and cardboard in an environmentally sound manner from the non-waste paper items.
“Waste was not sorted or checked before it was loaded,” she said. “Had a procedure been in place to check the waste before loading and transporting, these offences could have been avoided.”
The 10 containers were loaded at a site in Station Road, Ketteringham where MW White operates and Williams Recycling was listed on each of the export delivery notes that went with the containers to Felixstowe Docks as the person arranging the shipment. The company was also listed as the customer on each of the waste transfer notes that White completed for each container.
Magistrates were told that the Basel Convention of 1992 had been ratified by 172 countries, including the UK and India, to control the growing transfrontier movement of hazardous waste and other waste to protect human health and the environment.
Europe brought in similar legislation in 1993 with similar aims and setting out a system controlling what wastes can be exported outside the EU. The UK ratified the European law in 1994 with the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations, which were subsequently amended in 2007.
These Regulations prohibit the movement of mixed wastes to certain countries, including India, without going through a detailed permission procedure to ensure the waste is dealt with properly. The procedure also requires contracts to be in place, insurance and financial guarantees in case things go wrong.
Duty of Care
The court was also told that under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 there was a duty of care to supply a written description of the waste to enable the person receiving it to avoid committing a waste offence. MW White transferred waste within 10 shipping containers without providing an accurate description of their contents.
Paul White, managing director of MW White, told investigating officers that waste was collected from local authorities, businesses, schools and charities. He accepted that the company had not made any checks on the suitability of the waste to be exported.
Susan Williams, sole director of Williams Recycling, told officers she was expecting the material to be mixed waste paper and no-one had looked at the waste before it was loaded.
The exact details of the charges the two companies pleaded guilty to are as follows:
M W White (Norwich) Ltd:
1. Between 12 January 2010 and 19 January 2010 you, being a person who keeps and treats controlled waste, failed to comply with the Duty of Care imposed by Section 34(1) and (5) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in that on the transfer of such waste, you failed to ensure that there was transferred such written description of the waste as would have enabled other persons to avoid a contravention of Section 33 of the said Act and to comply with the Duty under Section 34(1) of the said Act as respects the escape of waste.
Contrary to section 34(1)(c)(ii) and (6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990
Williams Recycling (UK) Ltd:
1. Between 12 January 2010 and 19 January 2010, and by virtue of Article and 37(5) of the European Waste Shipment Regulation EC 1013/2006, you transported mixed waste, to India, a country to which the OECD decision does not apply, without the procedure of prior written notification and consent of Article 35 of said European Regulation
Contrary to Regulations 23B(2) and 58 of the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007
- When contacted by letsrecycle.com this morning (October 10), MW White had no comment to make on the case.
The top two executives from Evergreen, Colo.-based Executive Recycling Inc. each face up to 52 years in prison on wire fraud and other charges stemming from allegations they illegally shipped hundreds of thousands of lead-laden CRTs and other e-waste to China, according to a fed-eral indictment handed down Thursday in U.S. District Court in Denver. Executive Recycling was the firm profiled in the November 2008 60 Minutes expose on clandestine e-waste exports to devel-oping countries. Executive Recycling CEO Brandon Richter and Vice President of Operations Tor Olson shipped more than 300 container-loads of e-waste to China between 2005 and 2008, the indictment said. "Approximately 160 of these exported cargo containers contained a total of more than 100,000 CRTs." Richter and Olson did so in violation of the federal Resource Conversation and Recovery Act, which bars "the export of hazardous waste to another country without first filing with the EPA a written notification of intent to export and obtaining the consent of the receiving country," the in-dictment said. Neither Richter nor Olson nor their attorneys responded to our requests for comment on the indictment.
Richter and Olson "knowingly devised and intended to devise a scheme to defraud various business and government entities who wanted to dispose of their e-waste," the indictment said. They pocketed $1.8 million by selling the e-waste to unscrupulous "brokers" in China, collecting the money through international and interstate wire transfers, it said. They also "falsely advertised to customers that they would dispose of e-waste in compliance with all local, state and federal laws and regula-tions," it said. They also "falsely represented" that they would not send the e-waste overseas and fal-sified records to thwart investigators, it said. Prosecutors won't seek to have Richter or Olson jailed while they await trial, the indictment said.
The Basel Action Network, which originally investigated Executive Recycling and later per-suaded CBS to run the 60 Minutes segment, hailed the indictment as "the first instance that criminal charges have been brought against an e-waste exporter." The indictment "is a major victory for global environmental justice," said BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett. "Even before we have a U.S. law in place to explicitly prohibit this dumping on developing countries, the U.S. government’s criminal justice system has recognized the massive toxic trade we first discovered in 2001 as fraudu-lent, as smuggling, and as an environmental crime. Now these sham recyclers are warned: their shameful practices can land them in jail."
Executive Recycling "is just the tip of the e-waste iceberg," said Puckett. "They are but one of hundreds of fake recyclers who sell greenness and responsibility but in fact practice global dumping. This is why we must pass federal legislation prohibiting this activity."
"This is great work by the federal agencies to bring these criminal charges against a fake recycler –– one who looked right into 60 Minutes’ TV cameras and denied being an exporter," said Barbara Kyle, na-tional coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. It’s a "common practice" in the industry to export e-waste to developing nations without any concern for the harm it causes, she said. "But currently it’s only illegal to export CRTs from the U.S. –– not the lengthy list of other e-waste that we are currently dumping on poor countries abroad," Kyle said. She urged Congress to pass legislation "that would make all this e-waste dumping illegal." The CEA declined comment on the indictment. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Indus-tries didn’t comment by our deadline. — Paul Gluckman
Eton Corp. debuted the Mobius, a rechargeable battery case with a solar panel. Designed for the iPhone 4, the rechargeable battery case features a monocrystal solar panel that needs only one hour in the sun to provide an additional 25 minutes of talk time, the company said. —— Regulators should set specific smart meter "installation and functionality" targets to speed de-ployment of smart grid applications, said Chris King, chief regulatory officer at eMeter, a smart grid platform provider. Government leaders should "leverage policies to allow the market to deliver crea-tive solutions in order to fully achieve their smart grid goals," he said in a statement. He said the EU’s policy of 80 percent meter installation by 2020 and 100 percent by 2022 is "one prominent ex-ample of forward thinking national policy." While having "visionary" renewable energy standards and smart grid implementation policies on a state-level, the U.S. lacks a "cohesive national policy for the country to reach its smart grid goals," he said.
Experts will look at the "shifting recycling markets" for electronics and rigid plastics at the North-east Recycling Council’s (NERC) fall conference in Northampton, Mass., Oct. 25-26, the group said. Scheduled speakers include Jason Linnell, executive director of the National Center for Electronics Recy-cling; Eric Harris, director of government affairs at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries; Kim Holmes, a consultant to R2 Solutions; and Cindy Couts, president of Sims Recycling Solutions. Issues are to include the impact of third-party certification on electronics recycling business and issues relating to the export of used electronics plastics, NERC said.
Worldwide energy consumption will grow 53 percent between 2008 and 2035, with much of the increase driven by strong economic growth in the developing nations, especially China and In-dia, the federal Energy Information Administration said. "China and India account for half of the projected increase in world energy use over the next 25 years." China, which only recently became the world's top energy consumer, is projected to use 68 percent more energy than the U.S. by 2035, said Acting EIA Administrator Howard Gruenspecht. Renewable energy is projected to be the fast-est growing source of primary energy over the next 25 years, but fossil fuels will remain the domi-nant source of energy, EIA said.
The IEEE said a global standard for smart grid energy and IT interoperability was approved and published. IEEE 2030 sets up a "globally relevant" smart grid interoperability reference model that can be used by utilities, device makers, governments who are crafting regulations, and by other standards development organizations, it said. "IEEE 2030 is poised to support the accelerated roll-out of the smart grid and realization of the revolutionary benefits — greater consumer choice, im-proved electric-system reliability and increased reliance on renewable sources of energy — that it promises for the people worldwide." Work has started for IEEE 2030 extensions, it said. They are IEEE P2030.1, a guide for electric-sourced transportation infrastructure; IEEE 2030.2, a guide for interoperability of energy storage systems; and IEEE P2030.3, a standard for test procedure for electric energy storage equipment.
India’s spending on green IT and sustainability initiatives will double from $35 billion in 2010 to $70 billion by 2015, said a Gartner report. Green IT and sustainability trends are finding their way into the IT departments of many industries in India, the report said. The country’s ICT industry will be an "early adopter of green IT and sustainability solutions as India is one of the fast-est growing markets in terms of IT hardware and communications infrastructure consumption," said analyst Ganesh Ramamoorthy. The banking and financial services, hospitality, manufacturing and other industries will also join the green IT tend early in India, the report said. In other sectors, ad-dressing energy, carbon and resource efficiency is still in the early stages, it said.
Consumer understanding and acceptance remain the "biggest obstacles" to smart grid imple-mentation, said a study by the Association of Energy Service Professionals (AESP). More than 90 percent of respondents to the survey of professionals in the energy efficiency sector of the industry said the consumer didn’t understand what’s meant by the smart grid. The resistance to smart meter remains high, the study said, and that "presents a challenge to bringing online the more sophisticated back-end, less visible elements of the smart grid." More than half the respondents said "customer resistance to smart metering technology will be a significant factor in slowing implementation of the smart grid," it said. "Clearly there is a lot of confusion about what is meant by the term smart grid," said AESP CEO Meg Matt. "That means we need to do a better job of explaining what the smart grid is and isn’t."
A Colorado company that was the focus of a 60 Minutes investigation is at the center of federal charges. Executive Recycling, its owner and a former vice president of operations were named in a 16 count indictment on Friday. The company used to operate out of Englewood at 1630 West Evans. Now the business at that address is Techcycle, which is owned by Brandon Richter. Richter is also the owner of Executive Recycling, named in the federal indictment.
Nearly three years ago, CBS News anchor Scott Pelley followed the trail of illegal exports around the world to Asia. 60 Minutes found that electronics people thought were being recycled, actually ended up in a dump in China where it was contaminating the water and air of people who live there.
Executive Recycling, Richter and former vice president Tor Olson are charged with environmental crimes involving export hazardous waste, destruction and falsification of records, wire and mail fraud.
The indictment alleges more than 100,000 Cathode Ray Tubes, CRTs, which contain lead, were illegally shipped over a three year period to foreign countries, including China.
The indictment states, “The defendants falsely advertised to customers that they would dispose of E-waste in compliance with all local, state and federal laws and regulations.
It’s alleged the defendants made $1.8 million in the illegal activity. The indictment is a result of a two and a half year federal investigation.
A conviction on just the wire fraud could bring up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
How the federal government dumps half a million worn-out computers and countless other electronic devices every year may help expand the $5 billion electronics recycling industry. The Environmental Protection Agency and General Services Administration are considering new rules of engagement for contract recyclers as they start requiring agencies to dispose of old computers, monitors and other electronic waste.
The agencies said they will decide next year on which third-party certification to apply to electronics recyclers under the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, which was unveiled this summer.
Green recyclers and traditional scrap haulers are at odds over the certification standards, one of which would ban exporting computer trash, along with other restrictions. Both sides agree that the U.S. agency mandate could transform the industry.
“By some estimates, the federal government goes through 10,000 computers a week,” GSA Administrator Martha Johnson said in an Aug. 9 statement. “Requiring that each of those machines end their useful lives at a certified recycler could mean big business.”
$5 billion industry
The U.S. electronics recycling industry employs 30,000 people and accounts for $5 billion in annual revenue, said David Daoud, personal computing analyst for International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. That amount could double if consumers follow the lead of federal agencies and companies, he said.
Jeremy Farber, founder of Chantilly-based PC Recycler, agreed. “When the federal government starts requiring something,” he said, “it trickles down.”
Kenny Gravitt, chief executive at Global Environmental Services, a recycler in Georgetown, Ky., that reclaims copper and aluminum from circuit boards and other components, said the entire U.S. economy would benefit from the export ban.
“I would like to see an edict come out that there will be no more exporting of electronic waste,” he said. “When that happens and the GSA opens up the playing field to qualified and serious recyclers, it’ll create jobs.”
Gravitt’s three-year-old company has added 100 employees to process electronics for companies including Japan’s Canon and Konica Minolta Holdings, attracting the GSA’s Johnson for a visit last month, he said. The company plans to pursue a GSA multiple-award schedule contract for environmental services.
The E-Stewards program, developed by environmentalists at the nonprofit Basel Action Network, bans exports of electronics waste to developing countries and focuses on getting end users to recycle, Daoud said.
A less restricting standard, called Responsible Recycling, or R2, is promoted by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a trade association. Industry considers R2 more business-friendly because it factors in business operations, revenue and profits, in addition to a company’s environmental record, for certification.
“Both certifications are essentially driven by competing interests, competing philosophies,” Daoud said. “The two are bound to clash, and that’s creating confusion among consumers.”
GSA, EPA weigh options
The GSA will propose changes to procurement regulations in February, while the EPA will lead the evaluation of the two certification standards.
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has not taken a position but also says the government recycling mandate will have an industrywide impact. “A robust electronics recycling industry in America would create new opportunities to efficiently and profitably address a growing pollution threat,” she said in a Sept. 2 e-mail.
The plan from the EPA and GSA as presented does not outright ban exports of electronics waste, which troubles some environmentalists.
“A lot of used electronics are managed very badly, and they get exported to developing nations,” said Barbara Kyle, national coordinator for the San Francisco-based Electronics TakeBack Coalition, of which the Basel Action Network is a member.
Complicating the federal drive to regulate e-waste are state laws, including in Maine, California and Connecticut, that each use varying approaches to requiring electronics makers to collect e-waste from consumers and businesses.
“Some of these states have had these programs three or four years now and are running them somewhat successfully,” PC Recycler’s Farber said. “For some states that have nothing, they’re not going to want to do it either, because they’re doing nothing for a reason.”
To date, major original equipment manufacturers have self-regulated e-waste processing because “manufacturers don’t want to hire a bad recycler,’’ said Walter Alcorn, vice president of environmental affairs for the Consumer Electronics Association, an industry group in Arlington County. “There is PR risk and environmental risk.”
Dell, the largest supplier of personal computers to the federal government, has had e-waste disposal programs since 2004 and takes back old units from federal customers in exchange for credit toward future buys, said Mike Watson, director of compliance for the Round Rock, Tex.-based company.
The company has banned exports by its third-party recyclers. Watson, though, played down any conflict between the two certifications, saying they are more similar than different.
“This is just a beauty contest, and we choose not to get engaged in beauty contests,’’ Watson said.
In the first case where criminal charges have been brought against an electronic-waste exporter, the federal government today charged two executives of Executive Recycling Inc., a Denver, Colorado electronics recycling firm, with multiple crimes. Executive Recycling CEO Brandon Richter and Tor Olson, vice president of operations, were indicted on 16 counts, including wire and mail fraud, environmental crimes, exportation contrary to law, and destruction, alteration, or falsification of records.
The charges were brought in conection with shipments of e-waste going to developing countries. Informal processing of e-waste without safety provisions can cause serious health and pollution problems. Some electronics, such as the cathode ray tubes of old computer monitors, contain lead, cadmium, beryllium, and others may contain brominated flame retardants.
The federal government first became aware of the alleged violations following an investigation by Basel Action Network, BAN, a Seattle-based toxic trade watchdog.
After 30 months of investigations, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations team and a team from the U.S. EPA Criminal Investigation Division laid charges today.
The investigation was brought to public attention when BAN worked with CBS's 60 Minutes news magazine in an episode entitled "The Wasteland."
In 2007 and 2008, BAN volunteers photographed 21 sea-going containers at Executive Recycling's loading docks that they tracked across the world, with most ending up in China.
BAN then alerted the Government Accountability Office and 60 Minutes, and together the groups documented U.S. businesses posing as responsible electronics recyclers but instead shipping e-waste to developing countries where it was processed in what BAN calls "deadly, polluting operations."
"This is a major victory for global environmental justice," said BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett.According to the federal grand jury indictment, Executive Recycling was responsible for at least 300 such exports, including shipments of more than 100,000 toxic cathode ray tubes that netted the company $1.8 million.
"Even before we have a U.S. law in place to explicitly prohibit this dumping on developing countries, the U.S. government's criminal justice system has recognized the massive toxic trade we first discovered in 2001 as fraudulent, as smuggling, and as an environmental crime," said Puckett. "Now these sham recyclers are warned: their shameful practices can land them in jail."
Legislation has been proposed in both the House and the Senate to prohibit the export of toxic electronic waste to developing countries.
Such an export prohibition already exists in Europe.
In 2008, the U.S. Government Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, criticized the EPA and uncontrolled e-waste exports in a strongly worded report. EPA enforcers themselves have said that the United States lacks clear laws to combat the global e-waste dumping practice.
"Sadly, Executive Recycling is just the tip of the e-waste iceberg," said Puckett. "They are but one of hundreds of fake recyclers who sell greenness and responsibility but in fact practice global dumping."
Puckett advocates passing federal legislation to ban dumping e-waste in developing countries. He urges anyone disposing of electronic waste to use only Certified e-Stewards® Recyclers who will not export old toxic computers and TVs to a developing country.
Executive Recycling still operates in the Denver area and has had e-waste recycling contracts with the cities of Denver, Boulder, and Broomfield and the El Paso County and Jefferson County governments.
The company is registered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as a "Large Quantity Handler of Universal Waste."
The United States is the world leader in producing electronic waste, tossing out about three million tons each year.
China already produces about 2.3 million tons (2010 estimate) domestically, second only to the United States. And, despite having banned e-waste imports, China remains an e-waste dumping ground for developed countries.
According to a report by UNEP titled, "Recycling - from E-Waste to Resources," the amount of e-waste being produced - including mobile phones and computers - could rise by as much as 500 percent over the next decade in some countries, such as India.
Two men from Colorado were indicted on Friday for shipping electronic waste overseas illegally. The U.S. Justice Department says Executive Recycling, Inc. sent cathode ray tubes, which are found in older computer monitors, to countries overseas, including China, to dispose of them.
Because of that, 36-year-old Brandon Richter of Highlands Ranch, owner of Executive Recycling, and 36-year-old Tor Olson of Parker, former vice president of Executive Recycling, were indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday. They both face charges of wire and mail fraud, environmental crimes in connection with the failure to file a notification to export hazardous waste and destruction, alteration or falsification of records.
The Justice Department says between February 2005 and January 2009, the company created a scheme to defraud various business and government entities who wanted to dispose of their e-waste.
The company said it would dispose of the waste in an environmentally friendly manner and said it would not be sent overseas.
Instead, investigators say the waste was sent overseas and it was not disposed of in an environmentally safe way.
A federal grand jury in Denver has indicted two executives from Executive Recycling, a metro-area electronics recycling company, after a three-year investigation into allegations they dumped hazardous computer waste overseas instead of reusing and reselling it domestically. Executive Recycling, based in Englewood, was profiled in a 60 Minutes expose in 2008 about the environmental and human toll of disposing of used computers and electronics, or ewaste, in China and other countries.
Investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency raided the business in early 2009 and seized records under a search warrant.
The agency and other investigators have declined to discuss the case publicly since then.
The grand jury indicted Executive Recycling CEO and own Brandon Richter, 36, of Highlands Ranch, and former company vice president Tor Olson, 36, of Parker, on charges of wire and mail fraud as well as environmental crimes.
The indictment, released Friday alleges, the two exported hazardous ewaste — mostly monitors with cathode-ray tubes (or CRT) — without a proper EPA license, and then they altered, destroyed or falsified records about the shipments.
Interviewed by the DBJ as the investigation started in 2008, CEO Brandon Richter claimed ignorance about the overseas shipments of ewaste — first uncovered by Seattle-based environmental group Basel Action Network — and blamed what 60 Minutes reported on a Canadian company it contracted.
The EPA investigation, the indictment said, connected Executive Recycling to more than 300 exports of ewaste between 2005 and 2008, including 160 exports that shipped more than 100,000 CRT monitors.
Executive Recycling told clients — including the governments of Boulder, Broomfield, El Paso County and the Jefferson County and Cherry Creek school district; and The Children’s Hospital, Centura Health Hospital, the Denver Newspaper Agency, and ADT Security — that all the electronics they collected from them would be reused or disposed of in accordance with all environmental regulations.
Instead, the indictment said, Richter and Olson made more than $1.8 million selling the ewaste to companies that shipped them abroad, presumably so the ewaste would be dismantled to recover tiny amounts of precious metals they contain.
The electronics, especially CRT monitors, contain lead and other hazardous materials, and the dismantling of ewaste can poison the area where it’s done, and be harmful to the people involved.
To read the entire release issued by the U.S. Attorney's office, click here.
To see a copy of the Executive Recycling Indictment, click here.
The creation of programs to create awareness of the effects of e-waste on health and the environment, as well as the involvement of bigger, global players to take advantage of their leadership, best practices and opportunities in Canada, Mexico and the United States, are among the recommendations to the Council of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) of North America, released today by a panel of citizens of the three countries. As part of the forum organized by the CEC’s Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) in Montreal, Canada, on 21–22 June 2011, the document submitted to Council strongly recommends that the three NAFTA countries endorse the principles of the Basel Ban Amendment of the Basel Convention to provide an internationally consistent, legal restraint on the abuse created by market forces that externalize the costs of e-waste to less developed countries.
In its recommendations, JPAC recognizes the work of the CEC and the governments of the three countries to address e-waste and praises their inclusion in the CEC's Operational Plan of initiatives to collect, track and coordinate data that will facilitate e-waste management and enforcement.
However, the panel recommends that a much wider and more inclusive definition of e-waste be embraced, one that will expand CEC projects beyond the focus on “computers and monitors.”
JPAC also highlights the need to pay special attention to promoting North American recycling and upgrading practices, ranging from consumer habits to green design initiatives that would extend lifecycles and place design emphasis on components that are less toxic and more easily recycled, or that can be upgraded rather than requiring complete replacement.