Exxon Mobil Creates Green U.S. Recycling Jobs

Instead of sending their defunct tanker to the infamous ship-scrapping beaches of South Asia, Exxon Mobil and wholly owned subsidiary SeaRiver Maritime, recently completed the sale of the S/R Wilmington, a 1984 built tanker, to a U.S. ship recycling facility, where it will be dismantled by a skilled workforce, using advanced technologies to manage the vessel’s hazardous waste stream. Exxon’s move to recycle the Wilmington in the U.S. is seen by the toxic trade watchdog organization, Basel Action Network (BAN), as a move to lead by example, opting for the safe and environmentally preferable ship recycling methods of U.S. ship recyclers, while creating green U.S. jobs in a tough economy. “We applaud this decision and hope this is a harbinger of many more such corporate choices – to internalize costs and not use the global commons or developing countries as convenient dumping grounds for pollution and harmful activities,” said Mr. Colby Self, Green Ship Recycling Campaign Director for BAN.

This move is in stark contrast to some of Exxon’s competitors including BP, who often send their retired fleets to the shipbreaking beaches of South Asia, where nearly a quarter of the exploited workforce at these yards are child laborers making less than USD$1 per day, and where little is done to protect their health and safety or that of the environmentally sensitive tidal flats where these vessels are scrapped.

Because of its age, the Wilmington is suspected of containing a host of hazardous wastes within its construction. These wastes cannot be managed in an environmentally sound manner on the shipbreaking beaches of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where approximately 90% of the obsolete global shipping fleet is dismantled. Using advanced technologies at U.S. ship recycling facilities, these wastes, including PCBs, asbestos, lead, and mercury are contained and managed with proper care, while approximately 91% of the vessel, including critical metal resources such as steel, aluminum, and copper, are fully recycled and recirculated into the marketplace, thereby reducing demand for environmentally destructive primary metal mining and related carbon emissions.

BAN is pleased with this outcome after having been in close contact with Exxon/SeaRiver for months,” said Self. “Building on this positive result, we now call on Exxon to further lead by example to make a corporate commitment to Off the Beach environmentally sound management of all end-of-life vessels owned, operated or leased on behalf of Exxon/SeaRiver.

The NGO Platform, of which BAN is a part, is seeking an “Off the Beach Commitment” from all enterprises utilizing shipping. This Commitment entails agreeing to ensure that the ships used by a company directly or under contract, do not find their way to the beaches of South Asia at end-of-life.

First Federal Criminal Charges Brought Against Recycler for Exporting Toxic e-Waste

After 30 months of investigations, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and EPA Criminal Investigation Division handed down multiple criminal charges today against two executives of Executive Recycling Inc., a Denver, Colorado electronics recycling firm. The government first became aware of the alleged violations following an investigation by the Basel Action Network (BAN), a Seattle based organization dedicated to combating toxic trade. The investigation became highly publicized after BAN worked with CBS’s 60 Minutes news magazine in an episode entitled “The Wasteland.” It is the first instance that criminal charges have been brought against an e-waste exporter. In 2007 and 2008, BAN volunteers photographed 21 sea-going containers at Executive Recycling’s loading docks that they subsequently tracked across the world, with most ending up in China. BAN then alerted the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and 60 Minutes, and together the groups documented US businesses posing as responsible electronics recyclers but who instead were simply shipping e-waste to developing countries where it was processed in deadly, highly polluting operations. The resulting 60 Minutes episode has since become one of the most popular and award winning in the program’s history.

This is a major victory for global environmental justice,” said BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett. “Even before we have a US law in place to explicitly prohibit this dumping on developing countries, the US 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. Now these sham recyclers are warned: their shameful practices can land them in jail.”

Currently, legislation has been proposed in both the US House of Representatives and the Senate to prohibit the export of toxic electronic waste to developing countries. Such an export prohibition already exists in Europe. The US has been behind in enacting such rules, and in 2008, the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) was highly critical of the EPA and uncontrolled e-waste exports in a strongly worded report. EPA enforcers themselves have lamented that the US lacks clear laws to combat the global e-waste dumping practice.

According to the federal grand jury indictment, Executive Recycling was responsible for at least 300 exports, including shipments of more than 100,000 toxic cathode ray tubes that netted the company $1.8 million. Executive’s CEO, Mr. Brandon Richter, together with Mr. Tor Olson, Vice President of Operations, were indicted on 16 separate counts including wire and mail fraud, environmental crimes, exportation contrary to law, and destruction, alteration, or falsification of records.

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. It is registered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as a “Large Quantity Handler of Universal Waste.

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. This is why we must pass federal legislation prohibiting this activity. And this is why all those disposing of electronic waste should use only Certified e-Stewards® Recyclers who will not export your old toxic computer or TV to a developing country.

LG Electronics Commits to Using the Most Responsible e-Waste Solution Worldwide

The non-profit Basel Action Network (BAN) and LG Electronics today announced that LG Electronics Inc. is the first "Global e-Stewards Enterprise," a company committed to responsible recycling of its electronic waste and choosing to use e-Stewards® Certified electronics recyclers worldwide. "This is historic," said BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett. "To have a company like LG, with more than 90,000 employees working in 120 operations on five continents, embrace the e-Stewards program around the world will not only significantly protect human health and the environment from toxic pollution but will raise the profile of the e-Stewards internationally. It speaks volumes about LG's commitment to environmental leadership."

The company has been leading the way in responsible electronics recycling in the United States. The LG Electronics Recycling Program provides consumers with a convenient and responsible way to dispose of used, unwanted, obsolete or damaged consumer electronics products. In 2010, LG recycled more than 8 million pounds of home electronic products in the United States, free of charge to consumers.

"LG has always been committed to providing consumers the highest quality products available while reducing the environmental impacts of the manufacturing and use of those products," said Dr. Skott Ahn, president and chief technology officer, LG Electronics, Inc. "Our partnership with BAN and e-Stewards demonstrates LG's equal commitment to reducing the impacts of products at the end of their life."

By becoming an e-Stewards Enterprise, LG will give preference to electronics recyclers that meet and are certified to the "e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment."

The international standard, developed by BAN, with the advice of industry leaders and health and environmental specialists, is the world's most rigorous certification program for electronics recyclers. It prevents the export and dumping of toxic electronic waste in developing countries. The standard also calls for strict protection of private data and occupational health safeguards to ensure workers in recycling plants are not exposed to toxic dusts.

Currently, there are e-Stewards Recyclers in the United States, Mexico and the UK with several in progress in Canada.

As the primary sponsor of the Champions of the Earth award, the United Nations flagship environmental award, LG contributes more than $600,000 annually to raise awareness of environmental issues at the regional and global levels and to help develop practical solutions.

"Sustainability is a core value at LG," said Wayne Park, president and CEO of LG Electronics USA. "From our ambitious carbon reduction commitments, to our industry-leading efforts to bring high efficiency ENERGY STAR® qualified products to market, to our support for environmental efforts around the world, reducing environmental impact, while enhancing consumers' lives through innovation. Life's good when you live green."

Federal E-Waste Effort Gets Mixed Reaction from Environmental Coalition

An Interagency Task Force - chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Environmental Protection Agency, and General Services Administration, today released "A National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship." The report makes a variety of important recommendations to promote green design of electronics, and to improve handling of e-waste coming from federal agencies. According to environmental groups, the report has some good recommendations on green design and on using certified recyclers, but it completely fails to address what is generally recognized as the most serious e-waste problem - e-waste exporting to developing countries. One of the report's stated goals is to ensure that the federal agencies will "lead by example" in managing their used electronics.

"We are very disappointed that the Task Force missed the opportunity handed to them by President Obama's mandate to truly lead by example and ensure that all federal agencies do the right thing and not export obsolete used electronic equipment unless it is fully functional," said Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator of the Electronic TakeBack Coalition, a national environmental coalition which promotes responsible recycling of e-waste. "We have other companies like Dell, HP, Apple, Samsung that have set the leadership bar there, so I don't understand why our own federal government can't do the same with its own e-waste."

"Sadly, this report is a living contradiction," said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network. "On the one hand it claims to promote responsible recycling and job creation here in the U.S., but then does nothing to prevent e-waste exporting, which squanders our critical metals resources, and poisons children abroad while exporting good recycling jobs from our country. This report shows why we need Congress to pass the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, now under consideration in both the Senate and Congress, to truly address this issue."

Currently, most U.S. electronic waste is exported to developing countries by many U.S. companies that claim to be recyclers, to be bashed, burned, flushed with acids, and melted down in unsafe conditions in developing countries. Eighty percent of children in Guiyu, China, a region where many "recycled" electronics wind up, have elevated levels of lead in their blood, due to the toxins in those electronics, much of which originates in the U.S. The plastics in the imported electronics are typically burned outdoors, which can emit deadly dioxin or furans, which are breathed in by workers and nearby residents.

ETBC applauds the commitment by the GSA to use its purchasing power to promote greener products, and to get involved in the standards setting processes.

"We think it's appropriate that the country's largest electronics purchaser, especially one using taxpayer dollars, do everything possible to advocate for products that are less toxic, longer lasting, and more recyclable," said Barbara Kyle.

Ship Sinking Programs Waste Taxpayer Dollars, Squander Valuable Resources, Jobs And Pollute The Sea

A new report, "Dishonorable Disposal," by the Basel Action Network (BAN), and subsequent investigation by The Washington Post, uncovers the wasteful legacy of the U.S. Navy's ship sinking programs. This first-ever comprehensive analysis of ship ocean disposal by way of target practice exercise or "artificial reefing," cites new toxicological data demonstrating contamination of seafood, and an economic analysis revealing lost recycling jobs, wasted taxpayer dollars, and squandered resources at the center of the government's ship disposal program. Recently, the Pentagon quietly pulled back on plans to sink the USS Forrestal and three other aircraft carriers earlier this year, deciding instead to recycle these vessels domestically, based on economic factors. However, the Navy is now ignoring the rationale that led them to that decision and is moving ahead with plans to sink two vessels annually for military exercises (called SINKEX) in the Gulf of Alaska, one of the richest fishing grounds in the world. Another naval vessel will soon be sunk as an "artificial reef" - the Ex-Arthur Radford, a 563 foot Navy destroyer. The Radford sinking, planned for later this month if not stopped by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will be the largest ship dumped as an artificial reef off the eastern seaboard.

The EPA and Navy admit that toxic chemicals are deposited into the marine environment as a result of ship sinking operations, including asbestos, lead paint, antifouling paint containing tributyltin (TBT), polybrominated diphenyl esters (PBDEs) and notably polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a suspected carcinogen that has been targeted for global phase-out and destruction under the Stockholm Convention. As yet unreleased fish sampling data gathered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, cited in BAN's report, reveals startling toxic leaching from the scuttled aircraft carrier Ex-Oriskany, an artificial reef sunk in Florida waters in 2006. The report reveals that PCBs were leached into surrounding waters and taken up by fish at levels exceeding the Florida Department of Health fish consumption advisory levels. However, no public health warnings have been issued since the discovery of this contamination.

"The harmful effects of PCBs include cancer, reproductive problems and memory loss, with the risk greatest for children and unborn babies. PCBs may also cause similar problems in wildlife," said Dr. Alan Duckworth, research scientist at the Blue Ocean Institute at Stony Brook University in response to the report. "It is therefore disturbing that the U.S. disposes of obsolete vessels by sinking them, promoting the release of toxins like PCBs into our food chain. To prevent the contamination of our seafood it is essential that we have zero tolerance for intentional PCB dumping at sea."

BAN also found that the U.S. government's ship sinking programs have escalated in recent years. From 1970-1999 the ship sinking programs accounted for approximately eight percent of all vessel disposals, but from 2000-2008, sinkings accounted for an alarming 70 percent of all disposals. Roughly 100 vessels containing an estimated 600,000 tons of recyclable steel, copper and aluminum, worth an estimated half a billion dollars have been dumped at sea over the past decade alone.

In a time of tight budgets and careful use of taxpayer money, the report reveals that the U.S. government spent a total of $25 million on the dumping of just four ships as artificial reefs in the past eight years. Total reefing costs amounted to $554 per ton. In contrast, the cost of recycling retired vessels for metals recovery in these same years was an average $67 per ton.

While the SINKEX program allows the Navy to fire on inactive naval warships to practice gunnery and torpedo accuracy, there are more reasonable methods now demonstrated as viable and available, such as computer simulations, or use of clean barges and inflatable targets. Further, contrary to popular belief, the sinking of waste material at sea as artificial reefs may actually be detrimental to species populations, as it concentrates fish and allows for overfishing.

According to BAN, domestic ship recycling is the only acceptable disposal method, as it properly contains and disposes of toxic waste, recirculates critical metals resources into the domestic marketplace to reduce reliance on the dangerous and damaging primary metals mining industry while creating green U.S. jobs. BAN's report calls for an end to government sponsored ocean dumping programs and calls for a national policy that always favors domestic recycling.

Environmnetal groups petition EPA to end Navy ship dumping program

An administrative petition to put a halt to the Navy's practice of sinking contaminated old vessels in the high seas as part of target practice exercises known as SINKEX was filed today by the Basel Action Network (BAN) and the Sierra Club. The petition, directed to U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, alleges that the decommissioned ships used by the Navy contain a host of toxic materials including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that pose serious threats to the marine environment when sunk. The legal action is timely as the Navy recently announced plans to extend the SINKEX program to the Gulf of Alaska, one of the richest fishing grounds in the world, including commercially important fisheries such as crab, cod, salmon and halibut.

The petition concludes that the current program not only violates U.S and international ocean dumping regulations, but in fact may contaminate waters to such an extent that fish found there will not be fit for human consumption.

"After more than a decade of unchecked dumping and sinking of old naval vessels, the Navy's SINKEX program has raised toxic PCB and contaminant levels in our marine environment, threatening our waters, food supply, local fishing industries and human health," said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. "The Sierra Club is joining the Basel Action Network in this important effort to clean up our oceans and promote safe recycling of ships. We hope the Navy will lead by example - as they have with their adoption of hybrid ships - by putting a halt to this arcane dumping practice."

The Navy's SINKEX program allows the Navy to fire on inactive naval warships to practicegunnery and torpedo accuracy while also disposing of unwanted ships at sea. The program has operated under a series of general permits and exemptions from existing environmental laws, namely the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), which implements the London Convention into U.S. law and regulates ocean dumping, and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which regulates the transport and disposal of PCBs. The EPA and Navy admit that PCBs, a suspected carcinogen that has been targeted for global phase out and destruction under the Stockholm Convention, are deposited into the marine environment as a result of SINKEX operations. Recent data from the scuttled aircraft carrier Oriskany reveal that PCBs were leached into surrounding waters at far greater rates than anticipated, resulting in human health threats to those consuming fish from the Florida dump site.

In the petition, BAN and Sierra Club request the EPA Administrator to reevaluate the SINKEX program given the current body of scientific knowledge on PCB leaching and uptake through the marine food chain.

Computer simulation and use of large balloons and clean barges are demonstrated and viable alternative methods to sinking actual ships for the purposes of naval training. According to BAN and Sierra Club, by using such alternatives, the government will lead by example and will uphold President Obama's Executive Order 13514: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance by promoting recycling, and by doing so, will create thousands of 'green jobs' here in the U.S. Recycling recirculates critical metals resources into the marketplace, and reduces reliance on the dangerous and damaging primary metals mining.

"While the EPA and Navy both acknowledge new science on PCBs, they have failed to reevaluate the unimpeded ocean dumping privileges extended to the Navy more than a decade ago," said Colby Self, BAN's Green Ship Recycling Campaign Director. "They have also failed to recognize today's ethic of recycling rather than dumping. It's time we take a more rational approach."

Toxic E-Waste Exports by Chicago Electronics Recycler Uncovered

The Basel Action Network (BAN), a toxic watchdog group, today announced that Chicago Heights, Illinois electronics recycler Intercon Solutions will be the first company denied the e-Stewards certification (www.e-Stewards.org), which is available to electronics recyclers that can demonstrate that they operate in a truly responsible manner. BAN’s denial was based on “compelling evidence” that Intercon Solutions had been engaged in exporting hazardous electronic waste to China. 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. 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. Hong Kong law forbids the importation of hazardous waste electronics such as cathode ray tubes (CRTs and batteries). Further,the import by developing countries of such wastes from the United States is also illegal under the United Nations’ Basel Convention.

“It is very sad that many e-Waste recycling companies continue to pose as ‘responsible recyclers’ while they continue to export toxic waste,” said Basel Action Network's Executive Director, Jim Puckett. “In this case, we can take some satisfaction that our e-Stewards Certification screening methods and audit caught what BAN has every reason to believe is a violator.”

The final decision by BAN to deny the certification took place only after an on-site audit had been conducted and after direct discussions between BAN and Intercon Solutions failed to convince BAN that Intercon Solutions had not exported the toxic containers. Such export is a violation of the e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment, and is likely also to violate the importation laws of Hong Kong, the US federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and Illinois State Law governing the conduct of registered electronics recyclers.

BAN is the organization that first revealed the primitive and damaging recycling that takes place in countries like Nigeria, Ghana and China, where US electronic waste is broken, melted, and burned often by children and pregnant women, resulting is severe environmental contamination and adverse health effects. High levels of lead, a dangerous neurotoxin, have been found in the blood of the children in Guiyu, China as a result of these dangerous recycling operations that receive US exported e-waste. More recent studies have linked DNA damage to exposure of Chinese workers at these operations. BAN’s initial discoveries of the crisis in 2001 lead to the development of the e-Stewards Certification program to recognize responsible recyclers that do not export their toxic wastes to developing countries.

“The exportation of toxic e-Waste is harming communities around the world while consumers are being duped into thinking these recyclers are doing good. We need strong laws and robust certification programs to ensure this kind of unfair and damaging trade is stopped once and for all.” said Puckett.

In addition to the e-Stewards Certification, BAN and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition strongly support the recently introduced Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, which prohibits the export of toxic electronic wastes to developing countries. The bill was introduced last week in the House and the Senate.

E-Waste Export Bill to Stop Global E-Waste Dumping & Boost Green Jobs

U.S. Representatives Gene Green (D-TX) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) yesterday introduced new legislation – the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act - to stop sham U.S. “recyclers” from dumping electronic waste on developing countries and to promote recycling jobs at home. The bill is supported by environmental groups as well as electronic manufacturers (Dell, HP, Samsung, Apple, and Best Buy), all of which already have policies that prohibit the export of e-waste to developing nations. The bill also has bipartisan support, including sponsors Reps. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) and Lee Terry (R-NE). “This is the most important step our federal government can take to solve the e-waste problem – to close the door on e-waste dumping on developing countries,” said Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, a national environmental coalition which promotes responsible recycling of e-waste. “It will bring recycling jobs back to the U.S.”

The bill addresses the toxic exposures caused by e-waste dumping and primitive recycling operations in countries like China, India, Nigeria, Ghana, which have the subject of recent media exposés, and a scathing report by the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office (GAO).

“The States have been passing laws that are already increasing the amount of e-waste collected for recycling, instead of land-filling,” said Kate Sinding, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.“Unfortunately, these laws can’t stop recyclers from simply sending our e-waste – and our jobs - to developing nations where improper handling threatens health and the environment. But Congress can.”

Twenty five states have passed e-waste recycling legislation, but these laws do not ban e-waste exports, which is an international trade issue, and not the constitutional jurisdiction of the states. Only Congress has the authority to legislate this much needed restriction.

“This bill accomplishes two things: first, it prevents hazardous material from being shipped where it will be mishandled and cause health and environmental damage; and second, it is a green jobs bill and will create work here in the U.S., processing these used products in safe ways,” said U.S. Representative Gene Green (D-TX). “I applaud HP for leading on this issue and their responsible recycling.”

“Each year, millions of tons of electronics equipment are discarded in the U.S. and shipped to developing nations for unsafe salvage and recovery,” said U.S. Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA). “By carefully regulating the export of e-waste, this bipartisan legislation takes concrete steps to address a growing environmental and health crisis while creating good-paying recycling jobs here in the U.S.”

Currently, electronic waste is exported to developing countries by many U.S. companies that claim to be recyclers, to be bashed, burned, flushed with acids, and melted down in unsafe conditions in developing countries. Eighty percent of children in Guiyu, China, a region where many “recycled” electronics wind up, have elevated levels of lead in their blood, due to the toxins in those electronics, much of which originates in the U.S. The plastics in the imported electronics are typically burned outdoors, which can emit deadly dioxin or furans, which are breathed in by workers and nearby residents.

“As an industry leader in product lifecycle improvements, HP does not allow the export of e-waste from developed countries to developing countries. We support the work of Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) to pass the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, and we encourage other companies to join the effort and promote responsible recycling,” said Ashley Watson, Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer for HP.

The bill establishes a new category of “restricted electronic waste” which cannot be exported from the U.S. to developing nations. Used equipment can still be exported for reuse as long as it’s been tested and is fully functional. Non-hazardous parts or materials are also not restricted. Other exemptions from the restrictions are:

  • products under warranty being returned to the manufacturer for warranty repairs;
  • products or parts being recalled; and
  • crushed cathode ray tube (CRT) glass cullet that is cleaned and fully prepared as feedstock into CRT glass manufacturing facilities

“Not only is this bill good for the environment, but it gives a boost to small business recyclers and creates more green jobs. This is what both the industry and our customers want,” said Dewayne Burns, CEO, eSCO Processing and Recycling.

Similar legislation was introduced in the House in September of 2010, but it was too late in the Congressional session for the bill to advance. This time, the bill has added a provision for research into recycling and recovery of Rare Earth Metals from electronics. Export of electronics scrap to crude recycling operations in developing countries also prevents proper collection and recycling of precious and strategic metals.

“This bill is both a boon to the health of our environment and our U.S. economy. With it, we stop squandering critical metals resources, stop poisoning children and we create good recycling industry jobs in the USA at the same time,” said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network.

U.S. Ship poised to dump toxic waste on Bangladesh

A U.S. flagged cargo vessel called “HARRIETTE” was cleared on 1 June by the U.S. Maritime Administration for scrapping on the notorious beaches of Chittagong, Bangladesh with the surprising support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In past years, EPA required that older U.S. flagged vessels be tested for toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) prior to being exported to foreign scrap yards, as the export of PCBs violates the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA has been the only legal means of preventing the toxic dumping of obsolete U.S. ships on Asian beaches, where impoverished workers dismantle ships by hand and suffer from accidental loss of life and occupational disease. Now, EPA seems willing to ignore its obligation to diligently administer TSCA, as directed by Congress, and instead of testing, is allowing ship owners to self-certify that their ships are PCB free -- effectively permitting the possibility of illegal export of toxic PCB waste to the developing world with a see-no-evil policy.

“Self-certification has time and time again proven to be a failed process of regulating industry,” said BAN’s Green Ship Recycling Campaign Director, Colby Self. “Ship owners who routinely maximize profits by dumping hazardous waste ships to be broken down by desperately poor laborers in primitive conditions are the wrong people to police themselves.”

In January 2010, the U.S. Maritime Administration prompted the U.S. EPA to review the HARRIETTE vessel transfer request, as filed by U.S. owner Sealift Inc., to assure compliance with TSCA. MARAD awaited a recommendation from EPA since January; however, EPA declined to review or make a recommendation, completely disregarding their obligations under TSCA. In the recent past, EPA had always required ship owners to test their vessels if there was a likelihood of PCB presence within the ships structural materials. MARAD then authorized the transfer request based solely on self-certifying claims from the ship owner.

EPA’s inaction positions the beneficiary with regulating his own actions, with a favorable determination bringing the owner a reported USD$3.2 million in the case of the HARRIETTE. Another vessel known as the PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND followed a similar path in March, in which the owners netted a reported USD$10 million from ship breakers at Alang, India. This U.S. vessel also was suspected of containing PCBs due to its 1975 year of construction and yet was never required to be tested.

“It appears that the Obama Administration has made a deliberate change in policy to knowingly turn a blind eye to the fate of U.S. flagged ships being scrapped on Asian beaches,” said Mr. Self. “Sadly this is being done even when they know the exports will result in untimely death and disease and are in fact being exported in contravention of U.S. law.”

The HARRIETTE was constructed in Japan between 1976-1978, and due to limited regulations under the Japanese Chemical Substances Control Law [1] at that time, there is high probability that the vessel was built with toxic components, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, lead and TBT based paints. EPA’s own guidance documents suggest vessels of this vintage (pre-1979) are assumed to contain regulated concentrations of PCBs (equal to or greater than 50 parts per million) unless sampling of all suspected materials prove otherwise.[2] No sampling was conducted on the HARRIETTE nor on the PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND.

Further, the HARRIETTE’s export to the ship breaking beaches of Bangladesh is not only a likely violation of U.S. environmental regulation but also a breach of the United Nations Basel Convention, which prohibits the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes from a non-party, such as the United States, to a member state, such as Bangladesh. The Government of Bangladesh is urged to ban the HARRIETTE from the ship breaking beaches of Chittagong and to uphold the principles of the Basel Convention in the same manner as their recent ban on the vessel called GULF JASH.

NGOs call on Bangladesh: Stop Death Ship Before it Kills Again

The Probo Koala, now re-named the Gulf Jash, a ship which caused an environmental and human rights disaster in the Ivory Coast in August 2006, has been sold for scrapping on the infamous ship breaking beaches of Chittagong in Bangladesh. Environmental, human rights and labour rights organisations represented by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform fear that the Probo Koala will be allowed to perpetuate its deadly legacy by being broken down in unsafe and environmentally damaging conditions. The Platform is calling on the government of Bangladesh to refuse the import of the ship. It is expected that the Probo Koala contains many tonnes of hazardous asbestos, PCBs, toxic paints, fuel and chemical residues. Currently the ship is located in Vietnam. In 2006, the transnational company Trafigura used the Probo Koala to illegally dump 528 tonnes of toxic waste in Abidjan, the largest city of the Ivory Coast, causing the death of 16 people according to the Ivorian authorities [1]. Global Marketing Systems (GMS), a US company specialised in the brokering of vessels for demolition, confirmed it had bought the ship last week, but had so far not disclosed its final destination [2]. However its website currently lists that one of the advantages of utilising Bangladesh as a destination for end-of-life tankers is the lack of requirements for testing for gas residues within the ship [3]. These gases might ignite and explode when a shipbreaking worker uses a cutting torch.

“The Probo Koala already is a symbol of an unaccountable and irresponsible shipping industry,” said Bangladeshi lawyer and director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), Rizwana Hasan. “We demand that this ship and all others like her, carrying toxic substances and intent on exploiting yet again the population and environment in the developing world, be barred from entry into Bangladesh.”

Shipbreaking as is done on the beaches of South Asia is one of the world’s most dangerous and polluting enterprises [4]. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has, through its member organisation BELA, successfully petitioned in the Bangladeshi courts to stop the import of toxic ships for breaking, and safer methods of breaking ships already exist today. However, due to intense political and economic pressure from the shipbreaking and shipping industry, the court ruling has temporarily been lifted pending further decisions. Unless and until the High Court decision is allowed to stand, toxic ships will continue to pile up on the beaches of Bangladesh where they are broken apart by hand exposing workers to explosions and occupational disease, while contaminating the coastal environment.

“A ship that was used to generate, and then dump toxic waste in a developing country is now aiming to do the same all in the name of ship recycling,” said Ingvild Jenssen, Director of the Platform. “While victims of the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast are still awaiting effective justice and fair reparation for their harm, we must stop this ship before it causes more casualties.”

If the Bangladeshi authorities do not stop the vessel from entering its territorial waters, the NGOs fear that the ship will be allowed to perpetuate its deadly legacy by being broken down in unsafe and environmentally damaging conditions. According to the Platform, toxic ships should be dismantled in green recycling facilities where workers and the environment are protected from exposure to toxic waste.

Navy Abandons Plan To Sink Senator McCain’s Old Aircraft Carrier

The Basel Action Network, a global toxic trade watchdog organization, claimed victory today as the U.S. Navy confirmed it had changed its decision to scuttle the aircraft carrier USS FORRESTAL, choosing instead to have the ship recycled here in the United States. This change followed the December 2010 release of BAN’s report “Jobs and Dollars Overboard: The Economic Case Against Dumping U.S. Naval Vessels at Sea.” BAN estimates that the recycling of the FORRESTAL will save millions of taxpayer dollars, create approximately 500 green jobs in the domestic recycling industry, and create about 1,900 jobs in the overall economy[1] for one year. In addition to the FORRESTAL, the Navy now says it will recycle three other retired carriers: the SARATOGA, INDEPENDENCE, and CONSTELLATION. In past years, these vessels would all have been dumped at sea as artificial reefs or as part of the Navy’s costly sinking exercise program (SINKEX). For example, the aircraft carriers AMERICA and ORISKANY were both scuttled, costing taxpayers over $20 million each.

“The Obama Administration’s new plan to recycle these four aircraft carriers appears to be a signal that the Administration may be correcting long-standing misguided policies that not only squander resources, but American jobs as well,” said Colby Self, BAN’s Green Ship Recycling Campaign Director.

BAN’s calls to the Navy to end its plans to sink the USS FORRESTAL began in 2008, following the Navy’s report to Congress in which it clarified its intent to sink the ship as an artificial reef. By July 2009, the Navy had already spent $6.4 million removing asbestos from the vessel in preparation for ship scuttling. BAN warned that costs would quickly escalate when treatment of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) began, pointing to the disaster caused by efforts with another ship, the ORISKANY, where the Navy spent a reported $23.6 million to sink it. Yet by its own admission, the Navy had not removed all the hazardous PCBs on the ship, probable human carcinogens that are passed through the marine food chain to humans who consume contaminated fish.

On Dec. 13, 2010, just days before military leaders met at the Pentagon to decide the fate of this next round of obsolete vessels, BAN published its report making the economic case for choosing recycling over ocean dumping. This report was the first to call the Navy’s SINKEX program a significant waste of taxpayer dollars. It also included an open petition calling on the Navy to end the wasteful practice of dumping valuable metals at sea instead of recycling them, a choice that would save millions of dollars and also support domestic recycling jobs.

The recently revealed decision to recycle the FORRESTAL is welcomed by BAN, but so too is the Navy’s recently announced plans to stop dumping ships via SINKEX in 2011 while it reevaluates the benefits and impacts of the program. This comes on the heels of some 95 documented naval vessels having been dumped at sea in the last decade alone.

However, BAN remains concerned that the federal government has not stopped the plan to sink the ex-destroyer ARTHUR RADFORD this May. The ship is now under the command of a three-state artificial reefing pact comprised of Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. BAN notified officials of regulatory inconsistencies with artificial reefing efforts off Delaware’s coast in September 2010 and has raised serious economic and environmental concerns about artificial reefing’s waste of taxpayer dollars and the significant ocean pollution it causes. While the EPA has yet to approve the sinking, the Navy has already spent $200,000 in preparation.

“BAN calls on the US EPA, Navy and the Atlantic States to halt the plans to sink the RADFORD at once. 2011 can be the year that marks the point in history when we steer away from the arcane policy of scuttling our jobs and resources while polluting our seas, and opt instead for cutting the budget, creating American jobs and preserving our environment,” said Self.