NGO Releases 2011 List Of Top EU Companies Sending Toxic Ships To South Asia

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a coalition of human rights, labour rights and environmental organisations working on the shipbreaking issue, has released its third yearly list of European companies that have sent end-of-life ships to the infamous scrap beaches of South Asia. The European Waste Shipment Regulation – which incorporates international law such as the 1989 Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes – prohibits European Union Member States from exporting hazardous wastes, including those present in the structure of ships to developing countries. Still, the vast majority of European shipping companies continue to avoid the costs of proper disposal by selling their ships to South Asian breaking yards known for the lack of enforcement of environmental and labour laws, exposing some of the poorest communities to extremely dangerous working conditions and severe pollution. The top 10 European “global dumpers” in 2011 are[1]:

  1. Greece(100 ships)
  2. Norway(24 ships)
  3. UK(13 ships)
  4. TheNetherlands(12  ships)
  5. Germany(11 ships)
  6. Italy(9 ships)
  7. Cyprus,Switzerland(5 ships each )
  8. Bulgaria,Denmark,Romania(4 ships each)
  9. Latvia,Lithuania,Poland,Spain,Sweden(3 ships each)
  10. Belgium,Finland,Ireland,Slovenia(1 ship each)

Once more, the listing of European dumpers also highlights the problem of “flags of convenience” (FOC). Unscrupulous ship-owners have long used FOCs to evade tax rules, licence regulations, safety standards and social requirements for the treatment of crew. Backed by shell companies, joint-ventures and hidden owners, FOCs are also considerable constraints to combating illegal toxic waste dumping as they make it extremely difficult to locate and penalise the real owners of vessels. In 2011, the top five flags used by European companies were so-called “flags of convenience” as listed by the International Transport Workers Federation, and accounted for 64% of the total (almost two thirds) of flags. These are:

  1. Panama(55 times)
  2. Liberia(33 times)
  3. Bahamas, St Kitts-Nevis (12 times each)
  4. Comoros(11 times)
  5. Marshall Islands, St Vincent & Grenadines (7 times each)

Pollution and deaths caused by obsolete European ships

Each year, approximately 800 ocean ships reach the end of their service life and are broken down to recover steel.  Yet only a fraction is handled in a safe, sustainable manner.  About 80% of all end-of-life ships are simply run ashore on tidal beaches in developing countries such as Bangladesh, India  and Pakistan, where unscrupulous shipbreaking companies exploit minimal enforcement of environmental and safety rules to maximize profits.

On the beaches ofSouth Asia, poor and unskilled migrant workers are deployed by the thousands to break down the ships manually, which are often full of toxics such as asbestos, lead, PCBs and heavy metals.  Little care is given to worker safety or protection of the environment.  The toxics sicken the workers and ravage coastal ecosystems.  The muddy sand and shifting grounds of tidal beaches cannot support heavy lifting equipment or safety gear, therefore accidents maim or kill hundreds of workers each year.

The statistics are alarming. The European Commission estimates that 40,000 to 1.3 million tonnes toxics (including 3,000 tonnes of asbestos) on board end-of-life vessels are exported each year to South Asia from the EU alone[2]. In Bangladesh, children under 15 years of age count for 20% of the workforce[3].  There and elsewhere, the total death toll runs into the thousands[4]. Also, miles of protected mangrove trees, essential to ecosystem health and protection from monsoons, are being cut to make way for ships.  This and the accompanying poisons from shipbreaking have killed or devastated dozens of aquatic species, destroying also the livelihoods of surrounding fishing communities.

The European Commission needs to take action

In March 2012, the European Commission is expected to release proposals for better enforcement of laws related to shipbreaking. Since the Commission first announced in 2006 that it would be working on this issue, publishing also a “Strategy for better ship dismantling” in 2008, no improvement has been made to the current state of play.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform and its coalition members, including organisations based in the largest shipbreaking countries (India, Bangladesh and Pakistan), will continue to actively advocate for a European policy that gives promise of effectively reversing the current trend where end-of-life ships constitute one of the largest streams of toxic waste dumped by European companies in developing countries. More than 100 non-governmental organisations around the world; the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics; and the European Parliament have voiced their support to the Platform’s human rights and environmental objectives to end the dangerous and polluting practice of breaking ships on tidal beaches.

Forceful and sustained action at the European level is especially urgent because the global phase-out of single hulled oil tankers and the current backlog of old vessels still in operation mean that the number of retired ships that are sent for breaking is reaching an all-time high. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform’s 2011 list shows more than 200 European ships were sent for breaking on the beaches of South Asia last year.

[1] Six ships were sent by non-EU based companies that used European flags (twice theCyprus flag and twice the Greek flag; once the British flag and once the Maltese flag).

[2] European Commission: Impact Assessment for an EU Strategy for Better Ship Dismantling, SEC(2008)2846

[3] FIDH/YPSA: Childbreaking Yards – Child Labour in the Ship Recycling Industry in Bangladesh, 2008

[4] FIDH/Greenpeace: The Human Cost of Breaking Ships, 2005

San Jose Becomes First City to Commit to using e-Stewards® Recyclers for Electronic Waste

The California City of San Jose, the tenth largest city in the United States, and "capital of Silicon Valley," today became the first city to earn the e-Stewards Enterprise designation for responsible recycling of electronic equipment. By becoming an e-Stewards® Enterprise, San Jose will always give preference to all of its electronics recycling contracts to those recyclers certified to the "e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment." Over 70 environmental groups worldwide have endorsed the e-Stewards Standard, including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the National Resources Defense Council. "The city most commonly associated with leading the Information Age, has now chosen to take the lead by choosing the gold standard for responsible and sustainable electronic waste management," said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network (BAN) the toxic watchdog organization. "Far too often citizens and cities have been defrauded by rogue companies calling themselves recyclers, that routinely dump old computers and TVs on developing countries. E-Stewards Recyclers are audited and certified to ensure against such malpractice."

The e-Stewards Standard, developed by BAN, with the assistance of recycling industry leaders and health and environmental specialists, is the world’s most robust certification program for electronics recyclers. It prevents the export and dumping of toxic electronic waste in developing countries. There, men, women and children, without the benefit of enforced laws to protect workers and the environment, break down the e-waste by hand using dangerous fire and chemicals, suffering severe exposure to some of the most toxic materials known to man. The Standard also ensures that e-waste will not be dumped in municipal landfills and also safeguards the protection of the public’s private data, as well as prevents unsafe occupational exposure of workers in recycling plants to toxic dusts.

San Jose has joined its surrounding County of Santa Clara in becoming an e-Stewards Enterprise. Likewise King County (Seattle) in the State of Washington has joined. Other e-Stewards Enterprises include major corporations, Alcoa, Bank of America, Bloomberg, Capitol One, LG, Nestle, Samsung, and Wells Fargo Bank.

"In Silicon Valley, we boast the newest technologies in the world," said City Councilmember Ash Kalra. "However, the disposal of high-tech products is all too often done in a way that harms people and devastates the planet. Becoming an e-Stewards Enterprise will allow us to be accountable and ensure that whatever e-waste is recycled through the City is recycled responsibly and does not damage public health or the environment. It gives me great pride to know that San Jose has taken this major step in helping eliminate the harmful impacts our services may cause, directly or indirectly, to communities here or in other countries."

"The City of San Jose is proud to be the first City in the nation to become an e-Stewards Enterprise," added Kerrie Romanow, Acting Director of San Jose's Environmental Services Department. "San Jose strives to be a leader in environmental stewardship and responsible e-waste management, by modeling best practices in all our City operations."

In 2010, San Jose recycled 146,000 pounds of City-generated e-waste, and sponsored two e-waste collection events, generating nearly 10,000 pounds of e-waste that were recycled by an e-Stewards Certified Recycler.

Coalition for American Electronics Recycling: Industry Effort to Limit Toxic E-Waste Exports Adds Sims Recycling Solutions, Bipartisan Co-sponsors

The Coalition For American Electronics Recycling (CAER) today announced that Sims Recycling Solutions has joined the industry effort to support federal legislation that will restrict export of toxic electronic waste (e-waste) from the U.S. and spur creation of tens of thousands of jobs through expansion of the domestic recycling industry. In the House of Representatives, 13 co-sponsors have announced support for the bill, including six Republicans and seven Democrats. With the addition of Sims Recycling Solutions, the largest e-recycling company in the world, CAER now includes 34 U.S. companies with 89 facilities involved in all aspects of the domestic electronics recycling and disposition industry, with operations in 32 states as well as the District of Columbia. (Complete membership list below, or visit the CAER website). Also supporting the legislation are Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Apple, Samsung, Best Buy and LG.

"The addition of these industry leaders reflects growing consensus that the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act is good for business and will create much-needed jobs and enhance sustainability," said John Shegerian, Co-founder and President, Electronic Recyclers International. "Our members are committed to growing an American industry with the capacity to manage e-waste generated within our borders and the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs in every part of the country."

Introduced in June, the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (HR 2284/SB1270) would restrict toxic e-waste exports to developing countries that lack adequate safeguards for the environment and workers. There is growing bi-partisan support for the bill as additional co-sponsors have joined the bill in recent weeks. To support Representative Gene Green (D-TX), the lead House sponsor of the bill, 13 co-sponsors now include: Mike Thompson (D-CA), Lee Terry (R-NE), Steve LaTourette (R-OH), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dennis Ross (R-FL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL). In the Senate, similar legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

CAER's emergence represents a major split in the recycling industry regarding e-waste exports. The industry's primary trade association, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), has long opposed restrictions on e-waste exports. By joining CAER, ISRI members are breaking with the trade association's position and taking a stand in support of export restrictions on unprocessed electronic products that will create jobs and protect the environment.

Three of the seven companies on the CAER steering committee are also ISRI members, including Sims Recycling Solutions, Electronic Recyclers International, and Hugo Neu.

"Unrestricted and unfair trade in electronic scrap with developing countries has thwarted the job growth that can come with a robust domestic recycling infrastructure," said CAER steering committee member David Zimet, President of Hesstech. "The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act will enable American recyclers to make new investments in facilities and staff and personnel necessary to legitimize and grow an American industry and position America as a leader in global markets."

The Coalition is continuing to work with both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which have jurisdiction over the bills as well as other Congressional offices who would benefit from the job creation from this legislation. For more information about HR 2284/SB1270, visit the CAER website, which includes links to the full text of each bill.

Coalition for American Electronics Recycling - Membership December 20, 2011

2 trg, Ohio, New York, Kentucky 4th Bin, New York All Green Electronics Recycling, California, DC, New York AVR Recycling, California Cascade Asset Management, Wisconsin, Indiana Creative Recycling, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Illinois ECS Refining, California, Oregon, Texas eForce Compliance, Pennsylvania Electronic Recyclers International, Washington, California, Colorado, Texas, Massachusetts, Indiana, North Carolina eLoop, Pennsylvania EPC, Missouri, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas eSCO Processing and Recycling, Arkansas Extreme Recycling, Kansas, California Friendly Earth, Washington Global Electronic Recycling, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas Greene Lyon Group, Massachusetts Hesstech, New Jersey Hugo Neu Corporation, New York Metech Recycling, North Carolina, Colorado, Utah, Massachusetts, California, Nebraska Onsite Electronics Recycling, California Outback Equipment, California PlanITROI, New Jersey Redemtech, Ohio, Nevada, Virginia ReDirect e-Waste Solutions, California Sims Recycling Solutions, California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Tennessee, Illinois, New Jersey, South Carolina, Florida Spectrum eCycle Solutions, Missouri Surplus Computers, California TechnoCycle, Texas Total Reclaim, Washington, Oregon, Alaska United DataTech, California Universal Recycling Technologies, Wisconsin, New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Texas, Oregon, Indiana Valley City Environmental Services, Michigan Vintage Tech Recyclers, Illinois WeRecycle! New York, Connecticut

Navy Ship Sinking Pollutes Sea with Toxic PCB’s

Today, conservation groups filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ongoing failure to adequately regulate a Federal ship sinking program that pollutes the sea with toxic chemicals. Earthjustice, on behalf of the Basel Action Network and Sierra Club, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court of Northern California. The U.S. Navy's ship sinking exercise program, called SINKEX, uses decommissioned military ships for live-fire target practice as the Navy's preferred method of ship disposal, sinking a reported 109 ships at sea over the past decade alone. This method of ship disposal differs from the U.S. Maritime Administration's as well as the private shipping industry's preferred method of ship recycling.

The suit claims EPA fails to adequately regulate the ocean dumping of toxic PCBs, (polychlorinated biphenyls), a group of chemicals that are highly toxic and dangerous to human health. PCBs are contained in the obsolete ships used by the U.S. Navy for ship sinking exercises.

New data from a study in Florida supports the conclusion that PCBs, dumped during ship sinking exercises, are leaching from the sunken vessels and are entering the marine food chain. According to the study, this leads to PCB concentrations in fish that make them unsafe for human consumption.

In July 2011, the Basel Action Network and the Sierra Club petitioned EPA to regulate ship dumping more stringently. EPA failed to respond to the petition by the statutory deadline.

"The ocean dumping of our national fleet squanders natural resources that could otherwise be recycled, eliminates recycling job opportunities that could boost local economies, and poses unreasonable risk to the marine environment and to the people who derive their livelihood or recreation from it," said Colby Self of the Basel Action Network. "The EPA can no longer turn a blind eye to this arcane practice; we have given them full notice."

"Protection of our Nation includes protection of our ocean environment and all the species, including humans, who depend on the health of the ocean," said Dave Raney of  the Sierra Club. "By strictly adhering to the law, we need not trade one for the other in the SINKEX exercises."

The lawsuit claims that EPA must initiate rules to regulate the marine disposal of PCBs during ship sinking exercises to protect human health and the environment against an unreasonable risk of injury.

BAN and Sierra Club are advocates for responsible ship recycling in the U.S. that not only serves to protect the environment and human health from toxic PCBs, but also creates recycling jobs and stimulates the local economy.

"EPA is legally required to keep dangerous chemicals like PCBs out of our oceans," said Amanda Goodin, an attorney with Earthjustice representing BAN and Sierra Club. "It's time for EPA to make the Navy clean up its act."

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.

Two waste firms fined in illegal export case

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.

Basel Convention

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.

Charges

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.

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.

E-Trash: Stemming The Tide Of Global Trade Of High-Tech Toxic Waste

A strange ceremony took place earlier this summer on the fourth floor of a small office building in the center of Seattle, this famously forward-looking city in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Important executives from the South Korean consumer electronics group LG had traveled there to sign an agreement with the Basel Action Network (BAN), an American NGO that opposes the international trade of toxic waste, especially waste derived from computer and electronic products, or WEEE (Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment).

“It’s historical,” said BAN founder Jim Puckett during the July 26 event, when LG committed itself to working only with certified recycling firms to take care of its toxic waste. In doing so, LG agreed to be part of the “e-Stewards” program, which BAN launched in 2010. Currently about 20 firms, including Bank of America and the U.S. branch of Samsung, have made the same pledge and thus been granted “e-Stewards” labels.

“People often ask me why we collaborate with firms like these, which don’t really have a reputation for defending the environment,” says Puckett. “I answer these questions by saying that once these firms get involved in this process, they are forced to reflect on their whole production chain and on its impact on the environment.”

“[The corporations] are not perfect, but, in the past years, we have made more progress by working directly with these firms than by trying to put pressure on the American administration, even since President Barack Obama came to power.”

BAN’s primary concern is the export of toxic waste from industrial countries to Asia or Africa, where the products are treated – or often just burnt – with little regard for the environmental or health risks involved.

America leads rat pack

The United States has a particularly bad reputation when it comes to this kind of toxic trading. It is the world’s top producer and exporter of electronic waste and it has never ratified the 1989 Convention of Basel, which regulates the “transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal.” BAN estimates that between 50 and 100 WEEE containers travel everyday – quite legally –from the United States to Hong Kong, Asia’s principal port of entry.

The European Union, in contrast, decided in 1997 to forbid the export of dangerous waste to countries that are not members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a wealthy nations club.

Puckett, a former film director, began to take an interest in industrial pollution after studying the unclear waters of Washington’s Puget Sound, a complex system of interconnected marine waterways and basins close to Seattle. He then joined Greenpeace, led a campaign for the tightening of the Basel Convention and became a crusader against WEEE.

“I created BAN in 1997 because we needed to turn theory into practice. Industrialized countries and their firms could not continue using free trade and globalization as a pretext to externalize their coasts at the expense of the poorest,” says Puckett. “I started in the basement of my house in Seattle. BAN began to make a name for itself when we started focusing on WEEE, which affects everybody, firms and consumers, at different levels.”

His method is simple: go into the field, collect personal accounts (using a hidden camera if necessary) and then use the documents to put pressure on the firms. He can explain in details the horrifying conditions by which computers, TV sets and other kinds of devices coming from the West are cut up in China, Vietnam, Nigeria and Ghana by people working with absolutely no protection. People sometimes work in open garbage dumps where they breath in toxic fumes everyday and wade about in waters fouled by heavy metal contaminants.

The certified recycling companies that participate in the “e-Stewards” program commit themselves not to export to foreign countries the waste that has been entrusted to their care. Instead they agree to treat it themselves, using techniques that respect both the environment and take into account health risks.

There are about 50 certified recyclers in North America. Participating firms finance a little more than a half of BAN’s annual budget of 1 million dollars through fees they pay to enjoy the “e-Stewards” label. The program aims to expand internationally and BAN plans to open an office in Brussels.

Indeed, Europe is not as virtuous as it seems. WEEE materials are trafficked illegally, with some exporters using fake declarations. According to Puckett, one common practice is to ship electronic waste under the guise that the machines are “second-hand” goods than can then be resold. In reality, the products are just pure garbage destined for the dump. “The companies just want to get rid of the WEEE,” the BAN head says.

Read the original article in French

E-waste solution must involve us all: JPAC

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.

The full text of JPAC’s Advice to Council is available online, along with the video of the public forum held in Montreal and the expert presentations delivered there.

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."

LG Takes Leading Role In Environmental Sustainability Programs

Programs Aim to Enhance Product Recycling, Hazardous Substance Management, Energy Conservation, and Environmental Stewardship. LG Electronics (LG) is furthering its commitment to "Green Management" by empowering its business units and subsidiaries to take greater responsibility for the entire lifecycle of LG's products, from production to disposal.

LG has joined the Basel Action Network (BAN), a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Seattle, Wash. that monitors the trade of toxic products and fights environmental degradation. LG and BAN plan to work together to expand the scope of "e-Steward Enterprise," a program designed to encourage the responsible disposal of electronic goods, which has previously been limited to North America and the UK. As part of the agreement, LG and BAN hope to jointly develop and participate in the "Global e-Stewards Enterprise" program, enabling companies to responsibly recycle electronic e-waste worldwide.

BAN is the best-known NGO in North America dealing with the verification of waste disposal companies, developing programs for toxin management and the surveillance of hazardous articles. The aim of the agreement between LG and BAN is to further protect the environment by sharing LG's knowledge with respect to cutting-edge electronics development processes and BAN's unique stewardship capabilities.

Earlier this year, LG was named exclusive consumer electronics partner of the "Keep America Beautiful" (KAB) environmental organization in the United States. LG is a top national sponsor of KAB's Great American Cleanup and America Recycles Day. Approximately 1.5 million tons of used electronics have already been collected this year with the help of a million participants.

According to LG's Environment Report released this week, almost 200,000 tons of used electronics products had been collected globally, an increase of 19 percent over the previous year. LG is cooperating with the city of Ulsan, a major industrial and manufacturing center in Korea, to collect used electronics parts free of charge. Over the first half of 2011, LG collected 279 tons, including 2,240 refrigerators, 115 washing machines and 3,545 mobile phones, as well as various other products in Ulsan.

What's more, LG is the first company in Korea to have signed a collection agreement with a local government. In this case, Ulsan takes responsibility for collecting the used electronics for free and LG takes on the task of processing them using eco-friendly methods. This agreement is a small but important piece of LG's overall plan to increase the quantity of used electronics goods year by year, while improving the company's resource recycling capabilities and management of hazardous substances.

LG is also leading the way in bringing the most high efficiency products to market. The company was recently recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy for having eight LG televisions and five LG washing machines - more than any other manufacturer - qualify for the "ENERGY STAR® Most Efficient" label. The ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation recognizes the most efficient products among those that qualify for the ENERGY STAR.

"In the 21st Century, multinational companies like LG must step up and take a greater role in working to protect the environment. This commitment is not just about recycling; it is about making changes to the entire production process, right from the factory floor all the way to the final disposal of the product," said Jong-min, Shin, Vice President of LG's Eco Strategy Team. "LG understands this commitment and what it means to our customers, and the company is working hard to become a global leader in this regard."

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.

Scuttling Plan for USS Radford Renews Reef Dispute

Contractors are preparing to scuttle the USS Arthur W. Radford 20 miles east of Fenwick Island off the coast of Delaware. The 563-foot destroyer will be yet another addition to an artificial reef program that has drawn fire from environmentalists and others, The Washington Post reported.The goals of the sinking include creating a new ocean habitat and a tourist destination, while also discarding outdated Navy ships. However, with artificial reefs expanding up and down the nation's sea coasts, environmentalists and federal and independent scientists are questioning the presumed ecological benefits.

"They're throwing debris down there and saying it's an economic opportunity, but they're not looking into the environmental impacts," Colby Self, who co-authored a report on the Navy's sinking program, told the Post.

Only a few studies have examined the impact of artificial reefs. State and federal officials are particularly concerned about whether traces of toxic chemicals that remain on the scrubbed ships pose a hazard and whether the ships end up concentrating fish, thereby making it easier to catch them.

The question of whether artificial reefs provide ecological benefits has "been out there for 50 years or more," said Jeff Tinsman, of Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. "If that was any easy question, it would have been answered long ago."

Donald Schregardus, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for the environment, told the Post that the Navy simply responded to states' requests. "We let them decide what they want and if they have an interest in these ships," Schregardus said. "We are not the experts on whether they are increasing [fish] populations or whether they are the attraction for divers and fishermen. But we want to make sure they're safe."

Jon Dodrill of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told the Post that PCB levels in reef fish near the site of the USS Oriskany spiked a year after the aircraft carrier was sunk in 2006 but have since dropped below advisory levels.

The Radford, scheduled to be sunk in late July or early August, participated in the Persian Gulf War as well as the Navy's bombardment of Beirut in the early 1980s. The ship was decommissioned in 2003, the Post reported.