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Toxic Fraud

June 1, 2009
Reported By Brita Belli

 

kids

 

This migrant labor family lives in a shelter made from bags of imported electronic waste in the village of Guiyu, China.
© 2008 Basel Action Network (BAN)

Next time you decide to donate your old cell phone, computer or television set in the name of charity, be sure to do your homework. The global pollution watchdog group Basel Action Network (BAN) found that two Humane Society charity e-waste collection events in the Pittsburgh area were unwittingly part of a toxic fraud. Here’s what happened: The group EarthECycle had partnered with the Humane Society for fundraising, promising up to $10,000 for every 100,000 pounds of e-waste collected. But instead of recycling the 150,000 pounds of collected e-waste as promised, they filled at least seven sea-bound containers and exported six to Hong Kong and one to South Africa. BAN, who tracked the shipments, has alerted the importing country governments and Hong Kong authorities have already taken action to return the shipment.

These developing nations have for years been the recipient of America’s e-waste, creating toxic dumping grounds highlighted in BAN’s films “Exporting Harm” and “The Digital Dump.” One of the worst polluted spots is Guiyu, China, where the levels of dioxin, lead and other cancer-causing pollutants as a result of mountains of e-waste are at a worldwide high. Says a BAN press release: “Blood levels in 80% of the children in Guiyu are elevated and already demonstrable brain impairment has been recorded.”

“Sadly, once again the American public appears to have been duped by a fake recycler and become the unwitting accomplice in what is really an international crime,” said BAN e-Stewardship Director Sarah Westervelt. “People think they are doing a good deed helping animals, and that their old stuff is getting recycled safely but the reality is that this is a scam.”

BAN is working with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition to encourage national legislation that bans the export of toxic e-waste, as Europe has already done. The group also maintains a list of responsible e-cyclers, called the e-Stewards Initiative­that agree not to export hazardous e-wastes. 

CONTACTS: Basil Action Network ; BAN’s E-Steward Recyclers ; Electronics TakeBack Coalition

 

HOW CAN A REAL RECYCLER BE IDENTIFIED?
  • If there is no charge to recycle equipment more than several years old or non working, that is a red flag. Of course, a polluter could begin to charge and still pollute.
  • Get references from trade organizations that disallow exportation to developing nations as part of their qualifications; such as the Basel Action Network (www.ban.org or telephone 206-652-5555).
  • Demand a Certificate of Non Exportation and Responsible Recycling, signed by a company representative and containing the SERIAL NUMBERS of the equipment INCORPORATED INTO THE DOCUMENT. Without serial numbers, the company is not reporting what they did with your specific equipment, and no one can prove that they even got that equipment from you.

 
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