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The Myth of No Charge Computer Recycling Matures into a SCAM PDF Print E-mail

The Myth of No Charge Computer Recycling Matures into a SCAM

EVIL COMPUTER RECYCLING

Old Maxims:
- “You get what you pay for.”
- “You don’t get something for nothing “
- “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

     Since we began our business in 2003, we have contended with other companies that accept unwanted electronics for disposal. Far from being the legitimate competition that all businesses face, these pretenders always had the playing field tilted in their favor. Now, this deceit has matured into a full fledged scam, manifesting itself in Western Pennsylvania.

     As has been projected here for the last two months, a scam has been operating, promising fundraiser profits while recycling electronics at no charge. On May 25, the BASEL ACTION NETWORK (BAN; www.ban.org) exposed a new e scrap collector in the area as a scam artist who has allegedly been hiding his greed behind promises of ‘helping’ the disadvantaged, both animal and human.. For the text of this exposure, click on the link at the end of this editorial.

     When we first started our business, beleaguered companies, educational entities and government agencies just wanted the e scrap disposed of. “Get it out of my warehouse, basement, storerooms.. ….”

      But as public awareness grew, promoted in large part by respected electronics recycling watchdog groups such as the Basel Action Network, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, and the Texas based Computer TakeBack Campaign, Americans began to become painfully aware of the terrible negative impact American computer scrap was having on the developing world. (If you are unaware of that US caused pollution in underdeveloped nations such as China, India, Ghana and Nigeria, look in the video and picture sections on this site or at www.ban.org for video documentation).

     This abuse was fostered by the dynamics of the scrap market. The most obvious example is the disposal of the computer monitor with a cathode ray tube or 'CRT monitor.' These CRTs, the technical name of the boxy monitors on your desk, at least before the flat panel models began to hit the market where the standard for all computer displays. To recycle these monitors ethically and legitimately, it must be done in a developed nation (such as the US or Canada) which is subject to fair labor practices, anti-pollution standards and legitimate safety precautions.

     As such, a CRT COSTS a real recycler approximately $6 to recycle, with over 99% of the raw materials being safely reclaimed. That same CRT can be SOLD overseas, either directly or through any one of hundreds of brokers, for a cash INTAKE of approximately $6, with the leaded glass and plastic being left where it lays to pollute. That is a $12 swing per CRT. So a computer scrap dealer, calling and describing himself as a ‘recycler’,  can ship a sea going container to an undeveloped nation and receive $6000; and his contact in that country will also pay the shipping!! Conversely, we have faced paying an average price of $5-$6 per monitor since we started; or a cost of $5000-$6000 to dispose of 1000 CRTS. So we have had to charge our customers an average of $10 (NOW $12) per CRT just to cover overhead and realize a modest profit. The numbers on other computer scrap (PCs, printers, plastic) vary, but the principle is the same: it costs much more to keep the process in a developing nation. But, then, by doing so, we are not causing respiratory illnesses, birth defects, cancer, and other major health problems in the poorer countries.

     We have endeavored to educate our customers, and the more responsible among our prospects have done their due diligence, discovered the truth of our information, and found the funds to do it environmentally correctly. Others, perhaps unable to afford proper recycling, have chosen to believe, usually with no or perfunctory investigation, that the items were being correctly processed. All the while, the backlog of electronics needing to be disposed of continued to grow.

     Now, the market was ripe for what was inevitable; companies from other parts of the world have moved into Pittsburgh and institutionalized the myth that electronics can be profitably recycled without charge. To compound the evil, they have enlisted the assistance of highly reputable non-profits as unsuspecting shills, offering them a percentage of the profits as a fundraising windfall. These unsuspecting and well intentioned organizations, often encouraged by equally well meaning government officials, promote collection of unwanted electronics from the public, promising not to export the scrap or landfill it, and everyone enthusiastically ‘donates’ the stuff they felt unable to afford to pay to recycle. Volunteers for the non-profits even man the collection sites, loading the collected e-scrap into trailers provided by the polluter.  The trailers are then trucked to a transfer warehouse where they are loaded onto sea going containers for shipment to Asia or Africa.

      If their lies seem bold it is only because they have escaped scrutiny for so long they have no fear of detection. Exportation is a tough allegation to document so the lies seem fool proof. Since everyone needs money in this economy everyone involved feels warm and fuzzy.  The very informative news article from 60 Minutes (see the video CBS News Following the trail of toxic E-waste on this website) did catch a recycler in a similar fraudulent lie, but exposure has not happened consistently enough to scare these enviro-charlatans away from a lucrative profit.

 

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.

     Everyone in this economy, from individuals to corporations to educational institutions has found the need to conserve resources. If someone chooses to roll the dice and ignore ethics by feeding their e-scrap into the pollution stream to save money, so be it. Let your conscience be your guide. But at a minimum acknowledge that the cost of proper recycling, including non exportation, has caused you to pollute. Please do not take the unverified flimsy representations of non exportation given by so called recyclers as the gospel that your e-scrap was properly handled. Those of us who have committed ourselves to basing our livelihoods on proper process will continue to attempt to educate and inform.

 

A TREND WAS SET:  Another True Example

      To backtrack, this disturbing trend of pollution clothed as recycling, took a large step forward in 2004, when an international computer manufacturer, based in the US and under fire from computer recycling groups, partnered with a well respected American non-profit to dispose of e scrap. Prior to this partnership, this non profit had accepted donations of newer computers and related peripherals to provide substance for its program to teach the disadvantaged to refurbish and resell the donated equipment. The non profit, swamped by offers to receive all sorts of outdated equipment, had limited the donations to a certain higher level of technology that could reasonably be resold after refurbishment. However, the international manufacturer told the non profit to accept all offered donations, and helped the nonprofit to set up disposal chains to get rid of the equipment that had no real reuse value. Predictably, this e scrap was filtered through various brokers and wound up in large part as being exported to become pollution. This waste stream continues to expand today. The manufacturer publicizes its ‘public service’, the non profit gets more funds from the resale to exporters, and the beat goes on.

  Read The a greenSpan Response:  The Solution; A greenSpan's Challenge; Be Green and Save Green 

DIRECT LINK TO PITTSBURGH SCAM PDF (BAN):   http://www.ban.org/Library/PittsburghScam.pdf

 

 
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