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BAN Exposes Fake Recycling Events in Pittsburgh

June 5th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Basel Action Network (BAN) exposes fake recycling events in Pittsburgh. BAN was able to document the illegal export of the collected e-waste to China and South Africa.

Computer Recycling

The Basel Action Network (BAN) has uncovered another illegal scheme by unscrupulous recyclers, who were working through a legitimate organization to ship electronic waste to developing countries. Apparently, the company, tasked to handle the electronic waste, was working with the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society in collecting used electronic items from residents, promising to have the e-waste recycled here in the US.

As it turned out, BAN was able to document the illegal export of the collected e-waste to China and South Africa. Authorities in these countries have directed the cargo to be returned to the US recycler, after BAN alerted them of the shipments.

Read the media release from the Basel Action Network here.

As we noted in an earlier post about fake charities, this type of deception only serves to discourage recycling since it capitalizes on and completely betrays the good intention of people to do the right thing and dispose their electronic waste properly.

But, even this undesirable effect pales in comparison to the very real harm we, the electronic users in wealthy countries like the US, unwittingly bring to the people in the communities who will handle our e-waste. Guiyo, in China, is one of those places where many of our e-waste would eventually end up in. It’s dubbed “one of the most toxic place on earth” where workers (mostly women and children) manually process our electronic waste (in burning pits or acid baths) to recover the recyclable materials. The people in Guiyo are gradually dying – from the toxic levels of lead and other carcinogens coursing through their blood stream.

Watch “The Electronic Wasteland” report in CBS’ “60 Minutes.”


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The export of electronic waste to other countries is closely regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of the hazardous nature of these materials. Some electronic parts, like those containing plastic, can be exported legally, but other items like cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors can only be processed here in the US. A CRT monitor can contain as much as 5-7 lbs. of lead and should be handled in specialized facilities only. Lead, as we all know, is a highly dangerous metal, that can cause severe damage in the brain and other organs.

Today, electronic manufacturers are increasingly incorporating the recycling stage into their product designs and many have assumed responsibility in recycling their own products. But this is not the industry norm yet and until then, we just have to continue recycling.

We just need to be vigilant and know who we’re recycling with. Next time, you drive over to that weekend e-waste recycling event to hand over your old monitor or printer, you might want to cross-check first the recycler against the list of e-Stewards provided by the Basel Action Network. E-Stewards have opted to be held accountable to higher ethical standards in recycling and have committed not to export e-waste to developing countries illegally and not to use prison or child labor in their facilities.

Let’s keep on recycling e-waste…with the right recyclers.

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