Seattle, Washington (1 March 2010). The Basel Action Network (BAN), an environmental watchdog organization, reported today that it had successfully prevented nine sea-going containers of hazardous electronic waste from a Massachusetts business calling themselves a recycler from being exported and delivered to Indonesia in contravention of the international treaty on hazardous waste known as the Basel Convention and Indonesian law.The action was made possible due to a tip by BAN to the Ministry of Environment in Indonesia.
Last week in Bali, Indonesia, representatives from BAN and Asian environmental groups met with and personally thanked the Minister of Environment and the Indonesian authorities responsible for this police action, which comes just as the United Nations Environment Program released a report highlighting the massive amounts of e-waste flooding developing countries in contravention of the Basel Convention.
“Indonesia is just one of many countries now being flooded by a tsunami of toxic electronic waste from the United States,” said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network. “Even though our own government knows that the importation of toxic waste from the US is a violation of the laws of most countries of the world, our own EPA shamefully allows the global dumping to continue.”
In this case, the perpetrator of the shipment, CRT Recycling Inc. in Brockton, Massachusetts, utilized a waste broker, Advanced Global Technologies Inc., that is listed on an official EPA website as being an EPA registered e-waste exporter. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office slammed the EPA for doing far too little to control exports of electronic waste from the United States, but still little has changed as there remains no law sufficient to control the flood of toxic e-waste. It is estimated by Hong Kong authorities that 50-100 containers of e-waste enter the port of Hong Kong alone each day. Almost all of this comes from the United States according to BAN.
BAN, together with the Electronic TakeBack Coalition, has been campaigning for a new law prohibiting hazardous e-waste exports from the United States, a ban already in place in 32 other developed countries. In 2008, BAN assisted CBS’s 60 Minutes to track containers from a similar Colorado based recycler to China. Since 2001, BAN has travelled the world revealing the cyber-age nightmare of e-waste exports and dumping in developing countries.
In this case, BAN volunteers staked out CRT Recycling Incorporated in Brockton, Massachusetts, a company that takes thousands of monitors every year from local schools and governments who unwittingly believe their old computers and monitors will legally and properly recycled. BAN photographed a container in the CRT Recycling, Inc. yard being loaded with cathode ray tube (CRT) computer monitors. Using container numbers and online shipping company databases, they were able to track the container and its ship to the port of Semarang, Indonesia. In November of 2009, BAN contacted the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and warned them of the ship’s imminent arrival and the hazardous wastes it carried.
Indonesian authorities then seized the container and found it to be part of a consignment of 9 such containers coming from CRT Recycling, Inc. These were opened and confirmed to be stacked full of untested, used computer monitors — each containing several pounds of lead and other hazardous substances — thus making them an internationally defined hazardous waste and therefore illegal to import into Indonesia. All 9 containers were then returned to the US. The containers arrived in Boston port in early February and are currently thought to be detained at the Boston Freight Terminal with a deadline to clear customs by February 28th. CRT Recycling, Inc. has stated that they will turn the CRTs over to RMG Enterprises, of Londonderry, New Hampshire, for further processing. The EPA is expected to inspect the containers upon arrival.
However it is unlikely that CRT Recycling, Inc. or its broker, Advanced Global Technologies Inc., will be prosecuted for illegal hazardous waste exportation as the United States has never ratified the Basel Convention, and the only current law on the subject, known as “the CRT Rule,” is riddled with loopholes allowing uncontrolled exports. In fact, on EPA’s CRT rule website, Advanced Global Technologies Inc. is listed as an EPA officially sanctioned waste exporter.
According to BAN, about 80 percent of the e-waste consumers deliver to recyclers is not recycled by these companies at all but is simply shipped to countries in Asia and Africa to some of the world’s most impoverished communities where the waste is smashed, burned, melted or chemically treated in extremely dangerous backyard operations. BAN warns businesses and consumers to hand over their old electronic equipment only to designated e-Stewards® Recyclers that have been carefully screened and audited to ensure they do not export, use prison labor, or dump toxics in municipal landfills and incinerators.
“Consumers can take action to prevent techno-trash dumping,” said Puckett. “We must urge Congress to pass a prohibition on waste exportation at once, and we must vow to never deliver old computers and TVs to any company that is not a designated e-Stewards Recycler.”