BAN finds trouble in its own backyard

BAN finds trouble in its own backyard

Seattle-based watchdog group discovers Washington electronics recycler is exporting flat-screen monitors.

May 10, 2016
Recycling Today Staff

Basel Action Network (BAN), the Seattle-based group that manages the e-Stewards electronics recycling certification program, has revoked that certification for Total Reclaim, saying the Seattle firm “was identified by BAN’s e-Trash Transparency Project (an electronic tracking program) to have exported mercury-containing LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors to Hong Kong.”

BAN has posted several documents about the Total Reclaim situation to its website, including an “evidentiary report” and a statement from Total Reclaim’s Craig Lorch and Jeff Zirkle apologizing for the lapses in certification protocol.

“We are very sorry that we have let down our industry, our customers, our employees and all those who have believed in us,” write the duo. Lorch and Zirkle also write, "Economic challenges never excuse wrong behavior. The reality, though, is that squeezed by plummeting commodity prices; increasing labor costs; long-term, fixed-price contracts; and, especially, a dramatically increasing volume of flat-screen devices, we made a short-term business decision to export materials to undocumented processing facilities in Hong Kong."

As part of its e-Trash Transparency Project, BAN says it “placed 200 small GPS-based tracking devices into old printers and monitors and delivered them to Goodwill [Industries] and to various recyclers around the country.”

Two tracked devices went from Total Reclaim’s possession to the New Territories of Hong Kong, where units are disassembled in non-e-Stewards-certified facilities.

A May 9, 2016, BAN news release on the e-Trash Transparency Project also scrutinizes the recycling partnership between computer maker Dell Inc. and Goodwill Industries. BAN says 46 of the 200 tracker-planted electronic devices were delivered to Goodwill Industries stores in the United States and that “seven of these later reported their whereabouts in the Asian countries of Thailand, Taiwan and China (mainland and Hong Kong). Six of these were part of Dell Inc.’s Reconnect partnership with Goodwill.”

Says BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett, “Goodwill and Dell have had strong reputations for social and environmental responsibility. Our findings, however, shake the foundations of that public trust and cry out for the implementation of immediate reform when it comes to e-waste management.”