A recent report detailing obsolete device tracking activities by the Seattle-based Basel Action Network (BAN) has continued to put a spotlight on the exporting of obsolete electronics from the United States.
At least one recycler who has been accused by BAN of exporting to noncertified overseas recyclers is harshly critical of the methods of the NGO (nongovernmental organization] and its portrayal of the statistical situation regarding exported electronic scrap.
Robin Ingenthron of Good Point Recycling, Middlebury, Vermont, has been critical of BAN’s approach and its policy recommendations for several years and says that is almost certainly why his company was targeted by BAN with obsolete electronics units that contain GPS tracking devices. The ultimate disposition of one of those devices also figures into BAN’s latest report, “Scam Recycling: E-Dumping on Asia by U.S. Recyclers.”
While some 75 recycling companies were involved in handling BAN’s tracked devices, in its report BAN devoted two pages to the disposition of an obsolete printer handled by Goodpoint Recycling that ended up in Hong Kong. The BAN report’s text reads in part that the group “knew that this printer had come via one of the more outspoken American recyclers and fierce critic of BAN and of the Basel Convention’s efforts to prohibit the export of hazardous electronic waste to developing countries; that printer came to [Hong Kong] via Mr. Robin Ingenthron’s Vermont company—Goodpoint Recycling.”
In a blog post responding to BAN’s allegations, Ingenthron acknowledges that a recycler to whom he forwarded the printer may have not fully informed him about which company it would be shipped to in Hong Kong.
Ingenthron adds, however, that while Goodpoint “did find some of the tracked devices did go to the Hong Kong EcoPark, [if] ours did not--and I accept that now--we have to find out who misdirected it (the U.S. company or the Hong Kong certified company).”
He writes that he continues to see BAN’s efforts as deceptive (in terms of statistics) and insulting to legitimate recyclers and reuse technicians in other parts of the world.
Statistically, he says BAN’s contention that 40 percent of U.S. e-scrap is exported is incorrect. Rather, just 36 percent of the scrap in three categories (printers, CRT monitors and LCD screens) is exported, while the vast majority of other types of obsolete electronics remain in North America.
Ingenthron says his foremost objection to BAN’s methodology is its characterization of overseas recycling and reuse operations. While the organization has uncovered noncertified, environmentally unsound operators in places like China, Ghana and Hong Kong, BAN too readily paints all overseas recyclers there with the same brush, he says.
Finding one bad operation in Hong Kong’s New Territories and “to say it is representative of [all the others] is racist and insulting. Other devices went to places overseas anyone should be proud to work with,” writes Ingenthron.
He continues, “The point of BAN’s report is clear. They do not go after companies that pack and export. They do not track most of the destinations. They track my company in several pages. It’s because I spoke out about them. I believe that is the message here, to make other recyclers afraid to speak up.” Adds Ingenthron, “It is because I read [a previous report] studied it, tracked devices to different places, made 14 pages of comment and critique, that my company is profiled in the [latest] report.”
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