Just a few months after a new e-waste scandal rocked the U.K., a leading U.S. electronics recycler has found itself mired in controversy. The Basel Action Network (BAN), a toxic watchdog group, has announced that Chicago Heights, Illinois electronics recycler Intercon Solutions will be denied e-Stewards certification (www.e-Stewards.org), based on "compelling evidence" that Intercon Solutions had been involved in the export of hazardous electronic waste to China.
According to Basel Action Network, Intercon Solutions has claimed for a long time in brochures and on its website that it does not export any used electronics entrusted to it for recycling. However, BAN noted, on two separate occasions its investigators photographed and tracked containers of electronic waste leaving property leased by Intercon Solutions in Chicago Heights on its way to China. BAN had alerted Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department. As the shipment contained hazardous waste, it was returned to the US. Hong Kong law forbids the importation of hazardous waste electronics. The import by developing countries of such wastes from the United States is also illegal under the United Nations' Basel Convention.
"It is very sad that many e-Waste recycling companies continue to pose as 'responsible recyclers' while they continue to export toxic waste," said Basel Action Network's Executive Director, Jim Puckett. "In this case, we can take some satisfaction that our e-Stewards Certification screening methods and audit caught what BAN has every reason to believe is a violator."
BAN reported that it decided to deny the certification only after an on-site audit and direct discussions between BAN and Intercon Solutions failed to convince BAN that Intercon Solutions had not exported the toxic containers.
The primitive processing of US electronic waste in developing countries can result in severe environmental contamination and adverse health effects. BAN reports that high levels of lead, a dangerous neurotoxin, have been found in the blood of the children in Guiyu, China as a result of these dangerous recycling operations that receive US exported e-waste. DNA damage to Chinese workers has also been linked to exposure. The orginal discoveries of these practices by BAN in 2001 lead to the development of the e-Stewards Certification program, which recognizes responsible recyclers that do not export their toxic wastes to developing countries.
The export of e-waste is currently being addressed at the federal level through the introduction of HR 6252 - The Responsible E-Waste Recycling Act.