The Environmental Protection Agency filed a Complaint and Compliance Order late last week against EarthEcycle, the electronic waste handler for several charity e-waste collection events held in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in recent days. The events include those run by two Humane Society branches, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and Boy Scout Troop 30 will hold such a collection event tomorrow. Basel Action Network (BAN) tracked 7 sea-going containers of the collected toxic e-waste to Hong Kong and South Africa after assurances were made by EarthEcycle owner, Mr. Jeffrey Nixon, that the wastes would be recycled locally. The EPA complaint cites 7 violation counts for illegal management and exportation of “Cathode Ray Tubes” – the picture tube of old computer monitors and TVs. The counts include “unauthorized export of hazardous waste” and “failure to prepare a hazardous waste manifest.”
Even following BAN’s release of its investigation on May 26th, the Humane Society of Western Pennsylvania refused to break its partnership with EarthEcycle, the Make-a-Wish Foundation refused to cancel its event, and it appears the Boy Scout event is going forward although BAN warned them yesterday. Meanwhile, even though Mr. Nixon later admitted that he exported the material, as recently as yesterday Mr. Nixon told local television reporters that “Nothing wrong has been done anywhere. It’s all hearsay.”
“We are thrilled to have EPA quickly follow through on enforcing the few laws we have in the US to control toxic waste exports to developing countries,” said Sarah Westervelt of the Basel Action Network from their Seattle base. “EarthEcycle needs to be held accountable for these illegal and damaging exports. But it’s also important for the charities to stop being blinded by dollar signs, and start seeing the hypocrisy in organizing e-waste events that irreparably harm children and animals in developing countries, while their organizations try to protect children and animals here in the U.S.”
BAN has been at the forefront of exposing the “cyber-age” nightmare of electronic waste exportation to developing countries. In 2002 and 2005, BAN released two documentary films “Exporting Harm” and “The Digital Dump”, shining a spotlight on the horrors of the global e-waste trade and the very damaging impacts of toxic constituents in electronic products on the workers and environments of communities in Africa and China. Recent studies in Guiyu, China, “ground zero” of the international waste trade, show some of the highest levels of dioxin, lead and other cancer-causing pollutants ever recorded. Blood levels in 80 percent of the children in Guiyu are elevated and already demonstrable brain impairment has been recorded.
BAN estimates that 80 per cent of the electronic waste given to recyclers in the US and Canada does not get recycled in this continent, but is quickly exported due to a lack of adequate law, or inadequate enforcement of laws that do exist. BAN, together with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition (ETBC), is seeking national legislation** to ban the export of all toxic e-waste (not just CRTs) to developing countries as European countries have already done. And BAN has created the e-Stewards Initiative – a list of responsible e-cyclers* that have agreed not to export hazardous e-wastes to developing countries.
“This toxic trade is the height of global irresponsibility,” said Sarah Westervelt. “Our country must pass loophole-free federal legislation to put a stop to what is happening right now in Pittsburgh and all across America every day.” said Sarah Westervelt. “And consumers, including charities, must be very careful and make use of the e-Steward recyclers who have agreed not to export toxic e-waste to developing countries.”
Download EPA Legal Complaint at www.ban.org/Library/EarthECycleComplaint.pdf
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