Bay Area e-recycling firms named in ‘Scam Recycling’ report

There’s nothing like doing a good deed to warm the cockles of the heart. But a new report suggests that when that good deed is the recycling of, say, your old computer monitor or printer, you may unwittingly be doing something quite bad.

Your unwanted device might well end up dumped illegally in Asia, perhaps leaching toxics into foreign soils or polluting other people’s air, a new report indicates.

“Despite… recycling certification schemes spurred into existence by the revelations of harm done, the exportation of electronic waste from the United States to developing countries continues to occur at an alarming rate,” said the new “Scam Recycling” report from Seattle-based environmental group Basel Action Network.

The group planted tracking devices in 152 monitors and printers — classed as hazardous waste under international law — given to U.S. recyclers and found that 40 percent ended up exported, the vast majority illegally. Most ended up in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan.

And, for example, “Hong Kong authorities appear to have not been diligently enforcing against such imports and subsequent toxic recycling operations, despite clear signs of illegal importation, damaging pollution, and illegal labor practices,” the report asserted.

Basel Action Network said that based on a “conservative” estimate using only a 30 percent figure for exports by U.S. e-recyclers, some  376,800 tons of e-waste were being sent overseas every year, amounting to 52 shipping containers per day.

Six Bay Area companies, including two from Hayward, and one each from San Jose, San Francisco, Fremont and Santa Clara, the study claimed, were involved in exporting of e-waste.

To be sure, the research was based on a small sample size. And a company’s placement on the list did not imply it had done anything wrong, the report said, noting that the exporting could have taken place after the waste was out of a company’s hands, by a “downstream” exporter. However, two of the Bay Area companies listed were identified as the last U.S. handlers of items found to have been exported.

Many of the companies found to be involved in e-waste exporting marketed their services as environmentally friendly, the report said. “Much of the greenwashing is accomplished with feel-good green imagery drawing associations between nature, happy people, globes in caring hands, leaves growing out of electronics, etc.,” according to the report.

“Most of this exported e-waste is not responsibly recycled, but rather ends up damaging human health and the environment in Asia or Africa,” the report said. “The scam continues.”

Photo: Computer monitors at a recycling depot (David Wright/Wikimedia Commons)


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  • Stupendous Bob

    And yet there is no punishment for the illegal activity by CA Dumbocrats. I wonder why the polluting of the earth continues under their stewarship? Can’t blame Republicans for this one because Dumbocrats hold everyone statewide office for enforcement of these environmental laws, which they also passed.