TV report tracks illegal exports of e-waste
• EPA blasted for lax controls for hazardous electronic waste exports
CBS news magazine “60 Minutes” focused attention Sunday on the illegal smuggling of electronic waste to China where shoddy recycling practices have created an environmental wasteland in the city of Guiya.
The United States disposes about 130,000 computers every day and 100 million cell phones per year, as well as an untold number of televisions, printers and other equipment. These types of electronics contain toxic compounds such as lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium and polyvinyl chlorides.
The broadcast follows a Government Accountability Office report in September highlighting the Environmental Protection Agency’s poor enforcement of 23-month-old law that restricts the export of cathode ray tubes without the EPA and the shipper receiving special permission from the importing country. It recommended that the U.S. government take greater steps to control the shipment of hazardous waste to other countries.
“60 Minutes” exposed a company called Executive Recycling of Englewood, Colo., that had publicly stipulated that it safely recycled all electronics in the United States and criticized other companies for shipping waste overseas. The news program tracked a container full of monitors with cathode ray tubes (CRT) from Executive Recycling’s distribution facility to the Port of Tacoma, Wash., where it was loaded on a vessel for Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Customs intercepted the container and sent it back to Executive Recycling, with the contents listed on the bill of lading as “Waste: Cathode Ray Tubes,” according to the broadcast. The bill of lading belonged to Evergreen Line, but the carrier is not the responsible party in the shipment and only lists the cargo information provided by the shipper.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection X-rayed the container and found the contents matched the description of the shipping document. A lawyer for Executive Recycling told “60 Minutes” that the CRTs were exported under Executive Recycling’s name, but without the company’s permission.
The program, however, pointed out that when the GAO conducted a sting posing as foreign buyers of nonworking CRT monitors Executive Recycling was one of 42 companies that offered to sell 1,500 CRT computer monitors and 1,200 CRT televisions to a fake broker in Hong Kong.
To see the CBS report or read the transcript, go to www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/11/06/60minutes/main4579229.shtml. ' Eric Kulisch