Indonesia turns back illegal US e-waste

Intervention by an environmental campaign group has stopped an illegal shipment of nine sea-going containers of US hazardous electronic waste being exported to Indonesia.

The block on the shipment from Massachusetts firm CRT Recycling Inc. was made possible due to a tip off to the Indonesian environment ministry from the Basel Action Network (BAN). BAN volunteers had staked out CRT Recycling, a company that takes thousands of monitors every year from local US schools and governments. They photographed a container in the company’s yard being loaded with cathode ray tube (CRT) computer monitors. Using container numbers and online shipping company databases, they were able to track the container and its ship to the port of Semarang, Indonesia.

BAN says it contacted the Indonesian Ministry of Environment in November 2009, warning officials of the ship’s imminent arrival.

Indonesian authorities then seized the container and found it to be part of a consignment of nine from CRT Recycling. The containers were returned to the US, arriving in Boston port in February.  The shipment was returned to CRT Recycling by the authorities on 1 March.

CRT Recycling had employed a waste broker, Advanced Global Technologies Inc., which is listed on an official website of the US government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a registered e-waste exporter. In 2008, official oversight body the Government Accountability Office slammed the EPA for doing far too little to control exports of electronic waste from the United States.

“Indonesia is just one of many countries now being flooded by a tsunami of toxic electronic waste from the United States,” said BAN executive director Jim Puckett. “Even though our own government knows that the importation of toxic waste from the US is a violation of the laws of most countries of the world, our own EPA shamefully allows the global dumping to continue.”

BAN, together with the Electronic TakeBack Coalition, has been campaigning for a new law prohibiting hazardous e-waste exports from the United States, to bring it up to legal standards already in place in 32 other developed countries.

According to BAN, about 80 per cent of the e-waste consumers deliver to recyclers is not recycled by these companies at all but is simply shipped to countries in Asia and Africa to some of the world’s most impoverished communities where the waste is smashed, burned, melted or chemically treated in extremely dangerous backyard operations.

BAN warns businesses and consumers to hand over their old electronic equipment only to designated e-Stewards Recyclers that have been carefully screened and audited to ensure they do not export, use prison labour, or dump toxics in municipal landfills and incinerators.

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