Monday, March 7, 2011

Fake Recyclers Profit Off E-Waste

Recycling your electronic waste is a noble idea, but here's the dirty little secret: even if you drop off your old electronics for recycling, it may never get recycled.

As OSNews' Howard Fosdick describes some people fall victim to a scam called "fake recycling," and just describing it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Fake recyclers are organizations that approach well-meaning community groups like the Boy Scouts or the Make-a-Wish Foundation to help run a local "Recycling Day." The idea is that people from the community will bring in their old electronics to the legitimate organization's Recycling Day event. The fake recycler will then haul that e-waste away, and export it to another country with lax environmental regulations.

What's in it for them? According to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, "Recyclers can make more money by exporting than they can by actually responsibly recycling. This is particularly true for recyclers who are collecting televisions, because it costs money to properly recycle old televisions. But they can get paid for exporting them."

This story from the Basel Action Network details how Cartoosa, OK-based company, EarthEcycle allegedly conned the Humane Society and several other groups into running a "Recycle Day" Event, and then exported the goods to Hong Kong and South Africa. Last year, the EPA filed charges (download EarthECycle complaint) against the company for violating at least seven federal hazardous waste management regulation.

The EPA found other companies located in the state of Washington and Texas as well as in New Jersey illegally disposing of electronic waste.

Most people have never heard of a fake recycling organization like EarthEcycle, but plenty of people know all about the Boy Scouts or the Make-a-Wish Foundation. And that's exactly why fake recycler organizations need the help of legitimate groups, which lend the good name and publicity to the event.

The crazy thing is that none of this is illegal, but it's definitely destroying the environment. Here are a few tips from Electronics Takeback Coalition to keep a lookout for fake recyclers to make sure that you (or a group you represent) don't get scammed.

First off, remember that responsibly recycling an item is not free, especially when it comes to electronics. If it's not you forking over the cash to recycle an old computer, find out who is. Some electronics companies now take your old electronics back when you buy a new one, as are some state and local governments.

If you really want to do right by the environment, seek out an e-waste recycler on your own. You can find plenty of them on e-Stewards. There are also eclectic groups like FreeGeek Chicago that refurbish your old computers for people who can't afford their own.

Both of those options sound a lot better than letting your old computer sink into a landfill.

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