A study conducted by Basel Action Network (BAN) earlier this month indicates as much as a third of low-value devices collected for recycling in the U.S. were exported. BAN acquired this data by implanting GPS trackers into 200 CRTs, printers and flat panel displays and tracking their movements.
Nearly 75 percent of the tracked devices were delivered to electronics recycling companies and 39 percent of the devices handled by e-waste recyclers were exported. Close to 25 percent of the devices were routed to charity thrift stores, such as Goodwill, and 1 percent went to independent retailers in the U.S. A total of 65 devices were exported, and BAN estimates 62 of these (or 31 percent of total trackers) were illegally shipped.
BAN reports 50 of the exported devices were shipped to Taiwan, Hong Kong or China, and the remaining 15 ended their journey in Canada, Mexico, Pakistan, Kenya, Thailand, the Dominican Republic, the United Arab Emirates or Cambodia. Only three of the reported shipments were not described by the study as “likely illegal.”
Industry experts around the country are questioning the sample size and types of devices chosen by BAN, and whether the information received from tracking these devices accurately reflects industry practices as a whole.
Regardless of sample size, this is the type of data that industry professionals need to see, as a reminder that there are still industry players using inadmissible exportation methods. This unacceptable behavior points to the tremendous cost and burden the industry undergoes by trying to ensure downstream accountability.