The Dirty Truth About E-Waste Recycling

The Dirty Truth About E-Waste Recycling

published
December 28, 2016
News

Do you know the truth about the e-waste recycling industry?
Have you ever donated clothing to a thrift shop like AmVets or Salvation Army? If so, I’m sure you’ve felt the satisfaction, no matter how minor, of giving to help further a cause. Now, imagine if the clothing you donated to the poor was instead taken and sold off for minuscule profit rather than going where you were led to believe it was going. You would feel cheated and lied to, but, more importantly, the people who need the clothing are left out in the cold.

If the public were to find out a charity was turning donations for profit, there would be justifiable outrage…and yet that is exactly what’s occurring in the world of e-waste. The e-waste recycling industry has a major problem on its hands: recycling companies exporting e-waste to developing nations rather than recycling on their own.

 e-waste recycler

So how is it that when I take my old computer to an e-waste recycler, there is a possibility that it will end up in a junkyard in Hong Kong where it is scraped for pieces, exposing laborers to toxins and destroying local ecosystems? There are a few causes:

The Basel Convention
Primarily, this phenomenon occurs because there are no domestic laws inhibiting it. Regulation regarding e-waste began with the Basel Convention in 1992. The international treaty, designed to diminish the amount of hazardous waste moved between countries, especially less-developed countries, has been ratified by every signatory nation except two: The United States and Haiti.

2. Legislation
Domestic efforts to pass legislation have been futile. Currently, there are no federal laws prohibiting the e-waste exports. States do not have the jurisdiction to restrict international exports so state by state legislation carries little weight.

3. The Commodities Market
When the commodity market is bullish, the processing and recycling of e-waste presents a lucrative business opportunity. Not so in a bear market. For many companies, the current state of the commodity market means that exporting e-waste is far more profitable than domestically processing and recycling the materials.

4. Information Asymmetry
Finally, there’s a lack of coherence as to whether or not e-waste companies exporting their waste is even an issue. The UN says that anywhere between 10-40% of US e-waste is exported. Meanwhile, the International Trade Organization claimed that only 0.13% of US e-waste is exported. Contrary to these reports, Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network conducted a tracking experiment and found that about ⅓ of the electronic devices they put trackers on and then delivered to e-waste recycling companies eventually ended up overseas.

None of these causes even address the scariest issue about this: there is very little you can do about it. You can campaign and lobby for new laws, but lawmakers in D.C. have been blocking legislation on this exact issue since the early 90s.

Reputable e-waste recyclers will, at the very least, be certified. Sometimes companies will attempt to circumvent their certification. There are going to be bad apples everywhere. But not every single e-waste company is dumping in foreign markets. That makes it vitally important for you to research and vet any e-waste company before partnering with them.

Here at 4THBIN, we are very aware of these issues and the problems within the systems at play. This is why we are so committed and passionate about ensuring ethical, responsible and efficient end-to-end recycling solutions for our clients’ electronics and e-waste. We never export, send to landfill or stockpile anything in our care. Frankly, our e-waste collection and electronics recycling is incomparable.

We care deeply about two core issues - protecting your sensitive e-waste resources while also protecting the environment. This is what fuels the work we do.

Interested in learning more about our work? Check out our responsible electronics recycling solutions

More News

News

4THBIN and Broadway Green Alliance team up for fall e-Waste drive

4THBIN recently teamed up with Broadway Green Alliance for a fall e-waste drive. The collection drive took place at Father Duffy Square and was a great opportunity for the Broadway community to turn theatre or office clean-outs into a greener, more sustainable experience. By joining forces, we hoped to increase public awareness of recycling, while minimizing the number of recyclables sent to landfills.

News

Happy Halloween!

To some, the spookiest part of Halloween may be the ghosts or vampires, but to us, it’s the plastic waste that is left behind. Nearly 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste are generated yearly from Halloween scraps, the equivalent of 83 million water bottles. Similar to electronic waste, the scraps that are left behind from Halloween will end up in a landfill - posing major hazards to the environment and humanity.

News

4THBIN is excited to announce that we are e-Stewards 4.0 certified!

4THBIN is excited to announce that we are e-Stewards 4.0 certified! The e-Stewards Standard Version 4.0 implements the same core values, along with two new standards. The first being the requirement of the global environmental management system standard created by the International Standards Organization, ISO 14001. Additionally, e-Stewards V4.0 requires the current version of the international data security standard, NAID AAA Certification, including all NAID endorsements relevant to the Organization’s business model.

News

Part 3: Cybersecurity Protecting your family in a digital home and world

Welcome to the final installment of a three-part series on Cybersecurity. Protecting your sensitive data from theft or unintentional leaks continues to be a top risk to companies and governments alike.

Media Alert

4THBIN’s CEO Paul Kirsch Appointed to e-Stewards’ Leadership Council

Advocating for what you believe in requires active participation. As part of 4THBIN’s commitment to driving awareness and action around the need and impact of electronic recycling, we are proud to announce the appointment of Paul Kirsch to the e-Stewards’ Leadership Council.

Event

4THBIN-BGA-Event E-Waste Recycling Event
November 17, 2021
Drop-off Event

4THBIN and Broadway Green Alliance Team Up for Fall E-Waste Drive

We are excited to announce our collaboration with environmental innovators, Broadway Green Alliance (BGA), for a Fall E-Waste Drive. We aim to provide members of the Broadway community and beyond with the opportunity to securely and sustainably recycle their old electronics. 

4THBIN participates SIM NY panel discussion
September 14, 2021
Webinar

Unplugged – Managing the Data Security and Environmental Risks of Obsolete Electronic

4THBIN participates in a panel discussion on the topic of managing data security and environmental risks.

John Kirsch joins the sustainability conversation
April 29, 2021
Webinar

John Kirsch Joins the Sustainability Conversation - “FF&E Through the Circularity Lens Roundtable”

4THBIN participates in a panel discussion on the topic of how a more strategic and collaborative FF&E approach facilitate circularity.