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Dell to scrutinize e-waste policy, after allegations of illegal exports
May 13,2016 10:28CST
industry news
Dell spokesperson applauded BAN’s efforts to address the challenges faced by the electronics recycling industry.

By Paul Ploumis (ScrapMonster Author)

May 12, 2016 07:53:41 AM

SEATTLE (Scrap Monster):  Dell has announced investigation into its e-waste management policy, after a Basel action Network (BAN) report identified Dell being involved in illegal exports of electronic waste to other countries, where they are treated in unethical ways.

Dell spokesperson applauded BAN’s efforts to address the challenges faced by the electronics recycling industry. The allegations will be taken seriously as it is a clear violation of Dell’s Electronic Disposition Policy, she noted. The issue is being investigated and actions would be taken to incorporate necessary steps in processes, she added.

GPS Tracking

In a bid to track the e-waste from recycling locations, BAN placed cell-phone sized GPS tracker devices to almost 200 non-functioning printers and monitors and dropped them at various locations within the US during the second half of 2015. The organization has been tracking these devices since then. Until now, 62 pieces of equipment have ended up in countries where e-waste imports are banned by law. This equates to almost one third of the total devices tracked during this period. The BAN report also stated that most of these devices ended up in Hong Kong. It warned that more devices could have been exported out of the US, but might not have been accounted for due to technical issues such as reception issues, equipment failure or damaged batteries.

Dell’s violation of policy

According to BAN report, 46 out of the 200 tracker-attached electronic devices were delivered to Goodwill stores, with whom Dell partners for recycling of electronics waste. Seven of these were later traced in Asian countries including Thailand, China and Taiwan. Out of this, six were part of Dell-Reconnect recycling partnership with Goodwill. Dell had long been claiming that all the used electronics collected as part of the program were recycled by Goodwill, thereby saving landfills from toxic waste. As per company policy, all end-of-life electronics must be recycled within the US. However, GPS Tracking revealed that the company was involved in exporting e-waste to other countries, where there exists ban on e-waste imports.

Loss of reputation

BAN executive director Jim Puckett in a statement noted that it was quite unfortunate and shocking to note that reputed firms like Dell and Goodwill were involved in illegal e-waste exports out of the US. He called for more transparency in their e-waste policies and urged them to implement urgent changes in their e-waste management policies to ensure that such incidents are never repeated. Surprisingly, Goodwill was found to have no policy in place against exporting to developing countries.

Reality unveiled

The BAN investigation revealed that the tracked equipment had travelled to 10 different countries including China, Taiwan, Pakistan, Mexico, Thailand, Cambodia and Kenya. However, most of the devices ended up in Hong Kong’s New Territories region near the Chinese border. The region comprises of so-called e-waste processing facilities where e-waste is treated in the most unethical way. The hundreds of employees, mostly Chinese with no valid stay documents, are exposed to toxic chemicals that pose serious health risks. These facilities were found operating under dangerous circumstances. Several fires were reported at junkyards where dumped waste was being stored for dismantling.

Alarm bells

A recent report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had noted that nearly 60% to 90% of the world’s electronic waste are traded or dumped illegally. The report had stated that Africa and Asia are the key destinations of hazardous electronic waste. Also, the ‘Global Waste Management Outlook’ launched by UNEP in partnership with the International Solid Waste Association had warned that waste volumes are likely to double in lower-income Asian and African cities by 2030.

About BAN

Founded in 1997, the Basel Action Network is a 501(c)3 charitable organization of the United States, based in Seattle, WA. BAN is the world's only organization focused on confronting the global environmental justice and economic inefficiency of toxic trade and its devastating impacts. Today, BAN serves as the information clearinghouse on the subject of waste trade for journalists, academics, and the general public.

e-waste recycling

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