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October 26, 2010
10:08 AM

CONTACT: Basel Action Network

Jim Puckett, Executive Director, BAN,
Tel: 206-652-5555,

Report says US Government Dumps e-Waste, Poisons Prisoners

WASHINGTON - October 26 - Following the release of a investigation by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General revealing that federal prisons (operating under the trade name UNICOR) routinely exposed inmates to toxic heavy metals and exported hazardous wastes to developing countries, the Basel Action Network (BAN) calls for consumers large and small to only use e-Stewards® qualified recyclers that will not export hazardous wastes to developing countries and will not utilize prisoner labor for managing it.

The e-Stewards Standard was created by the environmental community after a government led effort to create a standard for responsible recycling failed to ban the export of hazardous waste or the use of prison labor to manage sensitive electronic waste as well as exports to developing countries.
The report, entitled “Review of Federal Prison Industries’ Electronic-Waste Recycling Program,” not only admits e-wastes are exported to developing countries, but it also reports that the UNICOR staff were involved in cover-ups, money laundering, theft, fraud and other charges.
BAN, together with the Electronic TakeBack Coalition of which it is a part, has long opposed the use of prison labor because it subjects vulnerable prison populations to hazardous substances, provides for an unfair taxpayer funded subsidy which hurts the private sector development of recycling infrastructure, and allows criminals to inappropriate access to sensitive private data found on hard drives and other data media.
“We have said all along, that prisoners should not be managing toxic waste and the federal government should never allow the export of such wastes to developing countries,” said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the BAN.  “Now we are finding out that not only did the federal government continue to allow it, they were doing it themselves and may still be doing it to this day.”
The export of hazardous electronic waste to developing countries is contrary to decisions taken by the international community at the Basel Convention, an international treaty under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program for which BAN serves as a watchdog organization.  To date, though, the US government has not ratified the Basel Convention and has failed to support the global decision to amend the Convention to forbid all exports of hazardous wastes to developing countries.  EPA’s former Electronic Waste Senior Scientist, Mr. Bob Tonetti, who in the past was a strong supporter of continued US government exports of hazardous wastes and who was quoted as saying that export was part of the US e-Waste strategy, is now chief of UNICOR operations.  He is quoted in the recent report stating that he continues to send e-waste to other companies which in turn export of e-waste, including hazardous cathode ray tube glass, to countries like India and Malaysia.  Such exports are likely to be in violation of Basel Convention trade rules.
“It is outrageous that in this report the federal government admits to the Department of Justice that it continues to violate international law with impunity,” said Puckett.  “This gross violation of human rights, sustainable development and international law must cease at once.”
BAN urges passage of new House Bill 6252, introduced by Representatives Raymond Green and John Carter of Texas and Mike Thompson of California, which will ban the export of US hazardous wastes to developing countries.  And BAN urges all consumers of electronics, large and small, to be sure to only take their e-Wastes to e-Stewards recyclers who do not export the equipment to developing countries.   You can find an e-Stewards recycler at:


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