Report says US Government Dumps e-Waste, Poisons Prisoners

For Immediate Release

Basel Action Network
Contact: 
Jim Puckett, Executive Director, BAN,
Tel: 206-652-5555,
E-mail: jpuckett@ban.org.
 

Report says US Government Dumps e-Waste, Poisons Prisoners

WASHINGTON - 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:
www.e-Stewards.org
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