The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jim Puckett: 206-354-0391; Sarah Westervelt: 206-604-9024

Warning: Digital Conversion May Result in Tsunami of Toxic TV Exports to Developing Countries

Consumers Urged to use only qualified "e-Stewards" recyclers


The toxic waste watchdog organization, the Basel Action Network
(BAN), is warning consumers to be extremely careful about where they take their
old TVs for recycling following the nationwide conversion from
analog-to-digital broadcasting. They are urging consumers to only use qualified
e-Steward recyclers
, the only list identifying electronic waste recyclers that
will not export toxic TVs and other electronic waste to a developing country.

After today when many Americans wake up to no TV
signal without a special converter box, cable or satellite, many will
make the choice to finally upgrade their old "cathode ray tube" TV to a
slick new flat screen TV. Their old TV is obsolete and now a waste
object for disposal, and smart consumers may believe that recycling is
a better choice than placing it in a dumpster or at the curbside.

But BAN warns that currently, due to a lack of legislation forbidding
such trade, about 80% of those companies calling themselves
"recyclers" in North America will simply export your old TV to
countries like China, India, or Nigeria where the toxic leaded glass,
cadmium, and brominated flame retardants which are found in materials
in old TVs will poison villagers using primitive technologies to recover some materials, and then dump or burn the rest of the electronic waste.(1)

"There are few regulations in place and the ones that do exist are easily
circumvented. So
many of these so-called recyclers take your TV or computer
for free, or pocket your environmental fee, and then just turn around and ship
your old TV to China or Vietnam,
" said Sarah Westervelt e-Stewardship
Director at BAN. "There, our old entertainment devices end up causing misery
and disease, and ultimately contaminate the entire planet, distributing lead,
mercury, and cadmium into the ecosphere - not a good plan for anyone,

It has been conservatively estimated by some recyclers that due to the digital
conversion, about one in four households will get rid of a TV this year. If
that is true, it would mean 27,790,564 TVs, each containing an average of 5
pounds of lead, will be disposed or recycled. And with 80% of this total
shunted offshore to developing countries, about 56,000 tons of toxic lead alone
would be transferred and dumped on some of the world's poorest communties.

In 2002 and 2005, BAN released two documentary films, Exporting Harm and The Digital Dump,
shining a spotlight on the horrors of the global e-waste trade and its
very damaging impacts of toxic constituents in electronic products on
the workers and environments of communities in Africa and China. Last
year they went with CBS's 60 Minutes program to China and
found the devastation of the environment from imported e-waste had
gotten far worse. Recent studies in Guiyu, China, ground zero of the
international waste trade, show some of the highest levels of dioxin,
lead and other cancer-causing pollutants ever recorded. Lead in the
blood of 80 percent of the Guiyu's children is dangerously high and
already demonstrable brain impairment has been recorded.

2008 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) condemned the
EPA for not having comprehensive rules to control e-waste exports and
poorly enforcing the one law that does exist for TVs and Computer
monitors known as the "CRT Rule".(2) Since then, the EPA has begun
welcomed enforcement of that rule, but unfortunately the law contains
loopholes, exempting much of the leaded glass from regulation. BAN,
together with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition (ETBC), is currently
seeking national legislation to ban the export of all toxic e-waste
(not just CRTs) to developing countries as all European countries have
already done.(3) And BAN has created the e-Stewards Initiative - a
list of responsible e-cyclers* that have agreed not to export hazardous
e-wastes to developing countries.

current legislative landscape is a haven for 'waste cowboys' that use
developing countries as global dumping grounds when there is a profit
to be made," said Jim Puckett, BAN's Executive Director. "The e-Stewards are ethical recyclers that will not export toxic e-Waste under the false pretext of recycling or reuse."

Photos, research and documentation available:

Photographs available at: and others upon request.

*For a list of e-Steward Recyclers:
The e-Stewards recyclers are currently subject to significant desk
audits, verifying all of their downstream destinations throughout the
recycling chain of toxic wastes, as defined internationally. However,
the program will soon become an accredited, third party audited,
certification program. For more information check the website above.

For more information on illegal and irresponsible e-waste export:

Basel Action Network's mission is to champion global environmental health and justice by ending toxic trade, catalyzing a toxics-free future, and campaigning for everyone's right to a clean environment.