Texas Campaign for the Environment: News

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MEDIA RELEASE: April 21, 2009

Environmental Group Withdrawing from Local Earth Day Event Over Concerns with Fate of Electronics to be Recycled


Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Contact: Zac Trahan; 713-337-4192

HOUSTON – Celebrating Earth Day by recycling an old computer, TV or other obsolete electronic equipment? According to a local environmental group, Texas Campaign for the Environment, some “e-waste recycling” companies are actually exporting toxic electronics to developing countries where they are dumped or burned and are poisoning entire villages. The group is withdrawing its participation from Pasadena’s upcoming Armand Bayou Watershed Festival because they are concerned that the final destination of e-waste collected there may be unsafe scrap operations halfway around world.

”We applaud the well-intentioned city officials that wish to serve their residents and help keep electronic waste out of our landfills – but we have strong concerns that this toxic material may be exported overseas, and we must regretfully choose not to participate in an event where this could be happening,” said Zac Trahan of Texas Campaign for the Environment.

“Reports and investigations have shown that some recycling firms which partner with local governments and non-profits to hold Earth Day e-recycling drives have in fact been linked to this shocking practice – regardless of what they tell the public and their local government partner they’re doing with the obsolete electronics.”

A recent Government Accountability Office report for U.S. Congress documented several e-recycling firms that have participated in Earth Day e-waste drives and promised to responsibly recycle the equipment domestically, only to be caught offering to sell scrap material to vendors in developing nations. The report found that few regulations exist to control this problem. State and national lawmakers are considering legislation to crack down on the practice.

“It is better for people to hold onto their old TVs and computers than to have them be dumped in developing countries where whole communities have been poisoned with the lead, mercury and other toxins inside high tech gadgets,” said Juan Parras, Executive Director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. “The global poor should not bear this burden.”

Currently, it is extremely difficult for the public or even local government officials to verify and track where their e-waste will end up. Dallas-area State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D) and Houston-area State Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R) are joint authors of House Bill 284, which would require producers taking back electronic waste for recycling that ship e-waste to developing countries to provide regular reports to the state environmental agency. The bill is currently awaiting a vote in the House Calendars Committee.

”In 2007, the Texas Legislature wisely passed a bill which required certain electronics manufacturers to provide a recycling program for consumers of their products," said Rep. Bohac. "Now, we need to strengthen this law by requiring electronics recyclers to disclose to the TCEQ whether they ship recycled electronic parts overseas and to provide the TCEQ with an annual report which, among other things, discloses specific information about the final destination of these parts. Texas consumers deserve to be fully informed.”

Trahan says this legislation is a good start and should be passed, but since this is an international trade issue, only a federal law can solve the problem.

”The state legislation currently proposed by Texas lawmakers would provide greater transparency for Texans on which companies are responsibly recycling e-waste. We strongly support these efforts, but we must ultimately pass federal legislation to put a stop to this shameful practice,” said Trahan.

“The federal government must pass and enforce comprehensive federal legislation and prohibit the dumping of toxic electronic waste on developing countries. In one e-waste scrapping center in China, more than 80% of the children have lead poisoning. Texas Campaign for the Environment encourages all Texans to ask their U.S. Representatives and Senators to support legislative efforts to stop this low road sham recycling.”


Texas Campaign for the Environment is an independent non-profit organization promoting responsible recycling and green design in the electronics industry. www.texasenvironment.org

Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services is an independent non-profit organization working toward environmental justice for working income communities in Southeast Texas. www.tejasbarrios.org