Executive Recycling probably kills kids in China (Updated)

UPDATE: Google has a cached copy of the (since removed) response by Executive Recycling to the 60 Minutes piece below and the GAO report mentioned in the 60 Minutes piece. Here’s the Google cached page (for as long as it stays cached, anyway), and page 25 (pdf page 29) of this GAO report has the exact reference used in 60 Minutes. It’s possible that the 60 Minutes story got some of their facts wrong – the GAO report doesn’t mention Executive Recycling by name, so another source to make that connection would be required – and so the EPA should investigate this and, if appropriate, bring all 43 companies that the GAO “stung” up on charges. This GAO report says the EPA is investigating.

It’s illegal to dump electronic waste on developing nations. But it still happens. And sometimes it turns out to be a hometown company that’s “recycling” lead-filled TV tubes and printed circuit boards in China, probably against the law. 60 Minutes ran this story on Executive Recycling (ER), of Englewood, Colorado, and the company that my hometown uses for e-waste recycling twice a year.

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Interestingly enough, ER had a response to the 60 Minutes piece for a while, but it’s vanished from off the ER website. If anyone has an archived copy of the page, or could point me to where I can find one, I’d love to post it or link to it. Use “Contact Us” above.

A year ago, I recycled an old, busted television. I hope it was recycled properly, not shipped overseas to a town where a gang is willing to kill kids with lead poisoning for a few yuan.

I hope the feds charge Executive Recycling with export violations and, if ER’s guilty, the company gets shut down and the executives responsible for this get locked up for a long time.

I’d prefer that they be forced to endure the conditions that the “recyclers” do in China, but that would probably qualify as “cruel and unusual punishment”.

7 replies »

  1. It’s getting harder and harder to trust, and nothing’s worse than getting the rug yanked out from underneath you when trying to do the right thing.

    We may have a sulfide mining project for nickel going into a much used, and sensitive, area right outside of town. Many are, or course, dead set against it…across the spectrum. But one of the arguments “for” it (quotes because its a tepid “for”) is that if we say no, Kennecot will just go somewhere where nobody’s watching and and do whatever they want. The argument makes some sense, but only if we have any actual power to stop them.

    In any case, i’m sorry, Brian, because i have a feeling that this upsets you more than your post revealed…

  2. The amazing thing is that Broomfield really tried to go with a good company. They toured the plant, looked at shipping invoices, checked state and federal records, etc. Even with all that, we all got screwed.

  3. Yeah, it upsets me more than my post revealed, Lex. I’m an electrical engineer – I design and build things every day with all those toxic materials in them, and to see them being burned in the open, watching them using an acid leech bath to extract the gold (that’s then almost certainly boiled off into the town’s air, leaving the gold behind), watching little kids doing work in the “recycling” yard that adults would need protective gear and a building with carefully controlled airflow, exhaust and water discharge monitoring, and probably things I’m not even thinking of right now to do safely…. Well, I’m a little upset by all that.

    This is one of those situations where my general agreement with the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” runs smack into my desire for poetic justice.

  4. Brian, what i don’t get is how/why we people have ended up valuing just about everything over people. Damn the consequences for the children, there’s gold in them thar old televisions. It just kills me.

    BTW, i hope i didn’t sound snarky. I certainly didn’t mean it. I said it because the story had a personal connection for you; that is, you tried to do the right thing by recycling your television and it turned into this horror show. Or maybe i was transferring, because i feel my involvement in the wrongs of this world all too acutely and all too often…even without having to watch them (as directly as you) on 60 minutes.