More Proof You Shouldn’t Blindly Trust Your e-Waste Recycler

As a follow-up to my recent post about e-waste recycling certification, I thought I’d share a story about a “recycler” caught in the act of illegally shipping used electronics to Africa.

Greenpeace—even as extremist, polarizing, and dogmatic as they can be—deserves credit for having boots on the ground in places where few others dare tread. They’ve produced a series of videos about e-waste, including one from the e-waste dump site Agbogbloshie in Accra, Ghana, and another about e-waste in India.

Kyle, never one to trust without proof, took his own e-waste investigation to both India and Agbogbloshie, where he took the picture above. We’ll be posting more about those trips soon.

In the Greenpeace video “Following the e-Waste Trail,” Stan explains how he and his team placed a GPS tracking device inside a disabled television set, then gave the set to an electronics recycler. UK law requires that only operational used electronics be exported; the TV was never tested. They tracked the TV as it moved from Hampshire County to a waste depot in North London, then was loaded into a container and shipped to West Africa, to finally land in Alaba Market, a massive second-hand electronics market in Lagos, Nigeria. Stan was able to buy the TV back from an importer at Alaba.

A sack of used electronics and e-waste

It can be challenging to separate responsible recyclers from recyclers like the one Stan used, who say one thing and do another. Fortunately, there are two standards that certify responsible electronics recyclers: here is a list of recyclers certified E-Stewards (from the environmental watchdog BAN). Any recycler certified by either of these is A-OK by us.

Stay tuned—we’ll be writing lots more about the wild and wooly world of shady electronics recyclers.