- Northwest electronics recycler Total Reclaim is under investigation and has lost its environmental certification after admitting to secretly exporting televisions to unregulated facilities in Hong Kong.
- The Seattle-based Basel Action Network made the discovery after placing GPS tracking devices in flat screen televisions. The nonprofit is known for establishing the e-Stewards certification program, which requires proper dismantling and disposal of electronic devices containing hazardous materials.
- Total Reclaim held a major share of the electronics recycling market in Washington and Oregon. Both states have opened investigations into whether the company violated hazardous waste laws, and Oregon is also looking into possible violations of consumer protection laws.
Total Reclaim was a founding member of the e-Stewards certification program and seen as an example of responsible e-waste recycling in the region. The company's owners said the pressures of low commodity prices and long-term, fixed-price contracts led them to make regrettable choices.
"We lost sight of our values and made business decisions that were contrary to the certifications and standards we had agreed to meet," the owners wrote in a statement. "In addition, we were not mindful of the environmental and human harm that could have been caused in Hong Kong. For all of this, we are very sorry."
Increased environmental awareness and the growing cost of labor in other countries that handle much of the world's e-waste has made the situation even more complicated. While most everyone agrees that e-waste must be disposed of responsibly, finding a way to make the business economically viable is still a challenge.
As e-waste laws become more common across the country, 22 states still don't have them. Calls for a standardized federal approach—which some believe would help with the industry's financial burden—have been unsuccessful.