BAN e-Trash Transparency Project

Just because you gave your e-waste to a recycler doesn’t mean it was actually recycled, according to the Basel Action Network’s (BAN) e-Trash Transparency Project. In partnership with MIT, BAN, an industry watchdog group, placed GPS tracking devices inside of 205 pieces of e-waste like CRT television, printers, and LCD screens. The e-waste was supposed to be recycled safely, however a large chunk of it ended up overseas in what are essentially e-waste junkyards.
The report shows that around 40% of the donated e-waste found itself in foreign countries, often passing through the hands of supposed recyclers on their way to their destination. It is expensive to recycle e-waste which has led many scam recyclers to collect e-waste from businesses and organizations at little to know charge. They then ship the e-waste overseas for a small profit. There it’s dumped into the e-waste junkyards where low-wage workers must sift through the equipment for the relatively valuable resources left inside. Real, environmentally sustainable electronic recycling can be profitable; however, the sale of recycled materials rarely, if ever, covers the actual cost of recycling in the United States.

This is dangerous for several reasons. Primarily, e-waste is filled with harmful toxins like arsenic, mercury, and lead. The low-wage junkyard workers are paid as little as $0.60 per hour and become exposed to the toxins when digging through and breaking down the electronic equipment. In places like Hong Kong, “New Territories” emerge, described by BAN as “furniture factories, scaffolding vendors, large metal fabrication, auto and bus body workshops, illegal gasoline vendors, a great deal of general import and export staging, and a very high percentage of electronics junkyards.” A truly astonishing amount of the e-waste found in these New Territories has come from the United States.
What’s even more shocking is that a number of the e-waste equipment shipped overseas passed through the hands of e-Stewards certified recyclers. The e-Stewards certification program that was founded by BAN awards an e-Stewards certification to e-waste recyclers who have exhibited safe recycling practices. There are 60 e-Steward certified facilities currently in the United States, however, not all have been faithful.

So what can be done about this? E-Stewards and BAN have already announced that they’re going to continue the GPS tracking program in order to deter further dumping…but there’s also something businesses and organizations can do. Remember that recycling e-waste is expensive. Therefore, be aware of recyclers offering to pick-up and recycle your e-waste free of charge.

As BAN puts it, “Real, environmentally sustainable electronics recycling can be profitable; the sale of recycled materials rarely, if ever, covers the actual cost of recycling in the United States.”

4th Bin is proud to be an e-Steward certified recycler. We have pledged to never illegally ship your organization’s e-waste overseas to these junkyards and New Territories. In the current age of precarious cyber security, it’s more important now than ever to have your e-waste recycled responsibly.

At 4th Bin, Earth Day is Everyday

There is one day each year that draws everyone’s attention to the harmful effects of pollutants, toxins, and hazardous waste on the environment…and that day is today, Earth Day! Every year, people use today to both celebrate the earth as well as to help raise awareness about the devastating effects that environmental pollutants have on our planet.
bin of e-waste
Here at 4th Bin, we like to think that everyday is Earth Day. One of the primary motivations behind our work is offering an outlet for the responsible recycling of e-waste to individuals who understand the consequences due to haphazard electronic disposal and want to minimize their impact on the environment. Unfortunately, many well-intentioned people are not aware of the destructive forces hidden inside their computers and cell phones.

In the spirit of Earth Day, we feel it is our responsibility to not only offer an environmentally friendly outlet for e-waste disposal, but also to take this opportunity to inform our community why it is so important to reduce and recycle e-waste. A few things to consider:

Electronics are full of toxins that are damaging to human health. Poisons such as Arsenic and Antimony, carcinogens like dioxins and cadmium, and nervous system toxins like lead and mercury are abundant in electronics. Frequently, e-waste is shipped to 3rd world countries like Ghana and Nigeria where men, women and children are tasked with de-constructing the waste, exposing themselves to the dangerous chemicals.

The level of toxic waste found in electronics is truly alarming. In fact, e-waste contributes to just 2% of the total trash in American landfills, but contains over 70% of the toxic waste in landfills.

The advantages of recycling e-waste are not limited to reducing the amount of waste and toxic chemicals in landfills around the world,. The recycling process also allows many of the valuable resources used in the production of electronics to be re-used. This means there is a diminished need for mining and other production costs.

Did you know it takes around 530 lbs. of fossil fuels, 48 lbs. of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to produce just one computer and monitor? Recycling electronics minimizes the American consumer’s energy dependence. Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year.

As globalization increases and the demand for electronics rises, the need for responsible electronic recycling outlets will only grow. The human effects on climate change have become indisputable, and it’s up to each and every one of us to continue to reduce our impact on the environment. Responsible e-waste is just one step on the path towards a cleaner and greener planet Earth.

Don’t Let Your Data End Up in the Hands of ISIS

Here at 4th Bin we proudly tell our clients that we are committed to providing the highest level of professionalism, security and reliability when handling certified data destruction, old equipment and e-waste services. We take this incredibly seriously—especially in terms of security.

Clients who want to get rid of sensitive IT equipment (like hard drives) typically understand the need for a secure data destruction service. When dealing with other equipment, the need for the service may not be as clear. But it is just as important.

Take this cautionary tale that has the potential to completely devastate a business.

When Mark Oberholtzer, owner of a plumbing company based in Texas, wanted to upgrade his truck, he didn’t think much about taking it to his Ford dealership for a trade. It was a company truck and Mark had a decal on it that promoted its business. When he was trading it that promoted its in for an upgrade, he went to try to remove the decal but the salesman on the lot told him not to bother because it could scratch the paint.

So Mark got into his new truck and drove away, thinking that was the end of it. But it was actually just the beginning of a very bumpy ride.

Mark, like many of us, didn’t really think about where his old truck would end up or how Ford would excess the vehicle. What Mark certainly didn’t expect is that a photo of his old truck with the decal of his company intact, would get into the hands of ISIS fighters in the Syrian civil war. But that’s exactly what happened.

While Ford isn’t sure how Mark’s truck ended up in the hands of ISIS, it is being investigated because Mark is suing the dealership for more than one million dollars for financial losses and damages to his company’s reputation.

His plumbing company was heavily impacted because a photo of the truck in the hands of ISIS, with his company’s decal intact, went viral. In one day, Mark’s office, business phone and personal cell received over one thousand calls from around the nation, many harassing.

Mark told CNN, “Most of the calls were harassing and threatened violence and included the yelling (of) expletives at whomever answered the phone, the “singing in Arabic for the duration of the phone call and threats of injury or death.”

For his employees’ protection and his own, Mark temporarily shut down his business and left town. He was also contacted by Homeland Security and the FBI.

While, initially, the idea that something you once owned can possibly end up on the other side of the world in terrorists’ hands seems hard to imagine, it can happen. But the real takeaway of this story is that if you don’t know where your old equipment is going, it can go anywhere.

And we aren’t just talking about the obvious types of technology such as cars, desktops or laptops. The frightening reality is that ISIS is extremely tech savvy. As such, the questions could be: How are they accessing the Internet? Where are they getting their network equipment (such as firewalls, routers, and switches)? The reality is that when you are not properly vetting your vendors to make sure they are responsibly destroying your equipment and technology, it can end up in the wrong hands. This may seem alarmist but we bet Mark Oberholtzer is thinking he should’ve thought of that before he handed over his truck. What you should be asking yourself is: What are the implications to you and your business if a security agency pulls up a serial number of your device feeding ISIS the Internet?

It’s a scary thought, but it does make you realize how important it is to manage your e-waste, data destruction, and the removal of old equipment. You need to work with a trusted professional so you are absolutely confident that when you get rid of your IT assets, they are destroyed reliably, professionally and, most importantly, securely.

Interested in learning more? Contact at us at 4th Bin.