The Seattle-based electronic waste processor Total Reclaim has agreed to settle two penalties with the Washington Department of Ecology for illegally disposing of waste by exporting it to Hong Kong, and for improperly storing e-waste. Under the settlement, Total Reclaim will pay $83,625 in penalties and pay another $300,000 to the Western States Project, an interstate consortium that supports environmental enforcement education and training.
In 2016, Ecology fined Total Reclaim $444,000
after an independent investigation by the watchdog group Basel Action Network found that the company had illegally disposed of flat screens by selling them to an exporter, which sent the electronics to Hong Kong, where they were broken apart in the open by unprotected workers.
In 2017, Ecology fined Total Reclaim another $67,500
for illegally storing hundreds of thousands of pounds of flat screen TVs and monitors inside trailers on Harbor Island. Washington’s e-waste regulations require recycling in a timely manner, so that e-waste does not become an environmental threat or a public responsibility as a result of being abandoned.
“Electronic waste needs to be handled properly to prevent harm to the environment and to human health,” said Raman Iyer, section manager for Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction program. “It’s never OK to take shortcuts when it comes to managing dangerous waste.”
Older flat screen TVs and monitors can pose a threat to human health because they often have small fluorescent bulbs, that contain toxic mercury and other heavy metals. Electronics can also contain lead and other toxic materials that may be classified as dangerous waste, so it’s important that they are properly recycled.
Under the agreement, Total Reclaim did not admit wrongdoing, but waives its right to appeal. By settling the case, the state avoids potentially costly litigation, and provides additional support for enforcing environmental laws. The settlement also provides for a portion of the $300,000 earmarked for environmental enforcement to be used cleaning up a defunct recycling site in Clallam County, where fluorescent lights and other potentially hazardous materials have been left.
Washington residents can recycle TVs, monitors, computers and other electronics for free at participating E-Cycle Washington
locations. For questions about where other items can be recycled, call or visit 1-800-RECYCLE