Electronic waste dropped off at Officeworks’ recycling points are exported to Hong Kong and Thailand for disposal in breach of an international treaty, a new report claims.
US-based Basel Action Network (BAN) claims that electronic waste they embedded with GPS trackers were exported to Hong Kong’s New Territories area, with some being reexported to an e-waste processing area in Thailand.
As detailed in their report, titled Illegal Export of e-Waste from Australia, BAN deployed 35 pieces of e-waste across Australia between September and October last year, including CRT and LCD monitors and printers — which qualify under the Basel Convention as hazardous waste.
Two LCD screens were deployed at different Officeworks “Bring IT Back” drop off points in stores in the Brisbane area. The bins are also part of an official Australian government-sanctioned “Drop Zone” program.
The Basel Convention, under which Australia, China and Thailand are signatories, is a global treaty that places strict controls on the export of e-waste between first world countries and non-OECD nations.
“There can be little doubt that these exports were illegal due to the fact that all three countries concerned are full parties to the Basel Convention,” the report read.
“Due to the presence of mercury in the backlights of these LCD monitors and the lead in the circuit boards of the monitors, and because the equipment was rendered non-functional, the equipment was clearly hazardous waste under the definitions of the Basel Convention.”
At least one of the devices tracked was a “highly polluting” legacy circuit board that was to be sent to an acid stripping operation in Thailand. The report said a similar operation was recently shut down by the Thai government.
Officeworks managing director Mark Ward told CRN the company was disappointed in the findings of the report.
“Providing effective recycling programs that make a real difference is very important to us. We’re working with our supplier, who has government accreditation, to ensure that e-waste collected in our stores is recycled safely and appropriately,” he added.
“We have a long-standing commitment to making a positive difference in the world in which we work, live and operate. Complying with all relevant laws and customs and maintaining the highest levels of ethics and integrity are central to how we do business and who we do business with. We would never knowingly illegally or unethically dump waste."
The report was funded by a grant from the United Nations Regional Enforcement Network (REN) on Chemicals and Waste