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California’s E-Waste Program Burdened with Fraud

The state of California’s e-waste program, which pays more than $320 million to collect and recycle computer monitors and televisions, has resulted in fraud totaling tens of millions of dollars including illegal material smuggled in from out of state, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Bob Erie, chief executive officer of E-World Recyclers north of San Diego and once a supporter of the state effort, told The Sacramento Bee, greed has “poisoned the program.”

The newspaper reports that California officials have known about the program’s problems, and met with recycling industry officials two years ago to discuss solutions.

Recommendations reviewed during the meeting included better tracking, more transparency, tougher fraud enforcement, stricter standards for collectors and shifting the job of recycling to manufacturers but nothing has happened, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Although the state has rejected about $23 million in faulty or fraudulent e-waste claims submitted by recyclers and collectors, state and industry officials estimate that about $30 million in ineligible claims may have been paid, according to the article.

Two state agencies have control over the program: CalRecycle, which evaluates claims and pays recyclers, and the Department of Toxic Substances Control, which investigates fraud and environmental violations. The program is funded by consumers who pay $8 to $25 on the purchase of new monitors and televisions.

More than two dozen e-waste firms have been investigated for fraud by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control over the past two years, but none has been fined or prosecuted, and no state official has traveled out of state to investigate illegal e-waste coming into the state, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Most state recycling programs are paid for by manufacturers. As examples, Connecticut and New York are two of the most recent states to pass statewide electronics recycling programs, which will be paid for by manufacturers. North Carolina also is close to passing a similar bill.

Oregon also requires manufacturers to either establish their own recycling programs or pay their share of a public initiative.

Despite allegations of fraud, about 840 million pounds of monitors and TVs have been recycled in California, which is more than any other state, reports The Sacramento Bee.

To help drive responsible recycling at businesses, the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) offers electronics recyclers and others including asset management and refurbishing operations national certification to the e-Stewards Certification Program developed by the Basel Action Network (BAN).

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