Dell is investigating claims that it exported e-waste in violation of company policy, following a report from a watchdog organization about Dell’s e-waste management.
“We applaud efforts to address the complex challenges of electronic recycling,” said Dell spokesperson Carly Tatum in an email. “Dell and the Reconnect program lead the industry in setting the standard for free and convenient consumer electronic recycling globally and in the US. The export of e-waste is a violation of our Electronic Disposition Policy so we take these allegations seriously. We are currently investigating the report claims, and we will address any validated issues in our processes.”
The company has had major success collecting and recycling e-waste. Dell has collected more than 1.4 billion pounds of e-waste since 2007, in part through its Reconnect program and its Asset Resale and Recycling Services program for business customers. This initiative allows companies to transport, resell and/or recycle any brand of owned or leased equipment, in an environmentally safe way, while protecting customer’s data.
The e-waste exporting claims stem from a Basel Action Network (BAN) report on a two-year study that involved placing electronic GPS tracking devices into old hazardous electronic equipment such as printers and computer monitors, and then watching where they traveled across the globe.
The report, Disconnect: Goodwill and Dell Exporting the Public’s E-waste to Developing Countries, is the first to be published as part of BAN’s e-Trash Transparency Project. The project has delivered 200 trackers across the US to places where the public is likely to take their old electronics to be recycled, such as recyclers and Goodwill stores.
It found that instead of being recycled, 65 (32.5 percent) of these devices were exported overseas on container ships. Most of them went to Asia, and most were traded in likely violation of the laws of the importing countries. Of the 149 trackers delivered just to recyclers, 39 percent were exported.
BAN says 46 of the 200 tracker-planted electronic devices were delivered to Goodwill Industries stores across the US. Seven of these later reported their whereabouts in the Asian countries of Thailand, Taiwan and China. Six of these were part of Dell Reconnect partnership with Goodwill — a project that provides free consumer recycling of any brand of computer equipment. Donors drop-off used electronics and Dell says Goodwill diverts all the e-waste from landfills.
However, the BAN report says instead of being recycled in the US per Dell’s policy, these devices were exported and were likely illegal under the laws of the importing countries.
“Goodwill and Dell, have had strong reputations for social and environmental responsibility. Our findings, however, shake the foundations of that public trust, and cry out for the implementation of immediate reform when it comes to e-waste management,” said BAN executive director Jim Puckett in a statement. “These must include stronger, enforced policies of greater due diligence and transparency.”
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