In Colorado, government auctions are feeding the global trade in e-waste, an I-News Network investigation has found.
State agencies are selling junk computers and other electronics at surplus auctions, where the discarded items are then considered products instead of hazardous waste.
While some working or repairable electronics went to homes and businesses that needed them, I-News found that others ended up in landfills, risky backyard recycling operations, and illegal trade to developing countries.
This kind of e-waste laundering leaves some experts questioning state law and policies. Count among them Mary Jo Lockbaum, environmental health and safety manager for area e-waste handler, METech Recycling.
“If we were talking about hazardous chemicals or paint,” Lockbaum says of the discarding practices, “you wouldn’t even ask the question.”
Anne Peters, who heads the Boulder-based environmental consulting firm Gracestone, Inc., warned the city of Denver eight years ago that auctioning e-waste was a potential liability. Their surplus property could wind up polluting their own city, she said.
“The point for a jurisdiction is, they don’t know what happens to it,” says Peters. “They don’t have any way of knowing.”
This finding so bothered officials in Denver that the city stopped auctioning its spent electronics.
But in Colorado and across the nation, such auctions continue to be used by local, state and federal agencies to get rid of their e-waste.
Read more here!