*Updates to this story appear at the bottom of the page*
Illinois-based electronics recycling firm Intercon Solutions has become the first processor to be denied e-Stewards Certification for what the Basel Action Network says is “compelling evidence” that the company exported electronic waste to Hong Kong.
In a letter to Intercon CEO Brian Brundage dated June 28, BAN executive director Jim Puckett said the organization would not be accepting Intercon into the e-Stewards Certification program based on evidence BAN collected showing the company exported containers of electronics – a violation of the conditions for e-Stewards Certification and likely the import laws of Hong Kong. BAN presented photographic and documentary evidence it collected showing electronic scrap in one Intercon Solutions shipping container bound for Hong Kong in 2009, and two additional shipping containers bound for Hong Kong in 2011.
“The final decision by BAN to deny the certification took place only after an on-site audit had been conducted and after direct discussions between BAN and Intercon Solutions failed to convince BAN that Intercon Solutions had not exported the toxic containers,” read an official statement from the Seattle-based watchdog. “Such export is a violation of the e-Stewards Standard and is likely also to violate the importation laws of Hong Kong, the U.S. federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Illinois state law governing the conduct of registered electronics recyclers.”
“We determined we had a serious problem just before we began the Phase 2 audit during the certification process,” says Puckett, speaking with E-Scrap News. “We made sure to have an observer there during the third-party auditing process after that and began the process of trying to work with [Intercon] on this problem. After they continued to deny ownership of the containers, or that the events took place, we took the action that we did.”
As part of being denied certification, BAN says it will bar the company from e-Stewards certification for a minimum of two years.
“We gave them plenty of opportunities to work with us and correct their behavior, but we just kept getting denials,” continues Puckett.
Several attempts to contact representatives of Intercon Solutions, including Brundage, by E-Scrap News were unsuccessful at press time [see update below].
In a marketing letter postmarked June 30, two days after the company received its correspondence from BAN, Intercon Solutions business development director Dan Hagan bills the company as one that will “Properly recycle anything that does not contain a liquid with zero landfill, zero export, zero remarketing, zero incineration and zero shredding.”
Intercon’s marketing letter also highlights the company’s other certifications, including the R2 and RIOS standards. However, shortly after the story broke on July 5, R2 Solutions, the housing body for the standard, announced it had delisted Intercon Solutions from its directory of R2 processors. R2 Solutions said it took the action based on data provided to it by BAN, which showed that the company violated the R2 certification’s provision against exporting “focus materials,” such as batteries, CRT glass, circuit boards, mercury and other hazardous substances.
Intercon Solutions’ current troubles may soon extend beyond certification. BAN says officials in Hong Kong are taking enforcement action against the importing firm documented in the evidence. BAN says that action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is possible against Intercon directly, although a more immediate concern is its status as a registered processor under Illinois’ state electronics recycling program, which requires companies exporting covered electronics to meet all laws of the United States and the recipient country, and to keep records of their export activity for a period of three years.
Intercon Solutions is a major electronics processor in Illinois and the surrounding region. For example, it is a member of the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries and according to the company has 12 sites, processing approximately 143 million pounds of electronics per year. SAI Global conducted third-party audits of the company for the e-Stewards certification process. BAN says any outstanding issues regarding payment for services during the auditing process will have to be resolved between the two firms.
*UPDATE 1: Just after going to press with this story, E-Scrap News was contacted by a lawyer representing Intercon Solutions, who provided the following statement:
“Intercon Solutions does not export hazardous waste. While Intercon Solutions has the highest respect for BAN’s mission, it has reviewed its findings and the evidence in no way justifies the conclusion that Intercon Solutions exported hazardous waste. Intercon Solutions has hired a law firm to review the matter and to protect its reputation in the e-cycling industry.”
*UPDATE 2: On July 6, the day after the story broke, Intercon Solutions filed a lawsuit in Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court. The company says the containers of e-waste do not belong to them and their presence could only be the result of trespassing on its property. Intercon Solutions seeks disclosure of information about the containers and other shipments, since a second company, CGA CGM (America) LLC was involved in making ground and sea transportation arrangements. Intercon is seeking the identities of shippers to which the material in question was directed.
In a second statement provided to E-Scrap News by the Law Offices of Cathy A. Pilkington, the company says it “Did not own the ocean containers, did not load them with hazardous waste, and did not ship anything in them nor cause them to be transported. Intercon Solutions maintains that such action could have only been accomplished by trespass on its property, and that the actions of the trespasser created a nuisance entitling Intercon Solutions to sue for disclosure and for losses it may suffer as a result.”
A hearing is set for July 19.
*UPDATE 3: The issue of fees associated with certification has been brought up several times in the comments on this story. While E-Scrap News is awaiting confirmation from parties regarding auditing fees, Intercon Solutions does not appear to be obligated to pay licensing fees to BAN, since they were denied certification.