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A Toxics-Free Future

Best Buy Rolls Back Its Environmental Commitments

No Longer to Require e-Stewards® Certified Recycling for Electronics

February 1, 2015. Seattle, WA. -- The environmental watchdog group Basel Action Network (BAN) decried the move today by electronics retailer Best Buy to renege on its previous commitment to ensure that e-waste collected from the public will be managed by e-Stewards Certified Recyclers. At the same time, BAN called on electronics manufacturers to step up and take producer responsibility for recycling their toxic products in the United States just as they are required to do by law in much of the rest of the world.

The e-Stewards certification was created by BAN with the assistance of industry leaders. It is the only standard in North America which prevents recyclers from shipping their hazardous electronic waste to developing countries* where it is often handled in horrific conditions endangering human health and the environment. It also is the only standard that prohibits child labor, while maintaining the highest standards for protecting consumer data from being released. e-Stewards Certified Recyclers are audited yearly, and are subject to unannounced inspections to ensure they uphold high levels of social and environmental responsibility.

"Until this moment, Best Buy was hailed as an environmental leader," said BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett. "But in the face of crashing commodity prices heavily impacting the bottom line of recyclers, and electronics manufacturers failing to pay the new, real cost of recycling their toxic products, Best Buy has jumped into the race to the bottom."

Best Buy admitted to BAN that dropping the e-Stewards requirement was a cost-cutting measure. The result of this unfortunate move is that their recyclers may externalize more of the costs to the detriment of human health and the environment. BAN fears that consumers can no longer be sure their electronics will be managed to the highest standard of responsibility

The e-Stewards program is uniquely supported by over 70 environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. It is also supported by over 50 industry leaders, including Samsung, LG, Nvidia, Lockheed Martin, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America.

The heart of the problem according to BAN is the refusal by the electronics manufacturers to internalize the true costs of proper electronics recycling services into their sales prices. In Europe, Japan, China and other countries, this cost internalization is required by law. In lieu of a comprehensive and progressive national producer responsibility law in the US, manufacturers should be helping Best Buy foot the bill for the public recycling program, at least enough to allow the retailer to break even. Currently, Best Buy claims they are losing money through the program.

In another unfortunate response to this fact, Best Buy is now going to charge customers $25 to recycle TVs of all kinds, rather than take them at no cost, as before. BAN believes this fee is prohibitive for many consumers and will lead to TVs being dumped in roadsides or taken to recyclers that simply export them to developing countries.

"We sympathize with Best Buy’s need to at least break even on a voluntary program designed to benefit the public," said Puckett. But abrogating a leadership role and making high environmental and social standards expendable is not the answer to a failure by producers to take responsibility."

BAN and the rest of the environmental community stand ready to assist Best Buy and electronics manufacturers to negotiate a fair deal. Retailers have considerable market clout and should use it.

Until then, BAN calls on the US public to make use of responsible alternatives to Best Buy and take their obsolete electronics to an e-Stewards Certified Recycler or Refurbisher, or to a Staples store that offers free recycling. Staples holds e-Stewards Enterprise status and contracts only with e-Stewards Certified Recyclers.

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*The Basel Convention in 1995 adopted a decision (Decision III/1 known as the Ban Amendment) to forbid the export of all forms of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries. Because the United States has never ratified the Basel Convention nor the Ban Amendment, recyclers operating in the US can export with impunity even while this trade is considered illegal on the global stage. The e-Stewards Standard rectifies that by requiring adherence to this global pact. If it is not required, recyclers can simply opt to get certified to the much weaker and cheaper R2 standard which does not implement the Basel Ban Amendment, has weaker data security requirements, and is far less comprehensive.

For more information contact:

Jim Puckett, Executive Director of Basel Action Network
Phone: +1 206-652-5555
e-Mail: jpuckett@ban.org

About Basel Action Network

Founded in 1997, the Basel Action Network is a 501(c)3 charitable organization based organization of the United States, based in Seattle, WA. BAN’s mission is to champion global environmental health and justice by ending toxic trade, catalyzing a toxics-free future, and campaigning for everyone’s right to a clean environment. BAN is the world's only organization focused on confronting the global environmental justice and economic inefficiency of toxic trade and its devastating impacts. Today, BAN serves as the information clearinghouse on the subject of waste trade for journalists, academics, and the general public. Through its investigations, BAN uncovered the tragedy of hazardous electronic waste dumping in developing countries. For more information, visit www.ban.org or www.ban.org/news.