60 Minutes

The most toxic place on earth

Monday, November 10th, 2008 | Toner Cartridge Recycling | No Comments

Last night, 60 Minutes had a great report on e-recycling and the environmental impact e-recycling is having. E-recycling is the recycling of electronic items such as televisions, computers, monitors, laser printers and yes toner cartridges. One statistic that blew my mind was that each day we throw out 130,000 computers just in the United States. 

Click here for the 60 Minutes Video

60 Minutes then goes on to follow the waste from an e-waste recycling event in Denver to a local e-waste recycling that recycled the materials “in-house”. As it turns out 60 Minutes tracked one container of CRT’s all the way to Hong Kong where it ended up in the village of Guiyu.  Where literally acres of monitors are piled up waiting to be recycled. CRTs are loaded with nasty stuff like lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, polyvinyl chlorides, etc which are know to have numerous toxicological effects from brain damage to kidney disease and cancer. The conditions depicted were horrendous. Much of the plastic was just being burned. The water in the area is so polluted, they have to import drinking water. According to a recent study seven out ten kids have too much lead in their blood.  They are using 16 century technology to recycle 20th century electronic goods. Not pretty!
Importing these items into Hong Kong is technically “illegal” but it’s obvious this is big business and officials across the board are looking the other way. I hate seeing this because I realize that most people are trying to do the right think by taking their e-waste to these recycling events. The problem is these countries have very cheap labor and no regard to the health of the people who are actually doing the work. A couple of years ago 60 Minutes had a similar story about where ships go once they reach the end of their useful life. They ended up in India and the conditions were probably worse and definitely more dangerous. 
I think when companies manufacture a product they should also provide a method to recycle the product. This will no doubt add to the cost, but it would theoretically insure the product is recycled properly in a healthy environment. I say theoretically because in our business we’ve see evidence of toner cartridges going overseas to be “recycled” in horrific conditions as well.
I wouldn’t let this get you down on recycling. But I would ask and insist that your e-waste is recycled responsibly. 
So you may be wondering what does Advantage Laser Products do with it’s toner cartridges? We recycle our toner cartridges here in Atlanta, Georgia where our workers have benefits like health insurance, 401K and work in an air conditioned environment with a great dust collection system. We do get a number of cartridges that we do not recycle. Those cartridges we sell to brokers who then sell them on the empties market. I don’t believe these cartridge make it to one of these Chinese hell holes, because these cartridges have value and will be sold to another remanufacturer that can use the cartridge. There is a third category of cartridge, the cartridge that has already been remanufactured and has no value. These cartridges we return to the original equipment manufacturer, in this case that is HP or Lexmark. Although some OEM’s may be sending their cartridges to illegal recycling facilities overseas, I hope and believe HP is a reputable company and is doing the right thing.
Keep recycling and do the right thing!

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