Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality has fined the Northwest’s biggest electronics recycler $164,000 for violating state hazardous waste laws.
Seattle-based Total Reclaim failed to label electronics shipments from its Portland facility as hazardous, despite their containing materials such as mercury and lead, according to DEQ spokesman Matthew Van Sickle.
“What they did transport — for example, LCDs and flat screens — those kinds of things contain significant levels of hazardous waste,” Van Sickle said. “And that presents a danger to the public and also the environment.”
The company was previously fined $444,000 by Washington’s Department of Ecology. It also lost its environmental certification last year.
The fines stem from an investigation documented last year by EarthFix that caught Total Reclaim secretly exporting electronics such as flat screen televisions overseas when it was supposed to recycle them.
The illicit shipments were detected when the Basel Action Network, an environmental group that runs an electronic recycling certification, placed GPS tracking devices inside televisions sent to the recycler.
More than 500 million pounds of old electronics have been collected through state-sponsored programs in Oregon and Washington, designed to ensure environmentally-safe disposal of discarded electronics. Total Reclaim had been a prominent member both programs, handling more electronic waste in 2015 than any other recycler between the two states.
Before BAN’s investigation, regulators from both states had inspected Total Reclaims facilities but failed to discover the practice of overseas shipments. Oregon’s DEQ said that despite Total Reclaim’s actions, the “vast majority of e-waste recycled in Oregon is handled properly.”
Total Reclaim did not respond to a call for comment. In a previous statement about the exports, co-owners Craig Lorch and Jeff Zirkle cited business pressures as driving the decision.
“We lost sight of our values and made business decisions that were contrary to the certifications and standards we had agreed to meet,” the statement read.