„They left a mess“: Growing US nation-wide epidemic of e-waste abandonment

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Fire burned e-waste at Stone Castle (Foto: ©BAN)

Seattle, USA — Stone Castle Recycling, previously one of Utah’s largest recyclers of electronic waste, has abandoned its three facilities and the owner is missing. The company has ceased all operations and has left behind several warehouses and yards filled with an estimated 7,600 tons of toxic electronic wastes and charred residues. According to US EPA representatives in Denver, the owner and CEO of Stone Castle, Anthony Stoddard, has simply disappeared and is now being actively pursued by law enforcement authorities.

The abandonment follows three recent and mysterious fires at the three Stone Castle sites located in Clearfield (near Salt Lake City), Parowan and Cedar City, and a subsequent investigation and report by the Basel Action Network (BAN) released in March of this year. The report was in turn followed by intensified enforcement actions from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and US EPA seeking to ensure that the company paid for, and conducted the cleanup and proper disposal or recycling of, its massive piles of collected waste.

Fire at illegally stored electronic waste field

On March 2, 2014, the most dramatic fire occurred in the small central Utah town of Parowan where Stone Castle was illegally storing electronic and other waste in an open field. The fire is believed to have released toxic heavy metals, dioxins, and dangerous polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the smoke and now remaining in the ash. The site has yet to be cleaned up, and according to EPA will likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to accomplish.

„They left a toxic mess,“ said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of BAN, of the Parowan site. „And much of it remains a risk to nearby residents and to the groundwater. It all needs to be cleaned up as soon as possible.“

No cleanup by Church of Latter-day Saints

The Parowan site was known to largely have contained discards from Deseret Industries, a retail thrift store chain owned and operated by the Church of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). Under US law, the former holders and generators of waste also bear responsibility for toxic waste dumpsites and may be forced to bear the cost of cleanup. As early as March of this year and as recently as this month, BAN had asked Eric Anderson, responsible for recycling operations of the Church of Latter-day Saints, to have the church take a leadership role in the cleanup. So far, the church has not indicated a willingness to assist in solving the problem.

The Parowan site is not the only waste dump that Anthony Stoddard left behind. At least two large warehouses (one burned) and outdoor storage sites (one also burned) are full of hundreds of gaylord boxes sometimes stacked 4 levels high, full of TVs and monitors and their glass. BAN has estimated the Stone Castle total abandonment at more than 7,600 tons of e-waste.

Money collection, but no proper material recycling

When BAN investigators visited Stone Castle’s facility in Clearfield in March, they discovered a previously unrecorded outdoor yard full of televisions and computer monitors a few blocks from the facility. BAN warned state and federal officials that the site could easily catch fire due to the presence of projection lenses. The Clearfield outdoor site caught fire and burned on Sunday, November 2nd.

The Stone Castle abandonment is part of what appears to be a growing nation-wide epidemic of TV/computer monitor accumulation and abandonment. There are now many recently documented cases of the mismanagement of TV glass material by Luminous Recycling in Denver, Colorado, Dow Management in Yuma, Arizona, 2trg in Cincinnati, Ohio and Creative Recycling in Tampa, Florida, to name a few. They are all companies that collected money from the public or business for recycling, but then did not undertake the expense to properly recycle the material.

It’s time to enforce the laws

„With Stone Castle and many others around the country, stockpiling TVs, computer monitors, and glass, anybody could see this coming,“ said Jim Puckett. „EPA can no longer afford to play Mr. Nice Guy with these fake recyclers. It’s time to enforce the laws.“

BAN is calling on EPA and State agencies to more effectively monitor and enforce the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act’s rules about e-waste management including rules against operators speculatively accumulating wastes with empty promises of future recycling.

Source: Basel Action Network