In January, we released an advisory on the first-ever guilty verdict in an electronic waste (e-waste) recycling case, which involved a Colorado-based e-waste recycling company and two of its executives. U.S. v. Exec. Recycling, Inc., et al., Case 1:11-cr-00376-WJM (D. Colo. 2011). Less than four months later, a discount computer company in Michigan and its owner were convicted of trafficking in counterfeit goods and services, and violating environmental laws. In Canada, an e-waste recycling company based in Surrey, British Columbia was recently charged with illegal exportation of hazardous e-waste. These cases suggest that criminal enforcement authorities in the United States and Canada may be subjecting e-waste management and disposal practices to increased scrutiny.

Michigan E-waste Case

In October 2012, Mark J. Glover, the owner of Discount Computers, Inc. (DCI), pleaded guilty to various charges relating to trafficking in counterfeit goods and services, and environmental law violations. U.S. v. Mark Glover and Discount Computers, Inc., Case No. 12-CR-20282 (E.D. Mich 2012). Between May 2007 and July 2011, Glover and DCI exported used cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors, which contain hazardous substances, to foreign countries, including Egypt. Egypt, however, does not allow the import of used CRTs more than five years past the date of manufacture. Prosecutors alleged that Glover and DCI created counterfeit labels for the CRTs that concealed the age of the computer monitors and their potential as hazardous waste. Throughout this scheme, DCI exported more than 100,000 CRT monitors, with an estimated value of US$2 million, to Egypt. DCI pleaded guilty to violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) by failing to obtain a permit to store or dispose hazardous substances. In late March 2013, Glover was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a US$10,000 fine, and DCI received a US$2 million fine.

This case was investigated and referred to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division. In a news release, Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, explained that the sentence “should serve as a warning that if you are caught illegally exporting hazardous e-waste for profit, there will be serious consequences.”

British Columbia E-waste Case

Also in late March, Electronics Recycling Canada (ERC), a recycling company based in Surrey, British Columbia with branch offices in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon, was charged with 24 counts under Canada’s Environmental Protection Act for illegally exporting recycled batteries and CRTs to Macau (an administrative region of China) between August 14, 2011 and November 10, 2011. ERC’s president also faces charges in connection with the exports. These charges stand in contrast to prior e-waste enforcement actions in Canada that have resulted in relatively small fines.1

On the Horizon

These cases, along with the Executive Recycling, Inc. case in Colorado, indicate that although U.S. attempts at comprehensive federal e-waste legislation have stalled in Congress, federal enforcement officials have not lost interest in enforcing existing e-waste management requirements. Some believe these criminal cases may renew legislative focus on the pending House and Senate Bills, expected to be reintroduced this year, that would expand the export ban for CRTs to include other categories of e-waste.