Real, environmentally sustainable electronics recycling can be profitable only if recycling companies charge a fee to take on old machines; the sale of recycled materials rarely if ever covers the actual cost of recycling in the United States.
Companies, governments, and other organizations have a requirement to recycle old machines; because there is little oversight or enforcement, a secondary industry of fake recyclers has popped up to undercut sustainable recyclers. These "recyclers," which advertise themselves as green and sustainable, get paid pennies per pound to take in old TVs, computers, printers, and monitors. Rather than recycle them domestically, the recycling companies sell them to junkyards in developing nations, either through middlemen or directly.
These foreign junkyards hire low-wage employees to pick through the few valuable components of often toxic old machines. The toxic machines are then left in the scrapyards or dumped nearby.
Using GPS trackers, industry watchdog Basel Action Network found that 40 percent of electronics recyclers it tested in the United States fall into this "scam recycling" category.
According to BAN, workers at these junkyards are paid about 60 cents per LCD monitor that they break down, and the rest of it is just tossed into the scrapyard.
"There is no such thing as free recycling. Responsible recycling costs money."