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Businesses Crime Government Television United States Hardware Technology

Chicago Electronics Recycler Faked Tear-Downs, Sent Hazardous Waste To Overseas Landfills (arstechnica.com) 91

Federals agents have accused Brian Brundage, the former owner of Chicago-based electronics recycling company Intercon Solutions and current owner of EnviroGreen Processing, of fraud for failing to properly break down and recycle electronic devices according to federal guidelines. Brundage allegedly shipped Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) from old computer and TV monitors, which contained "hazardous amounts of lead," and batteries to overseas landfills for disposal. The leftover electronics that weren't shipped overseas were destroyed inappropriately at his businesses or stored in warehouses, which is forbidden by federal guidelines. Ars Technica reports: According to the indictment (PDF), Brundage also improperly resold many of the electronics he acquired. Between 2009 and 2015, Brundage received shipments of calculators from an unnamed technology company in Texas with instructions to disassemble the calculators and recycle them accordingly. But Brundage apparently resold the calculators to another company based in Tampa, Florida, which purchased and sold used electronics. In exchange for the shipments of calculators, Brundage allegedly had the company in Tampa directly pay some of Brundage's personal expenses. Those expense include between $31,000 and $39,000 per year for a nanny and $26,000 to $42,000 per year for a housekeeper, as well as tens of thousands of dollars for jewelry expenses and payments to an Indiana-based casino. Among the more colorful accusations in the US government's indictment of Brundage: the businessman allegedly went to lengths to fool third-party auditors into giving his companies the certifications necessary to keep doing business as an e-recycler. Brundage allegedly invited unknowing customers on sham tours of Intercon's facility. Once there, he "directed Intercon's warehouse staff to set up a staged disassembly line to make it falsely appear as though Intercon regularly processed e-waste in a manner that was consistent with its public representations." The Chicago Tribune published a feature on Intercon in 2007. In it, Brundage is quoted saying, "We put old products on a disassembly line. We break each item down to raw materials and send them off to be smelted and reused." He added, "nothing that leaves here goes to a landfill."
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Chicago Electronics Recycler Faked Tear-Downs, Sent Hazardous Waste To Overseas Landfills

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  • Calculators from Texas, eh? Wonder if they were functional and hit the "grey market"...

    • This might explain the abundance of cheap (Compared to new) graphic calculators that were on Ebay when this company was around.

      I bought one, along with some friends, only to find out the pictures were misleading and the calculator was branded "PROTOTYPE ONLY - NOT FOR RESALE". It also ended up being incompatible with their official software.

    • Not only were they functional, they were instrumental to an unnamed company in Texas at one time.

      I don't have a fancy HP or even a programmable one, but I have kept a TI-60 in my desk for at least 25 years. I guess I don't actually use it much anymore. I just checked. The battery is dead.

  • Fine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Princeofcups ( 150855 ) <john@princeofcups.com> on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @07:10PM (#53526933) Homepage

    Pay a small fine and get a CEO job somewhere else. The US has no shame any more. By the standards of the incoming government, this man is a shining example of capitalism at its finest.

    • Pay a small fine and get a CEO job somewhere else.

      After a federal grand jury indictment? Probably not...

      • Re:Fine (Score:5, Funny)

        by DonaId Trump ( 4811527 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @07:38PM (#53527091)

        After a federal grand jury indictment? Probably not...

        The federal grand jury was RIGGED! Brian Brundage bumped into me the other day and you know what he said? PARDON ME...

        The EPA will need a Deputy Director, folks, and who's more tremendous than the president of EnviroGreen? Here's a JOB CREATOR, let me tell you. He built a HUGE business exporting American products and what does he get? The liberals want to put him in prison! And believe me, folks, "hazardous amounts of lead" is a hoax started by guys like Ralph Nader. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are doing great, they voted for me by the way, almost 50 years of pure Led and they're almost as healthy as I am.

        • After a federal grand jury indictment? Probably not...

          The federal grand jury was RIGGED! Brian Brundage bumped into me the other day and you know what he said? PARDON ME...

          The EPA will need a Deputy Director, folks, and who's more tremendous than the president of EnviroGreen? Here's a JOB CREATOR, let me tell you. He built a HUGE business exporting American products and what does he get? The liberals want to put him in prison! And believe me, folks, "hazardous amounts of lead" is a hoax started by guys like Ralph Nader. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are doing great, they voted for me by the way, almost 50 years of pure Led and they're almost as healthy as I am.

          Well Donald, I'd rather you build a wall made of recycled electronics around this guy, and make him pay for it.

      • Indictment != conviction. Talk to me when this guy does hard time for poisoning the water supply of the kids in whichever hell hole got the electronics dumped there.

        Anyone remember when that mining CEO got some actual jail time for ignoring safety regs and falsifying safety reports? The accidents weren't what made the news, the fact that we actually punished somebody for them did.
    • Re:Fine (Score:5, Informative)

      by execthis ( 537150 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @07:48PM (#53527137)

      I'm actually surprised by the article. Because where I live - a major city that goes to great lengths to bill itself as being environmental - what you're supposed to do with e-waste is just throw it in the garbage. I'm not kidding. Also, much of what people think is getting recycled is also going to landfill. In fact one of the former mayors of the city worked as an attorney to defend the city against fines because it constantly exceeds its allocation of landfill space.

      In my apartment building it sickens me every time I take out my compost to the compost bin and see plastic and general garbage dumped in there. The recycling company - controlled by a mafia-run monopoly that the city gave them for all waste removal - is supposed to notify the landlord when the compost is contaminated with regular waste, but of course that never happens. That didn't stop the city from making a big deal some years ago trying to force people to use its compost in their gardens, toxic though it is.

      Basically waste removal is mostly a big mafia-based industry and much of what is claimed to be recycled is just dumped into landfill. Its a scam, just like so many other scams such as the promise of upgraded fiber to the home which never happened.

      • Sad. The places I've lived (western US) have all had good e-waste and recycling programs. Schoolkids can tour the facilities and watch waste get sorted, palletized, and shipped off for raw materials. It isn't super hard to do it properly, but it is more expensive than phoning it in.
        • Or so you were led to think. As the article points out, when officials visited this recycling center, they put up a Potemkin Village of a recycling setup so it all looked right. And assholes like this are too cowardly to come up with something like this: he got the idea from somewhere, and odds are good its actually standard industry practice, just kept quiet to ensure maximum profits at the public tit.
          • You seem really pessimistic. I prefer to try to find solutions and find ways to make things better instead of assuming everything sucks and giving up. I'm realistic by nature (kinder term for pessimist!) and have to make a conscious effort.

            Anyway, the post I was responding to was from someone where the actual policy was to throw e-waste in the trash. That's bad policy. I'm happy the places I have lived have better policies. We can work on getting the particulars right once good policies are in place.
      • What city is this? In NYC household trash and many recyclables picked up by the city's own Department of Sanitation (DSNY). Commercial trash however is not handled by DSNY, and the businesses are required to contract with commercial carters; these folks are as you describe - everything goes into the hopper same as the days before the word "recycling" was ever used. Everything except what falls onto the street, that is - that stuff is left for DSNY to clean up the next time they pass through.
      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        What people don't realize is even the legitimate players are really part of a shell game. I was listing to a radio interview with a local company around here and he was explaining all these municipalities and business like to say x% of our waste goes to a recycler, the problem is that they are increasingly sending contaminated waste to hit those numbers. We have to sort out that stuff and send it back to the very same landfill it would have otherwise gone to.

        They charge more or in some cases pay less for r

        • Much of recycling seems to be a failure in the United States. Strange since it's not in other countries. It's an indication not of logistical but of political failure, as per usual.

      • by skids ( 119237 )

        This is why my basement is still full of e-waste.

        I simply don't have time to disguise myself as an employee, sneak into a recycling business, and verify that they are actually breaking stuff down, then personally follow trucks that leave the facility to see that they go to smelting facilities.

        Which apparently, is the only way to be sure.

    • Please get this right: If you get away with it, it is not a fine, but a bribe.
  • which had the county contract and recycled almost nothing but shipped it all away.
  • by eepok ( 545733 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @07:19PM (#53526987) Homepage
    I haven't read this article yet, but I plan to and then dig some more. As someone working in sustainability (waste, water, GHG emissions, etc.) for a very, very large organization, I can't help but wonder if the orgs that were customers of Brundage will have any certifications they gained by using his recycling business revoked and if they will be fined for not meeting attainment goals retroactively.
    • if he had some European customers maybe (and he might have, since it'd be a great way to "launder" the goods, so to speak). But in the US if you hire a business to do a job and they kill a bunch of people in the process you're almost always blameless. You'd have to prove that a) they knew about it and b) they were actively seeking someone to break the law. Our Juries are mostly old white dudes (it's true, even if it makes folks uncomfortable to think about), especially on trials that can last a while like t
    • by dfm3 ( 830843 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @08:52PM (#53527399) Journal

      ...I can't help but wonder if the orgs that were customers of Brundage will have any certifications they gained by using his recycling business revoked and if they will be fined for not meeting attainment goals retroactively.

      I would certainly hope not. I am responsible for small scale hazardous waste collection at my workplace - mostly metals like lead and cadmium as well as toxic organic compounds - and I can say that the process of disposal is heavily documented with a clear paper trail. When the waste is picked up and removed from the premises by the waste contractor, I have to certify that each container holds what the label says it does, then once the waste has been treated I get mailed a manifest certifying that it has been safely transported to the processing facility and properly disposed of. So long as I've correctly identified the waste (say, I haven't tried to pass off a mercury compound as some other metal) once I receive the paperwork stating that the contractor has done their part, I'm legally off the hook as to what happens to the waste, since without actually observing the processes at their facility (and being able to understand what I'm seeing) I have no choice but to take it on good faith that the waste was treated legally.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        In the pharmaceutical area, you are obligated to audit all your contractors' and suppliers' processes - by inspection of their work, including their records and processes, including their sub-contractors if critical to your process stream (supply and discharge). "I have no choice but to take it on good faith" doesn't stand up. Now, if the firm you are contracting to is fully licensed in a properly regulated environment, you can assume that they have some measure of validity. But "they had 'green' written

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Ok, but TFA says that the guy had fake disassembly lines set up. So even those who did what you suggest, personally reviewing their processes, got misled. You can only go so far, and it's possible to completely fake everything. Fake books, fake shipments, the whole thing.
          I reviewed a recycling plant as part of deciding to use them, and years later it turned out they had tons of CRT's stored on site, same kind of deal, not really recycling just piling up until they went out of business. And these guys were t

  • Darn, I hope this didn't invalidate any of those carbon credits that I bought.
  • I thought that the Lead in a CRT was in the Lead Glass.

    In which case it is as about as inert as is possible.

    About the same as the vitrification of radioactive waste by sintering in glass.

    • http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/categories/electronics/pages/lead.htm [state.fl.us]

      Figure 2 shows where the lead is in the various parts of a typical color CRT used in a TV or computer monitor. The lead in the funnel and face plate glass is physically and chemically bound up in the glass matrix and does not leach very readily. The lead in the frit which joins or welds the face plate glass to the funnel glass is in the form of a lead oxide paste. The lead in the frit does leach quite readily when subjected to the Toxicit

      • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

        There may be lead also in the soldered connections, as with most e-waste.

        FTFY. With lead free solders,RoHS regulations, and the general movement to minimize hazardous materials, you can't say automatically that there's lead in the solder joints with modern electronics.

        • There may be lead also in the soldered connections, as with most e-waste.

          FTFY. With lead free solders,RoHS regulations, and the general movement to minimize hazardous materials, you can't say automatically that there's lead in the solder joints with modern electronics.

          Given that we are discussing CRTs here, I was referring to "most e-waste of a similar era", but sure, with current use of 99+% tin solder we are looking at a different envrionmental contaminant instead of at lead.

    • by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @04:56AM (#53528537) Homepage

      It's makes even less sense than that as lead recovery from CRT glass is now a established process.

      http://www.nulifeglass.com/faq... [nulifeglass.com]

      Basically CRT glass in, pure glass and lead out, and lead is a reasonably valuable material for new batteries. Seems UPS are still all lead acid, which I guess is down to simple chemistry and given UPS's are stationary weight is not a problem. Then there is the battery in every IC vehicle out there.

      Further more the idea of sending lead batteries to land fill is utterly ludicrous. Ring up any metal recycler and they will happily *PAY YOU* to take away your pile of old UPS batteries for crying out loud.

    • This. And particularly in Illinois, the state where Intercon worked, where licensed landfilling of leaded CRT glass is permitted for this reason. Illinois permitted the Peoria Illinois landfill to be in the CRT disposal business. See Illinois House Bill 6321 (HB 6321) and its companion Senate Bill 2770 (SB 2770) to go further and actually state that it is a "form of recycling" (a bridge too far for me).

      As another commenter posted, if your read the charges against Brundage, this is #1 and #2 an IRS tax

  • The Trump administration will remove all those regulations that are BAD for business. Recycling regulations are BAD for the American economy. We can't compete with CHINA with this situation. Luckily, Trump has assembled the right team to bring business ethics into the EPA, and get rid of the tree-hugger communist snowflake morals. America will be great again (as long as you don't happen to leave close to a toxic landfill, but none of Trump's billionaire friends do).
  • by bongey ( 974911 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @09:40PM (#53527559)

    The entire indictment has less than 3k in e-waste fraud issues, the majority of the > 600k income was unreported and trying to expense a 35k trip to the casino.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly / Mod up. After the tax issues, the misleading of customers (claims by Intercon to never export, "e-Steward" certification) is the next most serious charge. When there is an actual case of significant dumping (e.g. Trafigura) there is always a habeus e-corpus, a pile of something that was dumped. Brundage actually exported little according to the claims made against him in 2011 - one sea container in a two week period. But the taxes and false claims are what may get him.

  • The U.S. has been outsourcing pollution to China, India and other countries for decades.

    Tell me that Apple, H.P., Dell and the rest could get away with the pollution their products cause in China (for example) in the U.S.

    The CEOs are rated on profit and when they can maximize profit in polluting countries, those cretins get their rewards.

    Nothing new here.

  • Federals agents

    Jesus Christs, Slashdots, yous can'ts evens gets the firsts words rights. Yous sounds likes this guys:

    https://theinfosphere.org/imag... [theinfosphere.org]

  • ... will not reduces ("but, but, the free-market will solve everything!": in your dreams!)
  • by unixcorn ( 120825 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @11:39AM (#53530419)

    In some places, old landfills are being reprocessed. What that means is whatever is buried there now has enough value to make it worthwhile to dig up and recycle. If engineered correctly, landfills are safe places to "store" our waste. In my view, a landfill is an investment in the future. From leachate to precious metals, all have a value. That value may not currently be enough to make reprocessing attractive but in the future it certainly will be.

  • Organized Crime has long infiltrated the Waste Management industry. This is hardly news; when it comes to recycling (where companies are paid to dispose of whatever) it seems obvious that you can collect the cash and dispose of nothing = profit, especially since the fees are set up in the first place to guarantee profits if you actually do dispose of the waste properly.

    The "Mob" has been caught disposing of Dioxins by putting a quart here, a quart there, in tankers of gasoline, which is then distributed to

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