Statewide, OR—Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality today announced a $553,750 settlement with Total Reclaim, Inc. The settlement resolves the state’s long-running investigation into TRI’s operations under Oregon’s E-Cycles program, a program that encourages Oregon consumers to recycle electronic devices in a safe and sustainable manner. This settlement follows resolution of a related DEQ penalty action against TRI in September, 2018 for alleged violation of the state’s hazardous waste laws. The Oregon E-Cycles recycling program also has severed ties with TRI.
The state investigation showed that TRI falsely claimed that it had complied with Oregon E-Cycles requirements that its operations properly protect workers and the environment. In reality, TRI concealed that it was using a Seattle broker to ship millions of pounds of electronic waste—including potentially toxic LCD screens used in televisions and other products—to unregulated facilities in Hong Kong. TRI engaged in this fraud for nearly seven years while representing that it was safely recycling electronic devices collected through the E-Cycles program and billing the Oregon program. The fraudulent activity by TRI was discovered through a large-scale GPS tracking program conducted by the non-profit Basel Action Network.
“Recycling is big business in Oregon, and we Oregonians take pride that we recycle our old electronics. But we need to be able to trust that they are actually going to be recycled—and not simply dumped in another country. We hope this settlement demonstrates that we are serious about holding the recycling business accountable to responsible recycling,” said Attorney General Rosenblum. “Public recycling programs like our E-Cycles Program are vitally important to the environment and to the interests of the taxpayers and consumers they serve. The Oregon Department of Justice will continue to hold those who contract with the state fully accountable when they fail, as they did here, to live up to the public’s trust.”
DEQ Director Richard Whitman said, “Oregonians have a strong recycling ethic, and we have a duty to assure our residents that when they use the E-Cycles Program their materials are being safely and properly managed.” “This settlement underscores that Oregon DEQ is determined to maintain Oregon’s strong recycling systems,” said Whitman.
On Nov. 14, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice also filed criminal charges against Jeff Zirkle and Craig Lorch in the Western District of Washington, and on Nov. 16, 2018, the owners pled guilty to the charges. Sentencing will occur later this year.
TRI was once one of the largest recyclers of electronic waste in Oregon and helped establish the Oregon E-Cycle program. E-Cycles is a statewide program, financed by manufacturers, that provides responsible recycling of computers, monitors, printers, keyboards, mice and TVs. Anyone bringing seven or fewer items at one time may recycle their electronics at no charge at participating collection sites. The Oregon E-Cycles program requires participating electronics processors to follow environmental management practices to protect workers and the environment. One requirement is the identification of all downstream processors and verification of those processors, “to the point at which materials become a single material commodity suitable for final processing,” meet DEQ standards.
As part of the settlement, TRI agreed to pay $553,750 to Oregon. Oregon’s Department of Justice will distribute $470,000 of the payment to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to support recycling efforts with the remainder covering the costs of the DOJ investigation and legal fees.
Oregon’s investigation was led by Special Counsel Tim Nord and Senior Assistant Attorneys General Brian de Haan and Gary Vrooman.
Jennifer Flynt, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, 503-730-5924
Kristina Edmunson, Oregon Department of Justice, 503-378-6002