Environmental group: Target's e-recycling not transparentby Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio,
Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — An environmental group says Target should be more open about what happens to the electronics it takes back for recycling.
Target stores across the country began accepting old cell phones and MP3 players this month for recycling, along with other items. But the Seattle-based Basel Action Network is criticizing the discount retailer for not releasing the names of the recycling vendors the company is using.
While the group praised Target and other retailers for making it easy for people to recycle, spokeswoman Lauren Roman said it's important for consumers to know the recyclers are using responsible practices.
"If they're not going to be transparent about the kind of recycling that they're promoting, then it's extremely difficult for consumers to make a conscientious decision," Roman said.
Recent investigations, including one in 2008 by the U.S. General Accountability Office, have shown that some recyclers are sending items to landfills, burning them or shipping them to developing countries.
Target spokeswoman Amy Reilly defended the company's recycling program and said recycling vendors were thoroughly vetted beforehand.
"Having a complete understanding of where the material was going was probably one of the most important things as we were developing the program," Reilly said.
Items that can't be refurbished for re-use are handled responsibly, she said.
"They are sent to be scrapped by companies that have certificates of destruction that guarantees that all the materials are scrapped in a way that is environmentally safe, that doesn't end up in landfills," Reilly said.
But Reilly declined to reveal the names of the recyclers Target uses, citing legal reasons.
Basel Action Network officials said without the name of the recycler, there's no way of knowing if a company is using one that has proven that it meets certain standards. The group points to a list of recyclers around the country that it recommends.
The group has also announced which companies have agreed to use its standards, including Wells Fargo, Samsung and Bank of America. While not on the list, Minnesota-based Best Buy describes on its website the standards company officials have set for electronics recycling. The site also lists the names of its recycling partners.
But a brief search found that some other retailers don't disclose the names of their recyclers either, at least not on their websites.
Stephanie Hemphill reports on environmental issues for MPR News.