When Going Green, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
In this increasingly more eco-conscious economy, the only way for a business to garner and sustain success is to employ sustainable business practices (or at least to pretend to do so). Branding your business as eco-friendly is more crucial than ever, which was evident in a recent report published by Shelton Group that revealed that 66% of consumers said they would be willing to spend more money on a product if it was made by a sustainable brand. The number was even higher for Millennials, who clocked in at 73%.
Unsurprisingly, not all businesses who deem themselves “green” actually fit the criteria, but the truth comes out eventually. It certainly did in Closed Loop’s case last March, when two warehouse owners released the names of 40+ prominent e-scrap companies they claimed were responsible for the largest CRT glass stockpile in U.S. history. These owners accused the companies in question of shipping the glass to Closed Loop Refining and Recovery’s three Columbus facilities. Closed Loop shuttered in 2016 and abandoned an estimated 316 million pounds of CRT materials on several properties in Arizona and Ohio.
In September of 2017, New York City Investment firm, Garrison Southfield Park, filed a federal lawsuit against Closed Loop and a few other e-scrap companies in September 2017, claiming that these suppliers should foot the bill for funding the cleanup of the glass under CERCLA, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, commonly known as Superfund. The passage of this law created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and provided broad Federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment.
In a more recent complaint filed on March 28, Garrison identified even more companies they believed were also involved and approximated the amounts they dumped. Additionally, Olymbec USA (also out of Columbus) filed a separate lawsuit on March 20 charging the same e-scrap companies with the same offenses. Both cases will be tried in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The warehouse owners project that cleanup will cost $18.2 million, and they also seek to recover loss of rent.
Below are ten of the companies that were named and their estimated amount of CRT glass waste:
- Kuusakoski Recycling/Vintage Tech, 46.0 million pounds
- Rochester Computer Recycling & Recovery (EWASTE+), 16.4 million pounds
- Robert A. Erie/E-World Recyclers, 11.6 million pounds
- eCycleSecure, 7.1 million pounds
- IMS Electronics Recycling, 5.6 million pounds
- Dynamic Lifecycle Innovations, 5.3 million pounds
- Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR), 4.6 million pounds
- GEEP/GEEP USA, 3.9 million pounds
- CompuPoint USA, 2.9 million pounds
- American Retroworks, 2.5 million pounds
Since the federal lawsuits were filed, Garrison and Olymbec have attempted to settle with various companies, but no official settlement agreements have been submitted to the court yet.
Hopefully, these cases will serve as a cautionary tale for other businesses in the industry, inspiring them to make sustainable and ethical best practices a priority. Although this case is one of the first times CERCLA has been invoked in e-scrap cleanup matters, it’s likely that the door will remain wide open for other lawsuits of its kind to follow. Although the cleanup of hazardous materials is expensive, it’s definitely cheaper than a lawsuit. Going green is not only better for the planet, but it’s also more cost-effective in the long run. While that may not be the most noble motivator for prompting companies to prioritize sustainability, it may be the most effective.