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Smart ‘eye’ to help track and trace Dell’s e-scrap flows

Photo: BAN

Basel Action Network (BAN), the organisation that combats both illegal scrap trade and questionable recycling practices across Africa and Asia, has teamed up with electronics major Dell to use GPS trackers to find out where used Dell electronic scrap goes once it is collected from their  US consumer takeback programmes.

In this pilot project, Dell will be sending 40 electronic devices containing hidden trackers. Of these, 30 will be arranged by Dell and 10 provided to BAN. All of this is being done ‘to see if things end up where they are supposed to – in accordance with the law and Dell’s strict no-export of e-waste policy’, BAN states.  


This collaboration marks the start of the organisation’s so-called EarthEye tracking service, which is open to all companies and institutions. BAN has been developing the use of GPS trackers for the past ten years to follow cathode ray tubes into China from the US via hidden smuggling routes from Vietnam.

The Dell and BAN collaboration follows BAN’s GPS tracking studies conducted two years ago. In 2016 as part of BAN’s E-Trash Transparency Project BAN published a report entitled: ‘’Disconnect: Goodwill and Dell, Exporting the Public’s e-Waste to Developing Countries’’.

Cowboy country

A team led by BAN’s executive director Jim Puckett used GPS technology to follow some 70 electronic devices exported from the USA. More than half of these had Hong Kong as their destination, ending up at ‘hidden sites’ in the New Territories.

In the March 2017 issue of Recycling International, Puckett outlined his concerns about these poor recycling practices ‘increasingly moving’ from mainland China to the Hong Kong New Territories, described by Puckett as ‘cowboy country’ housing dozens of ‘dirty dismantling organisations’.

Make some lemonade

Two years later, BAN and Dell are working together to solve the problems identified in the report, and to ‘explore ways to improve accountability in waste management’.

‘Given some lemons, Dell chose to make some lemonade,’ says Puckett. He applauds the company for their ‘desire to step up and work with us to proactively get ahead of potential downstream accountability issues and to take action’, and invites all major corporations and institutions to do the same.

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