Managing electronic waste: International Attorneys to Visit Eugene’s NextStep Recycling

As published on NextStep's blog.

February 25, 2011, Eugene, OR -- Leading environmental attorneys have been invited by the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) on March 2, 2011 from 11:00 am – 12:30 pm to tour NextStep Recycling’s model facility for managing electronic waste.

Representatives from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Central and Eastern Europe will participate in the tour and learn about NextStep’s cutting edge methods of handling all types of obsolete electronics.

Massive amounts of electronic waste (ewaste) are generated every year in the U.S.  – enough to fill more than 5,000 shipping containers.

Recycling electronics recovers valuable materials and as a result, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, reduces pollution, saves energy, and saves resources by extracting fewer raw materials from the earth.

For example:

  • Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 US homes in a year.
  • One metric ton of circuit boards can contain 40 to 800 times the concentrations of gold ore mined in the US and 30-40 times the concentration of copper ore mined in the US. 


Much of the following material ends up being dumped overseas in developing countries that have no infrastructure to handle the waste stream

  • 40 million computers and televisions are discarded in the US every year
  • 130 million cell phones are estimated to have gone out of service in 2005 in the US
  • 18 months is the average life of a cell phone
  • At least 4 pounds of lead is contained in each old computer monitor or television
  • There are at least 5 toxic materials found in today's electronic devices

Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) is collaborating with NextStep to educate attorneys around the world about what we can be done to stem the tide of toxic ewaste from North America and European countries to developing countries.

ELAW, founded in 1991, a nonprofit organization based in Eugene, OR USA works with hundreds of grassroots advocates in 70 countries to protect communities and the environment. 

NextStep Recycling, founded in 1999, is a public nonprofit based in Eugene, OR USA dedicated to addressing the rapidly growing surplus of ewaste around the globe being shipped to developing countries that have no infrastructure to handle the waste stream-leading to communities filled with toxic waste.  NextStep, a Basel Action Network pledged eSteward, diverts over four million pounds of ewaste a year from the wastestream. 

"Electronic waste crosses borders, so advocates trying to solve this problem need to share knowledge and work together across borders,” says Bern Johnson, Executive Director of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide.  “ I am excited that ELAW partners will learn about NextStep's pioneering work to keep electronic devices out of landfills and the global waste stream.  If NextStep can recycle an obsolete cell phone, then we know our ELAW partners will not have to face the problem of toxic waste from that cell phone coming into their country."

“Ultimately, our goal is to keep every electronic device out of our landfill and to insure no electronic devices we receive are shipped overseas to pollute someone else’s backyard”, said Lorraine Kerwood, Executive Director of NextStep.  “I am very, very pleased to share our knowledge and well-tested processes with representatives from other international communities.  Together we can address the legal and illegal ewaste dumping that is occurring and, just as importantly, direct usable materials to the refurbishment stream - usable technology can be diverted to those who have no access to technology.  To date, NextStep has refurbished over 24,000 computers and placed them locally, nationally and internationally”.

The following are brief profiles of ELAW Fellows from Panama, Mexico, Ghana, Liberia, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine and China who will participate in the NextStep tour.

Tania Arosemana, Panama
Attorney, El Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM)

Tania Arosemana is an attorney at El Centro de Incidencia Ambiental.  She runs CIAM’s Forests and Landscapes Program, and works to ensure that high value ecosystems in Panama are not destroyed by mining and infrastructure projects.  She has worked for civil society organizations for seven years and was quoted in a Supreme Court decision that penalized a company that polluted Panama Bay.  In addition to her law degree, she has a Master’s degree in Maritime Development with emphasis on ports, canals, and coastal resource management.

Pedro Leon, Mexico
Attorney, Instituto de Derecho Ambiental (IDEA)

Pedro Leon is an attorney specializing in human rights at Instituto de Derecho Ambiental, in Guadalajara.  He administers IDEA's work with domestic Human Rights Commissions and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.  He is currently working on protecting rivers from pollution and protecting citizensfrom pesticides.  Pedro has an LLM in International Human Rights Law from Lund University in Sweden and served as an intern at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Rockson Akugre, Ghana
Attorney, Center for Public Interest Law (CEPIL)

Rockson Akugre is an attorney at Ghana’s leading human rights public interest law organization, the Center for Public Interest Law.  CEPIL was founded in 1999 and has advanced landmark cases defending tens of thousands of squatters in Accra and communities suffering from mining industry abuses in Wassa District.

Lovesta Brehun, Liberia
Attorney, Green Advocates

Lovesta Brehun is an attorney at Green Advocates, Liberia’s only public interest environmental law organization.  ELAW helped launch Green Advocates in 2000.  Green Advocates has helped reform Liberia's environmental and forestry laws, and taken on multinational industrial polluters.  Lovesta coordinates the Green Advocates Rights and Business Initiative. 

Kärt Vaarmari, Estonia
Executive Director, Estonian Environmental Law Center

Kärt Vaarmari is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Estonian Environmental Law Center in Tartu, Estonia.  EELC helps communities make their voices heard in decisions about proposed infrastructure projects, including roads, railways, ports, oil terminals, factories, wind parks, and landfills.

Imrich Vozar, Slovakia
Attorney, Via Iuris

Imrich Vozar is an attorney at Via Iuris, in Banska Bystrica.  Via Iuris is Slovakia's leading public interest environmental law organization.  Imrich is working to expand citizens’ rights to participate in decisions about land use and other areas that impact the environment in Slovakia.  He is the coordinator of Via Iuris projects conducted within the framework of the European international network Justice and Environment.

Szilvia Szilágyi, Hungary
Attorney, Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA)

Szilvia Szilágyi is an attorney at the Environmental Management and Law Association in Budapest, Hungary.  She works on air and noise pollution, environmental conservation, and promoting good environmental regulation in local government.  EMLA provides pro bono legal assistance to disadvantaged community groups and citizens.

Olena Kravchenko, Ukraine
Executive Director, Environment-People-Law

Olena Kravchenko is the Executive Director at Environment-People-Law, Ukraine’s leading environmental law organization.  She also serves as Editor of the Journal for Environment-People-Law.  She writes on topics such as climate change, sustainable use and management of natural resources, biodiversity conservation, problems with GMOs, water issues, waste management, development of civil society, and protection of the right to information.  She works hard to raise awareness about the importance of environmental protection in Ukraine.  As a child – unaware of the danger of radiation – Olena marched in a May Day parade, immediately following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.  This early experience made a lasting impression about the importance of citizens’ access to information.

Yu Ming and Xu Xiangmin, China
Qingdao Law School

Dean Xu Xiangmin and Professor Yu Ming at Ocean University’s Qingdao Law School in Shandong Province are advancing legal protection for China’s environment.  They advise China’s new environmental law court and draft policy and legislation for the government.  Dean Xu has launched a non-governmental organization with a focus on environmental protection.  They look forward to meeting colleagues from around the world and sharing best practices to protect communities and the environment.

For more information, please contact:

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director - Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide
1877 Garden Avenue
Eugene, OR 97403
tel.: (541) 687-8454, ext. 23

Lorraine Kerwood
Founder, Executive Director - NextStep Recycling
2101 West 10th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97402
Cell: 541-868-6017
Desk: 541-686-2366 ext 112