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On Wednesday, federal prosecutors filed conspiracy charges against Total Reclaim Inc., a Seattle-based recycling firm that lied to consumers about where their e-waste was going.

Total Reclaim, which is owned by Craig Lorch and Jeffrey Zirkle, is one of PNW's largest e-waste processor and recyclers, and the company's customers included the City of Seattle and UW, both of which paid Total Reclaim millions of dollars to recycle e-waste products like computers, monitors, and printers. E-waste is particularly hazardous, and, if mishandled, can expose workers and others to toxic materials, including mercury, which can cause organ and nerve damage as well as other adverse effects.

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Total Reclaim, according to prosecutors, marketed itself as environmentally responsible and claimed that they did not export potentially hazardous materials to nations that don't have the regulations and systems in place to safely and properly dispose of them. In 2016, however, the Basel Action Network, a Seattle-based environmental watchdog, put GPS devises in materials processed by Total Reclaim, which they then located in unregulated recycling facilities in Hong Kong. When confronted, Total Reclaim initially denied the allegations, but later publicly admitted to committing fraud. The company was fined $444,000 by the state's Department of Ecology in 2016 and another $67,000 in 2017 after regulators found that they were improperly storing thousands of flat-screen TVs on Harbor Island.

“The impacts of these toxic e-waste exports are difficult to quantify in terms of occupational disease, but the workers we observed at the junkyard operations [in Hong Kong] were unprotected and unaware of the acute and chronic poisoning from from constant mercury inhalation," says Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network. "Further, we observed much of the toxic waste that was not recyclable including mercury tubes, simply dumped in rural waysides, contaminating farmland and groundwater.”

Company owners Lorch and Zirkle are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on Friday.