So people started recycling electronic equipment and components. Markets rose up to meet that need. But now those markets are behaving badly.
"It is being recycled, but it's being recycled in the most horrific way you can imagine," said Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network, the Seattle-based environmental group that tipped off Hong Kong authorities. "We're preserving our own environment, but contaminating the rest of the world."
The gear most likely to be shipped abroad is collected at free recycling drives, often held each April around Earth Day, recycling industry officials say. The sponsors -- chiefly companies, schools, cities and counties -- often hire the cheapest firms and do not ask enough questions about what becomes of the discarded equipment, the officials say.