Snapshot of Lagos Nigeria. Not your daddy's "Third World" country

When Basel Action Network shows a junk television at an African dump, and then accuses African traders of doing mysterious favors to avoid UK or USA's recycling costs, it hits a chord... with people who have never lived in Africa.

If you've spent time in Africa, you know the real problems in Africa are things like TRAFFIC JAMS.

Multiple reports show that most of Africa's e-waste is generated by Africans.  Cities like Lagos (over 15M inhabitants) have televisions and computers and cell phones, have had them for decades.  

And it's a good thing.  People are much more likely to get their electronics from repair and reuse, which creates sustainable African jobs, for geek entrepreneurs, than from new tantalum mining in the Congo or tin mining of Indonesian coral islands.

And it's fundamentally good.  That's why it's so criminal for UK's Environmental Agency to put the Geeks of Color, like Joe Benson, in jail.

From 2010 to 2014, Africa's Internet usage increased by...
5,219.6 %
Here's a link to da stats

UK Continues to Falsely Imprison African Expat for "WASTECRIME"

15 Reasons to Free Joseph Benson of BJ Electronics, falsely convicted of "e-waste" crime.


I will repost this soon with hot links to the trial documents, hopefully by this weekend.

1)  The Guardian, Murdoch's SkyNews, BBC, Economist and Independent (2012) Newspapers all reacted to public statements by Lord Chris Smith's environmental agency that exports of televisions and computers for repair was "against international law".  Does the United Kingdom have a grudge against the Geeks of Color?

2)  The international law in question, the Basel Convention, specifically describes this as legal activity and does not ban reuse or repair, only dumping.   LCS may be referring to a proposed amendment to the Basel Convention which has not been passed or ratified.  Violating a proposed rule is not a crime!

3)  The allegation made in court against the trader to Africa ("Hurricane" Benson) relied on "statistics" about the likelihood of dumping, provided by Greenpeace and the NGO Basel Action Network.   Both of these organizations have been quoted by LCS and by the press, stating that "up to 80%" of what the African traders ship to Africa is destined for primitive recycling.  That's right - nothing was found "dumped", but based on claims, Benson's prosecutor said it was "LIKELY" dumped, and he was put in prison based on "likelihood", given BAN's statistics.

4)  The photos these organizations (press and NGOs) use to make the case are taken at the city dumps of huge cities (Lagos, Accra).  According to the World Bank, these countries have had millions of televisions in use for decades.  The number of Nigerians with personal computers?  12 Million.  The UK and "Project Eden" depict Africa as if from Disney's "Lion King", while Africans are dealing with their own growing piles of e-Scrap, cell phone towers, and massive traffic jams.

-- Link:  UN Report "Domestic Consumption is the Main Contributor to African "E-Waste" --

5)  Photographs of junk Toyotas in London or Lagos do not prove Japanese guilty of wastecrime, and photos of junk TVs at Ghana landfills do not prove the Trader violated any laws or shipped any junk.  Africa has been "rapidly developing" for decades.

6) During the widespread reporting that exports of used electronics to Africa were mostly junk, the Basel Secretariat and UNEP participated in a two year scientific analysis to research containerloads shipped from London, including many by the accused Nigerian expatriot in prison.   279 Sea Containers found 91% of product was useful - better than brand new product sold in Africa!  MIT, Memorial University, Arizona State, USITC, and other studies all confirm the "ewaste" import statistic (80%) was a hoax.

7)  Evidence presented in the UK court trial included no such test for repairability, or even tested the equipment in the containers, relying on "widespread knowledge" disseminated by Basel Action Network (repeated by Lord Chris Smith).  (LINKS COMING THIS WEEKEND)

8)  "Likely"?  Or NOT?   Basel Action Network has not just withdrawn the 80% dumping statistic, they actually disavowed it.

9)  "Hurricane" Benson is in jail, despite no evidence of a crime, a trophy on the wall for #wastecrime enforcement.   Benson's guilty plea was admitted at the end of a long appeal, when the judge had admonished him, and he was offered a commuted sentence (16 months rather than 60) only if he accepted a guilty plea.

10)  The cost of shipping 500 televisions from London to Lagos or Accra is higher than the cost of recycling them in the UK...  The entire "waste export" (for avoided recycling cost) theory was never tested and is mathematically impossible... it can be disproved with a simple review of Benson's receipts and costs of shipping.

11)  Pages and pages of individual brands and models listed in the African traders containers in Benson's court records show relatively new units, hand selected.  Who writes down the model number of a TV before they burn it??

12)  The World Bank statistics on households with TV in use in Africa (e.g. 6.9 million households in Nigeria as of 2006) cannot be explained via new unit sales, and offer proof that past imports were not "mostly waste".  There were not enough "new" TVs imported to explain World Bank's households-with-TV statistic.

13)  The argument that "even working televisions will one day become waste" is true of brand new computers, cell phones, and TVs, and reflects a colonialist regulation.  We do not restrict ourselves from importing new devices made in Asia until we have a recycling system for them in the USA.

14)  Planned obsolescence and non-tariff barriers applied to the secondary market is an old trick. Recent investigations by the US International Trade Commission found absolutely no evidence of the 80% waste export claims, and no evidence that "waste" shipments to Africa were common.

15)  The NGOs which raise money on the photos of children posed with E-Waste do not share a dime of the donation with the children.  Rather, they seek to put the kids parents in jail.

Quantitative studies supporting Benson:  15.   Evidence of Wrongdoing?: 0



Lord Chris Smith is probably not a bad person.  Jim Puckett isn't a bad person.  They are just wickedly late admitting they were WRONG about the "e-waste" hoax, and at this point there is an innocent man in JAIL and all I get from Basel Action Network is a statement about "collateral damage".   E-Stewards have to demand this be fixed, Chris Smith needs to look at the references to his quotes in Benson's sentencing and make some calls to get Benson out of there.

Africans and other "geeks of color" see this as just one of many racist, colonialist, poverty porn, planned obsolescence driven acts by Europeans and do-gooders.  It's a sin to kill a mockingbird.

Game Theory 3: Monopoly Itch Mite Cure

Part of what makes game theory interesting is the use of analogies to analyze rules.   Gedankenexperiment (Thought experiment) is a game theory approach to philosophy and ethics.   And for an Ethical E-Waste blog, its a way to view a situation from 20,000 feet.

Wikipedia - Schr√∂dinger coined the term Verschr√§nkung (entanglement).

What if one player uses a different set of dice than another player?  If that player won 60% of 1,000 games, you'd want to control for imbalanced dice... but you'd have spent a lot of time playing in order to prove it, so it seems better if both players have to use the same die without the effort to prove one set of dice is faulty.  That requires an umpire, an authority, an NFL, and NBA, a regulator.

In non-democratic communist governments, the authority is itself a monopoly.  Regulators can be paid off, and you can't go to court to appeal weighted the dice.  In capitalism, the use of patents and trademarks create temporary, time-sensitiv,e monopolies... the authorities enforce your monopoly for a limited amount of time, which does promote research and invention.  The use of a combination of government regulators and capitalist corporations is a horrible system, the worst, except for all the other ones.

As this week's thought experiment, lets look at a theoretical entanglement of ethics and patent law.

What about... PermaChiggerInc?

What if a corporation - PermaChigger - cross bred some kind of chigger and itch mite to develop a type of scabies resistant to sulfur, to permathrin, and neem  oil.. resistant to every treatment except their trademarked GMO petrochemical?  The entire world is scratching its collective butt off, and the money rolls in.   The GMO treatment can be manufactured at scale, cheaper to produce and more profitable.  Empty bottles of PermaChigger become as common as litter from bottled water.

That's about the worst capitalist system I can think of.  It's similar to AIDS conspiracy theories of a decade ago, but the AIDS conspiracy doesn't make sense because it kills the clients.  Mite management might make more sense.

Short of being caught contaminating people on purpose, the corporation has engineered itself a guaranteed profit.  They don't even need to do the dirty work of enforcing it, they have government trade commissions and international police to stop the sale of counterfeit and copied product.  I'm not anti-capitalist, and the system here is the one which AIDS and Ebola have the highest chance of being brought under control.

Profit ensues.

Now imagine a Nigerian man, Benson, who has never been to school, from a pidgin speaking corner of an inner city Lagos slum, has the itch.  A six foot six man weighing 260 pounds, he's black as they come and looks scary as all hell when he gets mad.  He has the genetically modified mites, his wife has it, his kids have it, all their neighbors in Lagos are scratching their thighs off.  But they can't afford the Capitalist GMO treatement.  It's not a fatal condition, but life would be a lot better if he thought of a solution.

Game Theory 2: #EWaste Players and Stakes

Live from New Orleans, International finalists for Recycling Innovator Prize (c: Resource Recycling)

Game Theory continues.    Can the policy over #ewaste, the tiny little environmental niche of electronic device recycling, be assessed best via the individual conflict and cooperation strategy of decision-makers?   Or rather by the environmental risk and benefit of the environmental impacts?

Competition, evolution, survival of the fittest... in societal groupthink, it's called Survivor.

I wasn't.  Ah well.  Neither was my reuse business model.

Over the years, this blog has examined how "legacy display devices" movement is better explained by reuse value than by "avoided disposal costs".  Used CRTs from the USA compete with new CRTs made in Chinese factories in 2002.   Used CRTs provide ten-fold increase in internet access in cities ruled by anti-democratic governments.   Cheap secondary devices compete against new.  The planned obsolescence, or anti-gray-market forces, join an alliance with "parasites of the poor".  The NGOs see the visibility of their "cause celebre" picked up by more journalists, turning donations into enterprise.

The rules in any game are bought into by the players at the table.   The rules are set by environmental officials who don't know an SVGA monitor from a monochrome flat panel display.   The rules are enforced by international police, beat cops who act on the information given by journalists, following the footsteps of Lord Chris Smith.   "I'm reporting on a really big and important story," says the journalist... and "80% exported to primitive wire burning operations" becomes the single critical ruling enforced by umpires on the field to protect Africa and China's Eden-ism (or the value of the primitive imagery to westerners, who seem to almost see huge African city-scapes - development itself - as a loss of vacation habitat).

The story builds interest in the Game.  And public interest in the game is currency.  Every perceived crisis is an opportunity.  Even if the water samples in Guiyu, China, actually measured textile dying factories from upstream, the awareness brought to "E-Waste" can be turned into a game changer.