Effective Environmental Messaging

General reaction to a lot of posts on Facebook this year:   People care about stuff, and they post what they care about. And they post about what other people care about. It's curious how many of my friends posts demonstrate they care about what other peoples value systems are. Many of us are very certain of our own value system, what we care about, and express fear or anger at a society that doesn't seem to care about it. Or perhaps the post is an ad (I posted about giraffe extinction yesterday) to get people to care about what we personally care deeply about.

Value Added By Recycling Industries in Massachusetts (1992, Robin Ingenthron) - What John Tierney failed to read about Garbage

Value Added By Recycling Industries in Massachusetts (1992, Robin Ingenthron)

This is kind of a hoot.  Dr. Josh Lepawsky found a paper I wrote my first months in the job at MA DEP, 30 years old, 25 years ago. It got Boston Globe front page coverage because of ricochet.   A loud PIRG vs. Plastic Packaging Industry referendum fight had thrust "recycling" into a spotlight, and the value of "recycling" rather than the packaging policy itself, was occupying the center stage.  Critics of the referendum were attacking state recycling policy, and proponents of the packaging laws were wrapping themselves in recycling like it was mom, apple pie, and the American flag.

To defend recycling as a policy, I tried to explain that there aren't "good markets" and "bad markets".  There are "buyers markets" and "sellers markets", and from an economic perspective, the paper mills, glass furnaces, metal refiners, etc. were adding more value than "waste diversion" from landfills.  So I got some secondary data on the recycled paper mills etc. that I'd supplied as a recycling collector, added up their employees, and explained the multiipliers.

The paper doesn't do so explicitly, but buried in it was my first realization that paper mills might be worse "neighbors", environmentally (odor, water effluent) than an incinerator or landfill, but they created so many jobs that the neighborhoods surrounding those mills were advocates.  Environmental enforcement was linked, geographically, to real estate value.  Likewise, those same jobs, which would disappear in Massachusetts if the tissue paper had to be made from trees, were far more important economically than the value of a ton of paper at a recycling center.

I was initially accused of writing the paper to influence the referendum (and threatened, professionally). I responded that the paper mill employees and those like me who'd been driving paper recycling trucks were kind of bemused... I might next leak the number of laundromats in MA and see if that got in the Globe.  And four years later, this paper was called upon to rebut John Tierney's "Recycling is Garbage" rant, which in part arose out of the very anti-recycling statements being made during the Packaging Referendum Wars (which employed many Bottle Bill Battle generals... history for another blog).

Anyway I long ago lost track of the paper, Josh found it at the MA State House library.

Editors Note: Status of WR3A Good Point Blog

Blog Status December 6, 2016.

Wahab, left, points to photo in Washington Post of Idrissa, who was struck and killed by a truck in 2013 or 14
Catching up on editing 4 blog articles (from "Collateral Damage" series) and one magazine article, and preparing for my presentation at ICM in Salzburg, Austria.  Also getting all my vaccinations for the re-visit to Ghana.   I'm double checking things from the draft Fair Trade Recycling report (2015 visit).

1- Does something bad happen  at Agbogbloshie?  Bad for health, for the environment, etc.?

2- If something bad happens, is it related to unfair export and import trade?

3- If something bad happens, due to unfair trade, is it illegal or a "loophole"?

4- If something bad happens, due to unfair trade, and it is illegal, should Joe "Hurricane" Benson and other Tech Sector African businesspeople pay fines or go to prison for it?

The answer to the first question is yes and no.  Or rather, some bad things happen, and some good things (better than if the goods were in the USA or EU) happen.  The worst thing is probably the men who burn wire and then use their bare hands to scrape metal out of the dirt and ashes.  The earth there will be contaminated by lead.  Some of the lead is from automobiles, some from leaded casings in older electric wire (not computers).  If they aren't washing their hands really well, they are likely to suffer consequences.

The good thing is that the goods are used for far longer than westerners use the goods.  Even after westerners have finihsed using the electronics, Africans will tend to reuse them twice as long as that. And hand disassembly is better for the environment than shredding.  And the cost of achieving internet, phone, TV, radio and other teledensity measures, per African is a TINY FRACTION of the upstream environmental cost per capita done by Western countries.  And most of THAT damage, from mining, occurs in places like Africa.

2 - No.  The junk in Agbogbloshie is far more likely to be collected from African city residents and businesses after 10-20 years of use than it is to be imported. The people saying that it came from sea containers being dumped to avoid recycling costs are making it up at best, and in some cases lying.

3. Not under Basel Convention Annex IX.  But - in reaction (over-reaction) to lies about #2, some EU countries have passed stricter laws.  It's like if you thought bananas were poison, and passed a law against selling bananas... yeah, banana sellers would be criminals.  But seriously.

4. No. This was a witch hunt.

Breaking News: As HK WEEETRF, So Follows Accra's "Ewaste" Moon Shot?

Another logical conclusion to all the research into NGO's proposed bans on E-Waste Exprot Trade.

"Hey, we can do it right.  We can repair and recycle better than you can"

As goes Hong Kong, so goes Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana.  A $30M State of the Art E-Scrap Recycling Plant is breaking ground in Ghana.   In January, I'll be there.
The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency are set to commission the construction of a recycling facility at Agbogbloshie in the Greater Accra Region. 
Estimated at $30 million for the first phase, the facility is expected to recycle all waste electrical and electronic equipment to final products in an environmentally sound manner, relieving the people of Accra and its environs, specifically Agbogbloshie community of toxic pollutants generated from the burning of e-waste. - See more at: http://citifmonline.com/2016/11/23/govt-to-construct-30m-e-waste-facility-at-agbogbloshie/#sthash.EpjnrmbK.dpuf
Once again, the solution to "sweatshops" is found to be "air conditioners".  Given the choice between moving business back to "Big Shred" in Europe and the USA, the Tech Sector in Emerging Markets says "Thanks but we like managing this, and by the way we're really, really good at it".

Finally the End of Ewastegate?