Commentary on Europe exports to Africa (Greenpeace Story)

This week Greenpeace made a major splash in the European media with a tracking device hidden in a "junk" or "unrepairable" TV taken to a recycler in England.

The coverage in UK's The Independent is the most thorough, with 4 full articles.
BBC summarized the story accurately.

In both The Independent and the BBC coverage, it is (probably most accurately) stated that 1/3 of the exports to Lagos are not working and not worth repairing. This concedes WR3A's point, that 2/3 of the goods are legitimate commodities, and the rest are TAR (Toxics Along for the Ride). This is why WR3A's approach is to reform the export practice, and to provide cleaner loads to Africa from more reputable recyclers.

We note with concern that the Greenpeace press release, printed on MarketWatch, returns to the "up to 80% of E-Waste from Europe failing to be disposed of safely". Nothing in the investigations above suggests that 80% of exports from Europe are junk.

The Greenpeace blurb goes on to implicate anything exported for further repair:

"It's illegal to export broken electronic goods under EU legislation (and) at no point ..was the TV turned on or tested to see if it was in working condition," Greenpeace said.

This new "working condition" standard is another clear swipe at the text of the Basel Convention, which in Annex IX, specifically states "
Re-use can include repair, refurbishment or upgrading, but not major reassembly" (B1110)

The free market gives more value to a non-working Pentium 4 or 1998 non-working TV than it does to a "working" Pentium 2 or a "functional" 1980 TV. The former are commodities, the latter are junk. Greenpeace fails to grasp that the most talented repair persons in the world today are in developing countries. Repair is becoming a lost art in the EU and USA. If you want a cell phone fixed in London, find an Egyptian.

WR3A is a "Fair Trade" organization which seeks to match ethical USA recyclers with the legitimate (and overwhelming) demand for reuseable and repairable computers and televisions which Americans throw away. Capturing the reuse value in an ethical and professional manner reduces the cost of e-scrap recycling, meets the solid waste hierarchy, and promotes the standard of living and education in developing countries.


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