Truce on Ewaste Export?

Yesterday's post was a tad provocative. What this discussion is about is encouraging USA companies to either employ the techs to fix the equipment, or to allow "junior" techs to sort equipment for repair, under binding and legal purchase order, at a clean, audited, qualified overseas repair facility. The former would be great, and if BAN can pull that off, my hat's off to BAN. But the demand is over there, and we cannot just pretend to be meeting it without the buyers turning to less scrupulous suppliers.

It is frustrating to be on the side of "export reform", when the documentation of abuse, dumping of useless product, and pollution is so strong. We would never export printed circuit boards to Guiyu, China, or defend soaking the boards in acid for gold recovery. But the debate has gone on without debate, and every computer donated to Goodwill Industries is now destroyed under the Dell "Reconnect" program. That's right, Goodwill Industries, one of the oldest reuse programs in the United States, has been paid to go "zero reuse" with the computers and monitors delivered there. We tried to get Dell to allow us to take the good ones and fix them, the recycler said to send a proposal, and we heard back in no uncertain terms that nothing that touches Goodwill can be tested, fixed, or resold. Aaarrrrggghhh!!

Jim at BAN always emphasizes that he is in favor of reuse, and that he believes that tested working product standards are possible (though he'd prefer that the developing world "leapfrog" us, which I guess means they all get newer computers than we have. Right.). But we can't get BAN to protest the Dell-Goodwill policy, or the California "cancellation" policy, or to weigh in on product stewardship legislation which results in chopping and grinding. What I want is for Africans, Cubans, Chinese and Arabs to have sustainable jobs (not mining) and affordable internet. If E-Stewards comes through and provides that, we will definitely join the bandwagon.

For us to achieve the reuse rates of 22.5% (from 2008) without any overseas repair, I would have to either charge 3 times what we charge, or get a lot of H-1 visas and bring the repairpeople from developing countries. My techs gave up on a laptop, I brought it with me to Egypt, and they fixed it for me (board level repairs) in about 40 minutes.

Mark Twain says:
quote 1:
"A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds."
quote 2: "A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way. ."

The recycling community has not really resolved whether I'm simply being a crank, or if I'm carrying the export-cat in a sacrilegious fashion. But viva Las Chicas Bravas.
(Can you tell if the repairman above is American, Latin American, or Immigrant?)

Video of repair operation in southeast Asia

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