CBS 60 Minutes Wasteland - Unseen footage

Tonight, CBS 60 Minutes is re-broadcasting "The Electronic Wasteland", the Polk-award winning documentary on "e-waste" which first aired November 18, 2008.

It's a very impressive piece of journalism. 60 Minutes followed a one-day event in Colorado (lots of CRT monitors), hosted by a liar posing as an environmentalist. A hypocrite, really, who invoked the horrors of ewaste dumping in China, while simultaneously shipping his own junk there. They traced his container, which clearly had lots of TVs and unrepairable scrap CRTs, headed to Hong Kong. A good gotcha moment is set up.

Then they fly around Hong Kong shipping yards in a helicopter, and focus on the CRT computer monitors accumulating there. Here's where they made a wrong turn on "the trail". Jim Puckett told them the CRT monitors were going to Guiyu. This supports BAN's party line - it's simple, it's toxic, it's illegal, and ... it's 80% of the material shipped to China.

The CBS Crew didn't go to Guangzhou, to Foshan, to Shenzhen, or Guangdong City. The images they would have seen there would have added color to BAN's muddy canvas. BAN raises funds based on the right hand side of the Hieronymus Bosch Garden of Eden, painting China with no colors. That kind of fits nicely with the image of thugs trying to take away Scott Pelley's camera. Pelley gets a Polk, a killer byline, and looks like an adventurer.

What about the reality? Where do the monitors shown in the Hong Kong fly-by really wind up? What Southern China has is massive demand for internet and massive repair and refurbishing capacity. The demand is so high, that they will tolerate a lot of junk computers mixed in as "Toxics Along for the Ride". The Colorado recycler was mixing in huge amounts of "e-waste" and deserved everything he got, in my opinion. But most of the demand in China is for good refurbishable product, and most monitors brought in for recycling today are still working or repairable. They don't need the stripped, junky ones in the Colorado recycler's sea container. But you can see that in the Hong Kong helicopter segment, there are not actually very many trashy monitors there. Many, if not most, look pretty decent.

(if you are restless, jump to slide show some paragraphs below)

By taking the CBS crew straight to Guiyu, BAN is offering a tour of the hospital via the morgue. Guiyu is infamous for scrap circuit board, copper wire burning, and plastic sorting yards, where Puckett describes ash and burning as the process at the end of the trail. Scott Pelley is trying to exploit the hypocrasy (or good old fashioned ass-covering) by the mayor, and sets up the bookend "gotcha" moment, when he takes the cameras to film where the dregs and residue wind up.

Make no mistake - It's very ugly. USA recyclers who abuse the reuse and recycling market by "salting the load" with expensive, regulated CRT scrap should be drawn and quartered. (The site is not actually as ugly as the virgin material smelter sites in China, and doubtfully lives up to its billing as the most toxic place on earth, but that's another subject).

Unfortunately, by short-cutting to the "end of the trail", CBS News got into the high weeds, skipping the center panel of the Bosch fresco, an "end of life" passage straight into hell. They pretend they visit the good side of the market, but the "tidy factory" (as described by Scott Pelley) is a joke, it looks like a garage. It's the best the Mayor of Guiyu probably had to offer, because the refurbishing factories are NOT IN GUIYU! That is why they saw none of the Hong Kong CRT monitors, only plastic.

Pelley says, "We followed the trail..." But he took a shortcut. Had he literally followed the monitors from Hong Kong, he would have had a harder story to relate. There are really great operations in Asia which 60 Minutes was told about but which Scott Pelley never visited. It makes it easier to "connect the dots" using fewer dots. They trap the bad guy, and deliver the story that some USA E-waste "recyclers" are deviants. And we are glad that story was told.

But... The CRT monitors do not show up anywhere in the footage of Guiyu. Curiously, Scott Pelley appears to be aware of this, as he says "Here is a CRT stand, so they've been dismantling CRTs here as well". ??? He goes by acres and acres of CRT monitors in Hong Kong, documents the GAO report showing thousands of CRT shipments, and he picks up a single monitor stand from a pile of plastic? Plastic recycling is part of the business in Guiyu, CRTs are not.

So: Where are the CRTs?

In Guiyu, there's ash, plastic, steel, circuit boards. There is no excuse for Aqua Regia, the nasty nasty medieval acid method of gold recovery from scrap, and 60 Minutes does well to expose it (we NEVER ship circuit boards to China and dismantle the computers here in the USA). But those kinds of gold-bearing circuit boards are not found in computer monitors, they are found in PCs, as the steel PC carcasses would suggest.

If they are not in Guiyu, where are the CRT monitors shown at the beginning of the "trail?"

If 60 Minutes had followed the real trail, they would have come to the "big secret factories" shown in this slide show:

These refurbishing factories are the colorful center and left panels of the Bosch's Garden of Eden fresco. The demand for CRTs in China is found in the factories which made the computer monitors, usually under contract to a big USA manufacturer. Having paid $100+ for the new CRT assemblies, which are good for 20 years, they find it unbelievable that Americans toss out ten year old CRTs. Instead of buying a new CRT made from a virgin products, they reuse the cathode ray tubes from American SVGA computer monitors. They realize that these are high quality, fine dot per inch, better than a normal television CRT. With digital capacity, they can make them into a TV that works in any country. In a bizarre twist, it is Manufacturer Take-back in action, the very "solution" proposes.

These are green operations creating sustainable jobs. They are eliminating the pollution from mining, smelting, and refining (which actually create the real "most polluted places on earth"). They are creating affordable internet access for the developing world. They are basically the same as the jobs making computer monitors from brand new CRTs. The USA has a factory like this, Video Display Corp in Tucker Georgia... the last CRT plant in the USA.

I guess connecting that many "dots" didn't fit in the 8 minute segment timeframe for 60 Minutes. But before passing anti-export legislation (promoted by manufacturers who hate the reuse market), we need to explore alternatives, like Fair Trade exports. WR3A makes sure that loads are screened of non-functional CRTs before they are sent here. WR3A gives incentives for proper recycling, documentation, employee health and safety policies, ISO9000 and ISO14001.

Scott Pelley and Jim Puckett actually do talk about the need for jobs in China, and the balance between recycling employment and pollution. The show is about "desperate people, doing desperate things." Jim Puckett says, "It's a hell of a choice, between poverty and poison". I just wish they had made a little more effort to protect the good jobs which employ talented repairpeople, like the jobs in the slide show above. Instead the show is being used by people who want "planned obsolescence in hindsight" to support legislation which destroys the good units, which are by far the lions share of the export business. You should not need an MBA to figure out that people cannot pay for monitors, ship them halfway around the world, just to burn them in a village (glass does not even burn). CBS should have asked not only where the monitors were, but they should have "followed the money", one of the smartest rules in journalism. The money would have led them on the real trail, to the "Big Secret Factories", which is where the trail led me.

I started out in this business testing everything and destroying a lot of product. But I also wanted to see how the economics of my "evil exporter" competitors really worked. The trail of the purchase orders led to good, sustainable operations overseas, far superior in fact to any e-scrap operation I've ever seen in the USA. There is a wide range of operations overseas. Guiyu does exist, but there are also real "manufacturer takeback" programs, and there is a lot more money and trade via refurbishment and proper recycling than there is in loathsome ewaste pits. I hope someday the CBS crew looks into the missing footage and tells 'the rest of the story'.


I was a Boston Globe subscriber 10 years or so ago. I loved the comics, and I never did have the patience to access those online. In the end, the cost of the slow-moving paper version didn't match up to the lightning-fast internet, and life moved on, sans comics.

It's too bad the print industry is imploding. Coming from a journalism family (dad was a J-dept professor, grandmother and great-grandfather owned a newpaper in Taney Co. Missouri), I would have to describe it as a slow death.

They let go of the classifieds, they went to Ebay and Craigslist. D'Oh! Those were a major money maker for print media, and the papers didn't even put up a fight. They just let the classified income go.

Another OEM (Canon) Offers to help

Canon is now opening "end of life" and "destruction" of used electronics in the developing world, following HP's lead in South Africa.

Is this progress? I hope so. But just as I documented HP's early PR ("Crush Crush Grind Grind") before they embraced "reuse" in a bizarre video campaign, I have some concerns that Canon is at least as focused on ending cartridge refilling as they are with protecting dumps in Cairo. The word "destruction" in the press release will be excised in future versions, so I'll post the entire thing here, something I should have done in 2002 when AGMA announced the printer cartridge destruction campaign in Foshan China - which then disappeared like Sandra Bullock in The Net.

I'm not all doom and gloom and just slightly paranoid. Hopefully, the OEMs will discover Ford Motor Co.'s response to Vance Packard - that used product is more accessible to more people, and is a gateway to early purchasing. They younger people are when they can afford to drive, the more cars they buy in their lifetimes. Destroying the secondary market, as China is attempting to do, will result in a few more new sales but even more people going without, and those who go without drag down sales in the long run.

Canon Middle East signs deal with EnviroServe to tackle e-waste in the region

Dubai, UAE, 17 August 2009: Canon Middle East, the world-leading innovator and provider of imaging and information technology solutions, today announced its latest environmental initiative in the Middle East with the signing of a partnership agreement with EnviroServe, the leading environmental waste managers.

The signing signals the first phase of a wide scale regional programme to tackle the issue of e-waste in the Middle East. The programme will ensure the proper destruction and recycling of 'end of life' Canon consumer electronic products and service parts across the region through the company's extensive network of Channel partners.

"Rapid technology change in recent years has resulted in a fast-growing surplus of electronic waste around the globe. E-waste is significantly different from industrially generated hazardous wastes in that almost every individual, institution and business generates it; therefore addressing this issue is a key priority for Canon. Our partnership with EnviroServe is part of our ongoing environmental commitment and reiterates our efforts to maximise resource efficiency and contribute to a society that practices sustainable development," said Bertil Widmark, Managing Director, Canon Middle East.

As part of this agreement, EnviroServe's e-waste recycling division 'EnviroFone' will facilitate the collection of 'end of life' electronic products,and service parts before segregating the materials into the different components and sending to recyclers where they will be melted, crushed and treated into raw materials for re-use.

"Because there is little awareness in the Middle East about how toxic e-waste elements like batteries and TV screens affect our environment, there is no system in place to responsibly recycle e-waste. Our main goal is to create awareness as well as develop and sustain a sense of environmental responsibility in our Arab communities and within the companies and businesses that operate in this region." Mariam Hanafy, EnviroFone Division Manager explained. "We are proud to be the only company in the region able to support and facilitate Canon's environmental initiatives and take-back programmes involving any kind of end-of-life electric and electronic equipment."

"Encouraging our consumers to recycle their end of life Canon products is one of the core fundamental principles of Canon's global environmental charter. We have an impressive track record of recycling worldwide, to date the cumulative weight of toner cartridges collected by Canon since 1990 exceeds 190,000 tons globally, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to extend this environmental commitment to the Middle East and North Africa," added Bertil Widmark.

Today's announcement is the latest in a series of environmental initiatives from Canon. As part of Canon's cradle to the grave production approach, by 2010 the company aims to reduce its carbon emissions to 50% of the output for the same work in 2000. In addition, Canon is the only company to have produced a range of green calculators made from recycled material.

To find out more about Canon Middle East and its environmentally responsible technology visit:


An E-Waste Story: Ghana

The Story of Fahrou of Ghana:

This morning, through the slit between the dark and stormy monsoon clouds and the forest canopy, illuminated green and yellow, the ray of sun shot through Fahrou's window and through the waterglass he had left in front of the standing mirror on his table the night before. It causes the reflected sunray, which normally mirrores a square against the opposite wall, to blossom into a prism of funky light, turning Fahrou's tiled floor, two room abode, into a discotheque-like aquarium of sunshine.

Five years earlier, when he dropped out of medical school to support his younger orphaned siblings, there were no tiles on the floor of this home in central Ghana. He had returned from the relatively modern, bustling, crowded city of Accra, to the same home he remembered since childhood. A childhood with an uneducated mother and father, hard working farmers, who had both since died without ever learning a word like "vacation", or a concept like time off. The concept of "work yourself to death" was uncoined among the agricultural families of west Africa, because it was the norm, it was the definition of life. Fortunately, Fahrou's slender fingers show little of the gnarls, scars, and scratches of his parents' hands.

Fahrou was the lucky star of the family. He had been encouraged to attend school - not a given in the 1970s. And at school, he had been encouraged. But what formed him in large part was the day he got the last seat available in the crowded 7th grade classroom. There was a maximum limit of children permitted in each class, and the line of registered students was far longer than the number of benches. Along with many families, he had planned to sleep outside the school, in the yard, the night before registration. But that day, a rumor flew - a true rumor - that the school registration books were opening a week ahead of schedule.

His village was 6 miles from the school, and he observed mothers and fathers and many boys and girls racing in the direction of Wahabni, where the school was. He was fast, but not the fastest runner. His parents had already left for the fields, for another day of manioc digging in the hot sun.

Fahrou had one possible advantage. A broken bicycle. He had previously scavenged 3 broken bikes from a truck hauling to the recycling yard in Accra, and he had begged to take them, on spec, with the promise that he'd return all the metal to the recycling hauler in a week, if he failed. He had a page torn from an old book, written in English, of "How Things Work", with a history of the bicycle. And he had wanted to see if it might be true, what his sixth grade teacher had said.

He had been told by his teacher that men and women are born equal. That while they were all intimidated by the airplanes and trucks developed by the white man, that the average white man was no smarter than the average Ghanian, and that the average airplane passenger in Europe was as far away from inventing an airplane, or a train, or an automobile engine, as Fahrou. He told Fahrou that the inventions of the developed world had come step-by-step, by engineering, reverse-engineering, re-engineering, and re-re-engineering, with honest and dialectical progress on each version. The airplane, in fact, began as a bicycle. If the Wright brothers had not learned to fix bikes, they would not have invented the airplane.

Without believing it necessarily, Fahrou had been nonetheless intoxicated with the learning and feeling of hope he felt as he filed each tooth of the gear of one bike to fit the chain of the other. He felt a trance-like calm as he straightened every individual spoke of every wheel, by hand, over hours and hours. He performed the repair on the bicycle carcasses which any lucky scrapman would have done in New York City in the 1800s, but which today seem ludicrous to westerners, accustomed to a buy-and-discard culture.

A culture that was mining the forests west of Fahrous village for coltan, a rich muddy sand with volcanic metals, necessary for chips in cell phones. The mines were filled with boys his age, working for dimes per hour, in the thick mud. Daily knee joints were dislodged and boys became crippled for life. Daily, the smarter ones took time to hunt rare monkeys to feed the immigrant miners, until the monkey meat ran out, and they began to serve rare snakes and birds on roasting pits. That is where the new metals for the new gadgets came from.

Fahrou had been fixated on this ancient gadget, the single bicycle he was cobbling together from the carcass of scrap. Without allowing himself to believe he would be able to ride it, he had worked on the premise of learning the bike, so that someday, another deferred day in the future, he would have learned to fix a bike. He was approaching it as a child learns to read, without awareness that they will someday be reading stock quotes or the New York Times.

In the light of the water glass prism, Farhou still channeled that fateful day, as the children rushed to run the 6 miles for school registration. He remembers the hail-Mary pass. He calculated before sleeping the night before, that the cobbled bike might work - without brakes, without gears, but nonetheless propel him - if he filled the tires with wet sand and glue.

He knew the tires would leak, he knew they had to be replaced. He had no money for tires. But he had sand, glue, and plastic bag scrap. And so he had tried a kind of inner patch before sleeping.

He remembered the split second calculation - if he checked to see if the tires had held the air, and they had not, he would lose a precious head start in a race already commenced. He balanced the math of his running skills. He ran into the yard for the bike.

The tires were still filled with air.

Fahrou did enroll in school that day, because he was the first of all of his village to reach the yard. And he was the only one from his village to make enrollment, when the runners arrived, the line had queued hopelessly into the dirt road. It led to a decision that a new school was needed, and grants would be applied for, but that would be another ten years.

On this morning, as the sun began to be filtered by the dark gray monsoon clouds, the bicycle to school lesson had made Fahrou who he was. He now repaired cell phones and computers.

He used a satellite internet connection which he had helped to set up in his town, in cooperation with a USA Peace Corps volunteer. They had taken the satellite dish from the top of a scrapped CNN van, burned out during the riots in Ivory Coast, and fashioned it into a 10 hour per day satellite internet connection.

From posts on the internet, Fahrou was able to download schematics to do all kinds of repairs. His favorite was board-level repairs on cell phones. Each cell phone he repaired accomplished the work of 3 boys in the coltan mine, but he didn't know that or do it for that reason. It was his favorite work, because he made the most money at it, and with that money, he was paying school fees for his youngest sister.

Now, the light of the sun has begun to succumb to a rich, soulful gray, as it collides more and more of its downward rays through the roof of the storm clouds. For a few more minutes, it will be a beautiful but darker glow, giving the treetops an eery appearance that it is they that are lighting the dark sky, not visa versa.

Fahrou will not yet know about the email in his account, from his old teacher, linking him to an article about two of China's new billionaires. In truth, one is a former bicycle repairman. And the other was a farm tractor repairman. Both had learned that the scrap tractors and bicycles that they could pull out of USA scrap metal loads to China were better made and more worthwhile than the official communist-party ones from the central-economy's tractor factory, or bike factory, models. They could make more money doing a dramatic repair of a John Deere, Catepillar, or Schwinn than they could buying a brand new CCP designed tractor or bike.

Fahrou also does not yet know about the email from his sister, in medical school in Lagos, thanking him for the refurbished laptop he had made her. He will enjoy reading about her thrill to be working on a blood-bank program which could, ten years from now, result in the dramatic lowering of death in childbirth among African women... a rate so high that it propells the polygamy of the culture, which in turn creates a demand for women like her to remain on the farm, worth more in dowry than for their intellect.

Fahrou does not yet know, and will never know, of his place in history. None of us can have known that Ghana will become the Singapore, or South Korea, of West Africa. Those two countries, with no coltan or other natural resources, became OECD level countries within a lighting-fast two generations, based on engineering, repair, reverse-engineering of goods from Japan... which had done the same with USA goods, just as the Wright Brothers had.

You and I don't know something else. We don't know that Africa will ever develop like the Pacific Rim did, based on value-derived-from-education. There is an effort to prevent Fahrou from following the course of development through retained value, refurbishment and repair. Those of us in the trenches know that for a poor Korean, Chinese, or African kid, being able to repair ten laptops is the key to becoming a Michael Dell, who also repaired (and cloned) PCs in his dorm room in Texas. But their story is never told by CBS 60 Minutes.

We don't know the end of this story, because for every 8 laptops or computers Fahrou is able to repair and resell, and give to people like his sister in medical school, there are two he cannot repair.

The West is reporting that thousands and thousands of containers of "e-Waste" are going into Ghana. We are seeing pictures of hundreds and hundreds left on the ground, burned for wire. Economically, we could easily discover that for every sad burning piece on the roadside, five more were improving lives. Thousands vs. hundreds. But we never open the door of Fahrou's house, we never see the incredible show of light which burns as brightly through his eyes as the morning sun through the waterglass. We never see that as the glass lights up the room, that Fahrou lights up the aspirations of thousands of schoolchildren in Africa, offers one of the actual real hopes they can follow as an alternative to shovelling coltan mud from the rain forest, or joining the army, or farming themselves to death.

Instead, a non-profit group is taking pictures of children burning computers, and filtering the data to promote their own vision. It's a noble vision - that Fahrou's life will be unnecessary, because the West is going to donate brand new computers, to him and his daughters and sisters and to all the schoolchildren in Africa. But that is from a storybook, the children in Ghana's schools can see a real reverse-engineering repairman like Fahrou, they rarely if ever see the white man with golden new laptops decending from the sky with internet access.

But based on that theory of new computers for the poor, which is not even a promise, policy hounds say we should grind up all ten laptops or cell phones Fahrou would repair. If he waits patiently, he will still be able to check his emails this morning, his sister in med school will still be able to save lives and redirect the power of women.

Based on that fairy tale, they say that we should not concentrate on removing the two junk laptops Fahrou cannot fix. We should fix them here in the USA. The same as Americans fix bicycles? They direct environmentalists to use e-waste recycling companies which cherry pick only the finest for export, a mere 2% of the computers collected and promote the lie that Fahrou doesn't exist, that the thousands and thousands of containers are 80% waste, to be burned on the ground. The result: at best 2 computers out of 10 are reused, vs. the 8 Fahrou would have salvaged.

And as debate rages, the Ayatollah's of E-Waste have introduced new legislation to ban me from shipping to my friend, Fahrou. I would like to send Fahrou and email about how vital it is that he properly manage the 2 leftover cell phones or laptops. A storm is approaching. The export of computer waste and export of computer reuse and computer repair... the facts are being obscured by clouds.

Me, I prefer to fly Fahrou over here to visit Middlebury, Vermont, to work side by side with my staff, to show them there are wicked-smart poor people in Africa, and to teach us how to avoid sending the 2 laptops that any good repair technician knows without opening will not be repairable. With that method, we have lowered the 'residue' to under 5%. A new report from Peru (see previous) shows that even companies not going to these efforts can achieve 88% reuse.

We think visiting one another, sharing data, and improving the loads is a Fair Trade solution. And it has created a bond of geeks, from Fronteras Mexico to Penang Malaysia to Lima Peru to Burkina Faso to Cairo.

But we are losing the battle to the other "solution".
I hear it like thunder over the savanna.
Ban the export of repairable electronics.
Hire Americans to fix them here first.
Let Fahrou get new computers.

Let them eat cake.

Finally Someone Else Making eWaste eSense

Thanks to Greener Computing


Someone else is coming off the kool-aid!

Ramzy Kahhat and Eric Williams new study,
Product or Waste? Importation and End-of-Life Processing of Computers in Peru

confirms what we have been saying, filming, and writing for 5 years.

This bolsters the argument WR3A made in another scholarly article by Charles Schmidt of NIH in 2006. If computer exports are outlawed, only outlaws will export used computers.

Coupons for Clunkers - Ewaste Program

The "cash for clunkers" program got a lot of press - positive and negative. The negatives (that the $4500 requirement does not allow car parts, repair, or resale) are mostly from Congress rushing into the program. Someone said they should require the clunkers be recycled. The problem is that 10 MPG less than the car you are buying is not much of a definition for "obsolete". A minivan getting 23 MPG is perfectly acceptable in a small commute situation, some new mom getting started who only drives 3 miles per day (like Middlebury) would be really happy to get a nice Honda Odyssey for $4000. But that Odyssey could also be traded in for a Prius, meeting the rules of the "clunker" definition. So the Odyssey has to be scrapped, and the young mother will have more difficulty getting a starter car.

Sound familiar? That's basically how California SB20, Maine's producer takeback, and other "stewardship" states are functioning. The root cause is the same as the Cash For Clunkers' misstep... Hubris. When people have a basically good idea that gets more traction than it should because of a lack of dialectic in their own intellectual community and because a problem has been over-dramaticized (e.g. E-Waste mountains), they become intoxicated by their own momentum.

I'm sure that the people who drafted the Cash for Clunkers program idea were good people. Some of them may have tugged back ("Hey, if we allow the Honda to be qualified for resale for $4000, we will only have used $500 of our C4C money, and be able to get the next clunker, which might be a real doozy"). But all too soon, the momentum swings towards passage, and people are told "now or never", and we wind up giving a huge tax subsidy to a Korean auto manufacturer.

American Retroworks Inc is rolling out its own version of "Cash for Clunkers" in Mexico. Actually, it's "Coupons for Clunkers". If a Mexican family brings in an old piece of unrepariable junk computer, they get $10 off the price of a USA TV (like the newer ones replaced by digital),,, or computer. This will create the same incentive for trading in. But since we are creating a market for the reuse value, we'll be able to get far more true clunkers off of the roadside.

New York Times - Scrap of Decency

Enlightening article.

A Scrap of Decency

Along with the previous post from the Economist, the mining article from Time, and the articles about the Egyptian Christian community of scrap-salvagers, the picture is there. An "export boycott" is just a bad idea.

Imagine Shared Product Stewardship

Imagine a system for CRT recycling.

Imagine that the system is as effective as any bulky waste program in the nation. Like "old hat" programs for tires and white goods and auto batteries, the system succeeds at capturing 85% of all of the stuff that's generated, from Boston to Eureka Springs Arkansas. Imagine that residents participating in the program don't have to learn anything new, they can take their CRT monitor or TV, or set it out at the curb, do exactly what they would do with an air conditioner.

Imagine that retailers, if they wished to, could easily participate in the program, but if it was a hardship for them, they didn't have to. Imagine that towns don't have to charge residents a fee for the items, and don't have to worry about them being dumped in some poor country on the other side of the world.

What if you drove up to your town recycling center, open six days per week, and told them that you had a TV to recycle... and the person at the scalehouse asked what brand it was. When you said it was a Sony, you were handed a bar coded sticker to put on the screen (to track they go to the right place and are not double counted). You were told that Sony was picking up the tab for your item that day.

Imagine you are a manufacturer who has been paying for "events" around the country which just seem to go on and on, stopping traffic and creating a massive batch of stuff to pay for all at once, with no predicting the amounts. You had not known for sure whether the TVs you paid for that day would be sorted and sent to one of your other grant programs. Because everything came in all at once, you'd been paying a bigger bill for the loss of reuse value. But in this new program, you had a predictable fee, since you knew weekly or monthly how many barcoded stickers had been printed out, and could budget and track the evolution of collections in different parts of the country. You wrote a check to the recycler the same as you already pay for coupons brought to a retailer, so there's no new system to invent. You knew that every single individual who got your sticker saw evidence of your company's loyalty and greenness in writing on the same day that they brought in their item.

Imagine that towns which went the extra mile and subsidized their programs (by alloting a portion of "avoided disposal costs" to each TV) got financial assistance, but that towns that gouged and double charged for the item only got the fair portion of the bill paid. Imagine that if your product turned up at another state for double-counting, that an adhesive sticker and bar code on the screen made enforcement simple.

What if you manufactured a product made of all recyclable metals that was easy as heck to upgrade and recycle, and that recyclers competing for the item would sell you the stickers for less, immediately recognizing the value? What if there were no more concerns about "legacy" IBM product, because the metals values were so high that recyclers bid to recycle the older product for less?

What if a manufacture who made rules against reuse and "market cannabalization" found that they could protect themselves from that, but that the cost of destroying good product made recyclers charge more per sticker, instead of having the cost of their obsolescence policies spread around all consumers of all products?

What if it was really easy to change and adjust the program without amending legislation? What if changes and advances in manufacturing were responded to by recyclers bidding to issue coupons? What if manufacturers who were not participating found out that residents had to pay for their items, and they were the only manufacturer listed on a "does not participate" sign?

Imagine a pre-legislation partnership, where this system was allowed to work, and whatever everyone was happy with was unnecessary to legislate, and whatever they were unhappy with
could be tweaked with new pricing, new coupons, new methods?

Been there, done that. Welcome to Vermont.
VT Solid Waste District Coupon Letter

We collect TVs in every county, using the same system as other bulky goods. Sony is paying for coupons to be issued to the communities. Each coupon has a peel-off barcoded sticker. If Sony lets us repair and reuse a modest number, we sell them the sticker for less than face value... If they demand we send their TVs somewhere special, to another recycler, no problem, we just incoporate that into the price of coupons we sell Sony.

Press has been positive. Clients have been positive. Residents participating have been happy. We get to see exactly how many Sonys we have coming in from each neighborhood, and we share that information with Sony. If they want more research we can sort the TVs by year. If they want to add VCRs or something, no problem, we sell them more stickers and coupons and send them out. If Sony wants to expand the program to parts of New Hampshire, New York, or Connecticut, its pretty easy to order more stickers.

This is the first pre-legislation partnership, we are forming the partnership with everyone except the legislature and brands that don't want to participate. At the end of the year, if there are a LOT of the latter, we expect more of the former.

Recycling Today, New Retroworks.Net website

We made the cover Editorial of Recycling Today magazine last week. Brian Taylor, the editor, gave a chance to make their aggressive case against exports, but winds up agreeing with You don't improve coffee farming by boycotting coffee.

BAN has every right to be suspicious of the Fair Trade angle, which Jim Puckett has expressed fears will become a "loophole" for export of junk. WR3A sees BAN's reservations as a "loophole" for manufacturers to execute planned obsolescence, taking away livelihoods as well as environmental benefits.

Both of us agree that the glass is either half full or half empty. We just don't agree how to fill the glass up the rest of the way.

I worked all weekend rehabilitating our eight-year-old website. Take it for a cruise at