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 BAN.org a chance to make their aggressive case against exports, but winds up agreeing with WR3A.org. 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 www.retroworks.net