BAN Response to our Blog

(from a hotel room in San Diego)

Two months ago, Resource Recycling magazine asked to pick up a post from this blog which I had titled "We Shouldn't Have to Make That Choice" (an allusion to Jim Puckett's response to CBS News reporter Scott Pelley, when he asked whether other jobs were available in Guiyu).  The theme was to question whether too many "E-Stewards" have taken the "no export" pledge too far, at the expense of pricing themselves out of the market, and worse, forcing legitimate buyers to find the legitimate exports they need from "back alley" sellers.  That's the question... doesn't BAN need to send a message that reuse is good, and that reform of the export market is better than "banning" certain exports of repair, reuse, and recycling.

As most know, I don't like people having to give up NON-toxic, value added, repair and refurbishment careers overseas.  Given a choice between burning a wire generated in China or refurbishing a computer monitor from America for resale, the poor will be less poisoned and far more enriched by the refurbishing of western goods than by the further scrounging of the dregs.  Should we eliminate dregs from Western exports?  Absolutely.   Does the removal of a 128 stick of RAM and replacing it with a 512 stick of ram constitute pollution?  Ridiculous.

Here is a post on Toxics Alert summing up the debate between Puckett and Ingenthron.

1)  That my post damaging to their integrity.  Jim assured me he was not threatening a suit.   I think I sprinkled more allusions to BAN's well meaning effort and the positive effects of bringing Toxics Along for the Ride to the discussion of exports.  I think my post tried to balance the good and the bad outcomes, while questioning whether "the perfiect is the enemy of the good".

2)  BAN members alleged that Ingenthron was not aware of the latest clarifications by convention stakeholders with regard to exports of e-waste for repair.    This was a reference the the Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative, on the export for reuse and repair of cell phones.  Since it has not been published (due February), they should have said "everyone is not aware" and not pinned that on me.  Their E-Stewards certainly are not aware.  But first things first: I was not writing about cell phones.  Second, there is no consensus document published about the latest arguments between the "stakeholders", and if you have to have attended the latest meeting with Jim in order to read the ratified text of an agreement, then we should run like hell from the Basel Convention.   The section I referred to in Annex IX, B1110, is explicitly about CRTs and was passed and we have a legal import permit.  For BAN to state that a meeting in Switzerland trumps a written import permit referencing the text of the Basel Convention is legally absurd.

3) Again about MPPI, "In clarifying the Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative (MPPI) Guideline negotiations, Puckett says that all of the Basel Parties at the table agreed that whenever an export takes place for repair and hazardous parts are discarded, they fall under the Convention. BAN incorporated that guidance now adopted by 172 countries into the e-Steward Standard."  We did not say that repair is not covered, we said it IS explicitly covered and is explicitly legal. We do not discard parts! We had the entire end-of-life trail of each component audited, at great cost to both the USA and overseas WR3A members. Furthermore, the MPPI Chairman's letter agrees with us that repair is good and reuse is good and the challenge is to keep it from becoming a loophole for waste dumping.  That is exactly WR3A's approach, any removed parts must not be discarded but properly recycled.  The disagreement between BAN and WR3A is whether repair (under conditions of Annex IX and MPPI) is better than "Tested Working".  I still intend to write about the MPPI, but for now, it's just a non-sequeter.  The MPPI does NOT say TESTED WORKING, and does not talk about computers.  No, it says what WR3A says, which is the fallout (removed parts and unrepairable units) must be recycled properly.

4)  "In one particularly contentious part of his original Talking Points editorial, Ingenthron accused BAN of being responsible for Malaysia's decision last year to prohibit importation of U.S. CRT glass. Puckett contests that claim, making available a letter which shows that he had instead offered Malaysia a legal way to continue such import, but Malaysia refused to accept it."
That is not exactly what I said, but let's go with it.  BAN's letter to the Malaysia DOE speaks for itself, and Malaysia DOE and Samsung's abrupt end to purchases of CRT cullet from the USA weeks later speak more in favor of my sources.  I did not say BAN did not set out conditions of compromise.  I simply said Samsung bought CRT washing equipment, which it uses, and BAN stated that they could not wash glass, and they stopped buying glass.  BAN's letter supports my contention 100%.   I never said BAN meant ill, I just said they are attacking CRT glass, which under the CRT Glass test is only produced by recyclers who are doing the RIGHT thing and removing bad glass.  The outcome of their letter is more mining for Samsung and higher costs for those of us removing TAR.

The Toxics Alert piece names me personally and refers to my personal motives.  I am only human, and whether or not my motives are pure, I get mad when people say things like this about me, and I tend to say things back.  BAN evidently no longer believes my motives to be environmental, but that in traveling overseas to set up a refurbishing factory with ISO9000, ISO14001, R2 audits, end market tracking, a legal permit to operate, and which donates a percentage of their refurbished computers to Malaysian and Indonesian schools, that I am "self serving".   Gee, perhaps NPR got it all wrong when the covered the Las Chicas Bravas recycling project, and our goal is not to empower the export market with legally enforceable agreements and rights to charge for higher standards, but really it is about a cover up, and our goal is to enslave.  I suppose a doctor who cures patients is self serving, and I shouldn't dismiss this outright.  But it would be a lot cheaper, wouldn't it, to just sell the stuff and mix in the bad stuff? That is the cross-fire we find ourselves in, between competitors who don't give a rats ass about CRT glass markets because they don't remove the bad units, and E-Stewards who all seem to have drunk the "tested working" kool-aid that BAN floated at R2 but which was shot down.  BAN argued against export for repair, then left to start their own E-Stewards Certification o'er the definition of "key functions".   If it's actually acceptable for E-Stewards to do the same as R2, and to export to factories like WR3A's partners, which are both legal and safe, then why is E-Stewards necessary?

I wish my response to BAN's response could be less defensive, and perhaps we should stick to the discussion of Annex IX B1110 (about CRTs), and spent less time impugning one another.   Jim and Sarah may be overwhelmed, they are smart people, but they treated my opinion piece like it was a cartoon of Allah, and have published a response which clearly seeks to harm my business and my staff and my business partners.   If the Basel Convention is in fact to become a law, as I hope it will, it must leave open the conditional doors to refurbishment, as it does.  More importantly, it must be a legal document for regulators to interpret and enforce, and not subject to the fatwahs of self-appointed ayatollahs who threaten the dreams of Mexican grandmothers in one sentence, while saying that export for repair is legal in another sentence (and that we had mischaracterized the term "tested working").

If I have been doing this for years, I can only imagine how confused their supporters like HessTech and WeRecycle and other E-Stewards must be.


Anonymous said...

Dear Robin,

I am really going to have to give up on you at long last because I don't understand you. After sending me late last year your messages strongly indicating you finally intended to become an e-Steward, and then days later shocking me by publishing the slam piece in e-Scrap. After sending me an apology for that article you now suddenly take up the cudgel again and publish even more false allegations. I never told you I ever wanted to sue you. I never told you I would "impugn" you to investors. In fact I did the opposite. It is very sad but this dialogue just gets more and more like an episode of the twilight zone and it does not serve to educate anybody. So I am signing off. If you don't like the Basel Convention or its positions, take it up with the countries that agreed them. Meanwhile for any readers that wish to understand the Basel Convention position (the will of 172 countries) on export, why it was taken, and why BAN supports it with all our hearts and minds, please call us and Sarah or I will explain.

Signing off,

Jim Puckett
Executive Director
Basel Action Network

Robin said...

"The Toxics Alert piece names me personally and refers to my personal motives. I am only human, and wheter or not my motives are pure, I get mad when people say things like this about me, and I tend to say things back."

We wrote in December to ask if moving the permitted operation to Mexico, an OECD country, would make us eligible to become an "e-steward". We did not say that we were considering it because we agreed that where we have been doing it now is illegal. It was/is legal. But if by moving it the process becomes moot, then why not support us in trying to move it? The difference in interpretation of Basel Convention Annex IX should be an intellectual discussion, and while we may disagree strongly on its implementation in a non-OECD country (which in this place is wealthier than the OECD country we are moving to), that should not mean that you should "sign off" on the discussion to move the operation to Mexico. If Mexico Retroworks can be legal and eligible as an E-Steward, then it is whether you like me personally or not.

This piece is a RESPONSE to a post which names me personally, and my company. I clearly linked to that post, and the enumerations are clearly a point by point response. You seem to express surprise, yet you are doing the exact same thing. If the attacks on me are reprinted, I will continue to respond to them as best I can. If you want to change the subject to Mexico, we can stop talking about past shipments.