I have been reading background documents at Basel.int, the website of the Basel Convention Secretariat. I found a paper published by a consultant in a rapidly developing, high tech "Asian Tiger" country, which had some definitions for e-waste in the section on imports.
One of the legal thresholds in all environmental enforcement is trying to decide when something is a waste, and when it is a commodity. If you need one computer, and I send two half computers (which you make into one), is that a waste transaction? If I send two fully working computers, but you only asked for and needed one, which of the two is a waste?
This consulting paper proposed that any imported
computer which is more
than three years older than the manufactured
on date is a waste.
Think about that. Most of us use a computer for at LEAST two years. We may actually have bought it 6 months after the "manufactured on" date. If you spend a little time before taking it to the recycling center, another few months can go by. The recycling center might go a month between collections. Next, the recycler has to wipe the drive, check it out, to make sure it's good. Then the recycler needs time to assemble a full containerload. It takes several weeks to get the sea container over the ocean and into the port.
This definition creates a de facto world with NO SECONDARY MARKET.
Think about that. Who benefits from used cars, used clothes, repair shops... who buys in the secondary market?
Who is this new standard purporting to help?
I see a lot of young people with a fervent desire to save the rainforests, enlist in the green army, preserve the environment. I am still at one with that mission. But there is no excuse for friendly fire in this war to save the planet. Aim your guns at mining, aim your guns at bushmeat, aim your guns at whale hunters. This war on the used and secondary market is against the solid waste hierarchy, against the poor, and when we look back on this decade, the people who lied and said that 3 year old computer exports are ewaste are going to be just as guilty as the "Waste Makers" who plan obsolescence.
"Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?"
I risk becoming angry and polarizing myself from environmentalists. We really need some professors and grad students to come and lift the lid on this arrogant white man's burden war on the poor BS.