Basel Convention dialogue

In December, the industry periodical "E-Scrap News" of Portland, Oregon, reprinted a piece from our November Blog (originally titled, "We Shouldn't Have to Make that Choice").  The theme of my editorial was that BAN had not done enough to encourage reuse, and was standing by while "E-Stewards" went on thinking that the Basel Convention calls for "tested working" electronics (it does not) and that export for repair and refurbishment was banned between OECD and developing nations (it is not).

E-Scrap News printed a response editorial in January which summed up many of the objections Jim Puckett made to my original post (filtering them fairly, I'd think).   BAN correctly chided me for confusing E-Stewards, Pledge Signers, and E-Certification companies (though I am not the only one confused - and as it turns out, there are no certified companies at all to date).  In my opinion, BAN muddled other issues (is a letter to Malaysia EPA saying that CRT glass must be washed "assistance" in keeping the market open, or was it the shot that caused Samsung - which had washing equipment already in Malaysia - stop buying CRT glass?).

I hope that one part of BAN's response is read loud and clear.  They agree that "tested working" is not in the Basel Convention, and they deny setting a "tested working" standard.   They have corrected me, and said that tested working was never in the Convention, and said I was misrepresenting them.  This is good news.   I hope that E-Steward companies like Electronic Recyclers International, WeRecycle, HessTech, and other reputable companies which have refused to ship perfectly decent computers and monitors when their "tested working" programs are at capacity will take my original point - the perfect is the enemy of the good.  In each case those refusing to ship for repair and refurbishment have said that their BAN Pledge allows only tested working units to be exported.

The correct response to scumbag exporters who disguise "toxics along for the ride" as "export for repair" is simple.   Sell to the same buyer, the factory in Indonesia or Malaysia.  Sell better equipment than the exporter for less money.   Beat them at their own game.  The alternative, shredding up your own repairable equipment, despite the massive repair capacity, massive demand, and massive environmental benefits of these reuse and refurbishment companies, is cutting off your nose to spite your face.  The demand doesn't go away, it is just forced to buy lesser quality loads for more money.  And the cycle continues.

BAN has offered some olive branches along the way.  But I am forced to confront them that there continues to be massive confusion about the export for refurbishing market.  BAN's clarification that any parts or pieces which might be replaced must be removed BEFORE export for repair (something not in the Basel Convention) is a hornets nest for the tested working market - a lot of tested working equipment is also upgraded overseas, as is surplus (new in box but surplus and outdated) equipment. 

The MPPI, the Basel Secretariat group which tried to come up with rules for export for refurbishment for cell phones, does little to clarify the market for CRT monitors (a "ping" test for telephones has nothing to do with the specifications of what must be removed by WR3A purchase orders).

So as it stands, BAN has said the discussion with WR3A is over.  They have admitted that export for refurbishing CRTs is explicitly and directly stated to be a legal market in the text of the Basel Convention.  But they have left the water muddy and directed Pledge Signers to a document about cell phones. 

The attached photos, by the way?   When I was visiting new markets in Asia, I found a really nice repair and refurbishing shop in a modern shopping mall.  The owner had a dozen such shops, and was making deliveries to each one, where they repair and resell modern computers from a USA location, driving to each of his stores, and unloading a single sea container at each one.   The owner showed me the BOL.   It was from a Pledge Company.   BAN has asked me to disclose which member it is.  I see no reason to do that, the buyer was happy with the material, they were doing the repairs and refurbishment.  I do not object at all that this company exports.  What I object to is that I tried to sign the Pledge and disclosed this market and was refused entry as a Steward.  When I said other Pledge companies ship there, I was told that I still could not, but that they'd kick the other companies out if I told on them.  That's exactly the opposite of what Fair Trade is about.

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