Three Good Ideas for "Solving E-Waste Problems"

One of the downsides to battling well-intentioned bad ideas (the export prohibition legislation) and to pushing back on holy men like BAN's Jim Puckett is that making the NGO's idea controversial also taints with controversy the better ideas which you need the NGO's support on.  

Unfortunately, it has now been a decade since I began promoting the three good ideas below.  After 10 years, no one shows interest.  I get an occasional glimpse of "oh yeah, I remember that" from some state and federal officials.  Now that I am going ninja on Basel Action Network (in response to their deliberate attacks on good foreign operations), I would like to find another NGO to replace me as the chief advocate for three ideas BAN gives lip service to but which need to be raised.

These 3 Great E-waste Ideas babies are floating down the Nile...  (psst!  Miriam!  Wake up!)

1)  SPARE TIRE OS LICENSE.    Instead of making MAR refurbishers pay $5 for a MAR license, get the original buyer of the product to buy a second "spare tire" license.  See page 8 of this 2000 EPA JTR Report on the recycling infrastructure in MA, search "spare tire".  Fabulous idea.

EPEAT could do this.  When a state or federal or corporate buyer orders $20M in new PCs, they can ask for a second MS license to be affixed to the side of the computer (like the OEM licenses of old).   When their PCs are decommissioned, the IT people could take the PC online and enter in a password and a remote wiping code, reinstalling the new Microsoft Windows or other license.  Now any used PC would have a legal license.

The economics are win-win-win.  The cost of an OEM license relative to the cost of the new PC is maybe $10 to $400, or 2.5% of the purchase.  By comparison, the cost of a $5 MAR license is to a $50 used PC is 10%.  The OEM version does not really compete with re-installations and bootlegs that the MAR refurbishers do.   Finally, the OEMs who negotiate a Microsoft OS license down to $10 would be in a position to pay even less for the second license - maybe $11 for two licenses per machine.  Microsoft wins because it gets paid for the "MAR" license up front (3-4 years cash flow) and is collecting an extra dollar on some machines that will never even get refurbished.

2) MINING CLEANUP = RECYCLING CREDITS.   The General Mining Act of 1872, which leases for $5 per acre federal lands for mining (and polluting - those mines become Superfund sites, a doubling taxpayer jeopardy on each "land lease").   

The cleanup of the mining sites ($1.5B settlement with ASARCO, e.g.) is going to be money down a rathole, they are not going to be able to clean up those sites by sending Haliburton men in moon suits with mops.   Instead the money should go for alternative mining - mining of urban ore - ewaste recycling programs in the communities which suffered the pollution.   An even better idea is to reform the General Mining Act of 1872 - legislation has already passed the House of Representatives - and increase the royalties on metals from 0% to something percent and have part of that money go to e-waste recycling.   There is probably a danger that this money will be used like SB20 money to destroy reuse (obsolescence in hindsight) but if there is a competitive bidding we may be able to control that.

3)  RECYCLED CONTENT GOLD.  I already orphaned this idea in June 2009 by dropping my patent application.  When I dropped the patent app, it did not take long for someone to promote the idea with these Olympic medals.  The problem is minimum content has not been defined well enough.  If we set up a program to restrict the claims to significant percentages of recycled gold, recyclers will benefit more and that money will go to getting more e-waste out of the waste stream.

These are the best ideas being discussed in E-Waste right now, if I do say so myself.   I declare them orphans.  I have two other fabulous ideas which I intend to become a millionaire with.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In regards to the "spare tire" operating system license, this is a great idea but it is no longer necessary. Today every computer comes with a free secondary license... Linux. There are versions or "distributions" specifically developed to run on older and limited-resource computers. Linux repositories offer in excess of 10,000 applications, also free. The non-profit Free Geek has refurbished thousands of mature computers using Linux with great success. Bottom line -- lack of an operating system, drivers, or applications is no longer a barrier to refurbishing older computers... the software part of the problem is solved.