Accountability for E-Waste Exports in Vermont

In the accountability department, Good Point Recycling's goal is to exceed published records from any other company in the United States.   We may make a mistake, but we will not make a mistake that we covered up.   Truth is light.  During the past 10 years, our disclosure policy has been unique in the industry, providing film tours of export markets, documentation of domestic processes, and we hold ourselves to the same simple rules (CRT Glass Test, PCB Test, Employee per ton test, Sea Container per year Test) that R2 Demands.  We are eager to see the results of competing audits.  Hopefully, as information is finally published, we can improve our processes and test our philosophy against competitors with actual data.

Good Point Recycling domestically recycled 78% of the material we received, exporting resulting raw materials.  Most of our exports are plastic, steel, copper, aluminum.  We domestically disassemble and recycle most PCs, and deliver printed circuit boards to Colt Refining, which processes them for sale to European smelters.

Our "reject" CRTs account for over 50% of that tonnage, and we recycle those primarily through domestic recyclers - most often to a BAN Approved CRT recycler, and ALWAYS to a recycler who is under a binding state contract (so we can call the Attorney General's office if they are not lying, not BAN's office in Seattle. Jail is a pretty good enforcement strategy).  We do have a small pilot program with Retroworks de Mexico - we invited NPR Living On Earth and Arizona PBS to come and film the project.

Because of changes in TV generation, and a lower potential export market for reuse TVs as compared to monitors (about 5%, through operations like Retroworks de Mexico), this percentage is growing.  Competition (especially from Goodwill and Dell programs) for higher value computer equipment from operations that don't accept TVs is also a growing factor in our declining reuse rate.  We are buying monitors from other recyclers to meet our obligations for our reuse purchase orders.

For computer monitors, we have offered, but not been welcome to sign the BAN Pledge because we sell intact monitors for refurbishing to a manufacturer takeback program.   That factory takes back monitors, as they did under warranty, and either repairs them for direct resale or refurbishes them into new monitors.  We say that is legal under Basel Convention Annex IX, BAN says it isn't.  EPA, ISRI, and our country of import agree with us.  BAN's position that "repair and refurbishing" (in the clause where it is specifically allowed) actually means "fully functional" is a bizarre stand that creates shortages and unintended consequences.

Rather than just quarrel whether we export poisons, here are the facts.

In two years I have exported 135,821 computer monitors, about 22% of what we could have exported. Zero contained cadmium phosphors, according to the MSDS sheets we have (no SVGA monitors less than 20 years old contain cadmium, and we exported NO televisions to this factory).

The total for direct reuse was 19,572.  The total for refurbishing was 91,449.

The total that were recycled outside the USA, for glass-to-glass recycling a new CRT manufactturing plant was 4% of our tonnage.  Since it is done properly, without poisoning anyone, to a factory with a legal import permit, which has ISO9000 and ISO14001, we think this 4% is worth the 135k in reuse that we achieved.

So we recycled 78% of our tonnage in America, and allowed 4% (reject, incidental breakage, etc.) to be recycled in a process which we audited, peformed by an original equipment manufacturing plant.  That's a total recycling rate of 82%, a final reuse rate of 18%.  Not exactly a reckless claim.

135,821 people got access to a computer display unit they could afford.

The 4% of bad units we paid a fair rate for recycling and audited the end markets.  

The company which we paid to properly recycle the incidental breakage, mistakes, and surplus (many working monitors were electively recycled just because of change in demand for that size of unit) donated many to schools in Malaysia and Indonesia.  Perhaps more importantly, the company now takes back bad CRTs from the schools and from other generators in the importing country.  The buyer also admitted that they recycled some units because the recycling fee we offered was higher than the resale value - so our fair trade program had the unintended consequence of less reuse in certain cases.  We document that and learn from it and adjusted the recycling rate we pay.  We have daily communication, skype, and film of our partner overseas.

Even if some 2009 units were electively recycled, by providing proper incentives to the refurbisher to recycle accidental breakage, we created capacity for proper recycling inside their country.

The amount of material being generated inside their country is more than they import.

We created additional jobs in a CRT reuse and inspection program in Vermont (compared to if we had just shredded the monitors in a no intact unit export policy).

We believe that if we had destroyed those 135,821 monitors, they would have been replaced by someone else's monitors, probably by someone else who doesn't do our fair trade process, and more junk ones would have been exported, without the financial reimbursements and audits we do for the proper recycling.

We know that if we had destroyed those 135,821 monitors, we would have applied both the recycling cost and the lost revenue to our clients, and charged them 21 cents per pound rather than 16.5 cents per pound.

We do allow clients the choice to instruct us "no intact unit", in which case we charge the client 21 cents and document domestic recycling.  So our clients in Vermont and New England have the final say over their e-waste.

Most of our clients have seen the films we take of the refurbishers overseas, or have met them in person, and prefer the idea that their 5 year old monitor might provide affordable internet access to a medical student or engineer in a developing country.  Most of our clients like fair trade recycling exports.  They don't just like the lower cost - many would rather we reuse their item even if we charged the full fare.

If people want to make this illegal, I ask them to provide the same documentation so we can research this and make a proper accounting.  If they say it should be made illegal because they claim 75% of exports from the USA are toxic junk, and that 80% of all USA e-waste is exported, you heard it here first:  They have no numbers, denominator or numerator, to support either claim, and it is a black eye to the environmentalist community that these fictional, made up, b@#$*t numbers are repeatedly circulated in the mainstream press.  NOT A SINGLE PIECE OF DATA HAS BEEN PROVIDED.  The emperor of e-waste has no clothes.  This makes "Climate-gate" look like Nobel Prize candidate for transparency.

We asked BAN to compare our records to other Pledge Recyclers several times over the past few years.   We look forward to seeing BAN's first ever numbers when they release their first BAN Certified information this month.  I will put a link up to the information here, and compare Good Point Recycling and American Retroworks Inc. to BAN's propaganda about Asian electronics reuse factories.

In my next post, I will provide complete data on the contract manufacturing refurbishing market, sharing what I have learned about the true cause and effect, supply and demand behind used CRT exports from the United States.  My hope is that I will be corrected wherever I'm wrong in a transparent and scientific process.

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