Letter to Jim Puckett about BAN's Opinion Piece

To Jim Puckett:

In your E-Scrap News commentary, Basel Action Network (BAN) had every opportunity to respond to the viability of WR3A's Asian CRT manufacturer-takeback programs, and to defend BAN's recommended ewaste certification process over the R2 process.  You do not have a right to state that the factories we work with are "poisoning people".

Some say I am to blame for informing you about these factories in 2002, some say I'm a fool to expose our company to an ego contest with BAN.  But I work very closely with these factories, and many of them are run by very good people, people you have done business with before, when you purchased electronics assembled by Foxconn, Acer, Proview, BenQ.  Most Americans are not familiar with those company names.  Those companies make most Apple, HP, Sony, and Dell products in a process called "contract manufacturing", which I have written about.  When Proview rolled up with CTX and Mag in 2000, a decade of reuse and refurbishing through contract manufacturing opened up, and a lot of people participated in that market, for better or for worse.  WR3A is championing the better.

Because WR3A recognizes that these are NOT "informal, backyard burning" operations, as BAN has repeatedly characterized them, we see an opportunity to engage with them in a "far trade" process, which would avoid the concerns you raise about passing the buck on pollution.  Over the years I have been in contact with you about incentives and accountability measures WR3A employs to ensure that the reuse value these factories achieve is not done at the cost the environment.

In fact, because MOST of the environmental cost embodied in a product comes from mining and manufacturing, not from use, WR3A achieves MORE environmental savings than programs, such as SB20 in California, which break CRT tubes for remelting (avoiding mining but losing carbon in the remelting process).

You have made the case regarding your agenda with the Basel Convention that we should join you to employ a consistent legal definition over "transit" of the monitors.   I assured you of proper recycling of all removed parts, and that I had that process audited.  Your response was that even if there is no pollution, that "technically" it had been "disposed of" through "transit".  Fair enough, but that is not the argument you presented in the E-Scrap News Opinion piece.

Instead you said that our definition of "fair trade" does not account for disposed pieces, and that we are poisoning people even if we do what we say we are doing.  You can doubt us doing what we say, or you can make the legalese case for consistency under your various Basle opinions, but I cannot let you pass saying that our process, properly conducted, produces more poison than your process.  

Our R2 refurbishing process produces less poison and less carbon than your processes.  

It also produces better jobs at better rates of pay, both in the USA and overseas.  Reuse value trumps shredding.
You can express DOUBT that we are really properly managing the CRTs and by-product, just as some people speculate about actual activities at non-certified "Pledge" companies.  Don't state the doubt as fact.  You can state you don't believe that we remove 100% of cadmium phosphor units (we have the model information and MSDS on units we do ship - cadmium phosphors were eliminated in the 1970s), you can demand proof that we don't export monitors more than 10 years old.  But in our past discussions, I clearly described to you that WR3A was fully accountable and traced everything to its end market, and you clearly stated that even IF it was true we did not pollute, and even if it IS true that we achieve a net savings to the environment, that you would still consider it a violation of international law because the USA is a non-party.

BAN's agenda is to get the USA to ratify the Basel Convention.  If good people doing good things get in your way, you are willing to call them bad people and to accuse them of doing bad things.  I understand that to be consistent with BAN's other legal stances that you do not feel you can let go of the precedent that "transit" is "disposal"... but that's not what you said.

You said we are poisoning people.

If you actually believe the process is poisoning people, why did you applaud our proposal to do it with Las Chicas Bravas in Mexico?  You stated that you'd accept it there, because Mexico was OECD (even if the area of Sonora is in much more dire poverty than Penang Malaysia).

When we have an opportunity to present our accounting, our audits, and our processes, our clients and others understand that we are not dumping waste in Guiyu, and that the reuse market has a legitimate role to play as the world demand for technology grows. Our logic carried the day at the EPA comment periods, the R2 stakeholder votes, and at ISRI.  I understand you are frustrated at our success.

I have tried to get you on board with manufacturer takeback programs at the contract manufacturers for almost a decade.   I have made my case that if your E-Stewards implement "no intact unit" export policies, that it is a war on drugs approach with unintended consequences.   You have at times in anger accused me of being a greedy businessman who is self serving and motivated by profits.  But if you do not state for the record that our process, if rightly verified, does not poison people, I will now begin to release your past correspondence which did say that (and made the case for legalese diplomacy).

BAN has been fully informed that we are not poisoning anyone.  But you are evidently willing to sacrifice the reuse market if it brings you closer to your goal of ratifying a treaty which, according to your own press, most nations do not bother to enforce.  We are working with real people who really want to get online, and cannot afford a new computer.  The same manufacturing facilities which made YOUR computer can refurbish your computer for resale in that market.  Catepillar does this, Cummins Engine does this, Video Display Corp does this.

If you are going to accuse us of poisoning people, we will be forced to demonstrate what you knew and when you knew it.  You are crossing the line from a legal debate into fraud.  It is impacting good people of many races in many countries.  I would urge you to recognize that you cannot hide behind the myth of primitive village conditions at WR3A re-manufacturing plants.  Both the economy and the protection of the environment are on our side.

Robin Ingenthron

PS:  Everyone else agrees with our interpretation of Basel Convention Annex IX B1110. 

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