Plot Thickens: Alleged Indonesia CRT "dumping"

Last week WR3A was invited by two separate companies to visit a factory in Indonesia, described as an infernal polluter by press releases by environmental organizations BAN, NRDC, and Electronics Takeback Coalition.  It is kind of surreal that my small Vermont organization is called on to vet operations halfway around the world.  We are insufficiently funded to do this kind of work, and we don't have a lot of authority.  But the patterns of McCarthyist "export" accusations make me want to go.

Doing additional research, I found more press today, this time from Takeback Coalition, about the alleged dumping of sea containers by CRTR of Brockton, MA. [Here is a the original location of the detailed press release ]which describes that "BAN volunteers" staked out the Brockton location, called in the containers, and then alleges that the Indonesian government opened the containers, confirmed BAN's allegations that they contained "hazardous waste", and returned the containers.  [This was deleted, here is a link to a publication which picked up the press release in its entirety.  I also have scanned PDF copy if they cover this up as well].

I know (as I have shown in previous posts) that there is more than one very legitimate remanufacturing operation in Indonesia;  the largest one in our photo tours was in Jakarta.   I do not know nor claim to know what the Brockton company put inside the containers.  EPA and USA Homeland Security inspected them on their arrival back in the USA, I look forward to hearing what they found.

Here is film of a factory we toured in Indonesia (different from the one we have been invited to).
From Big Secret Monitor Factories - Legitimate Reuse vs. "E-waste"

Meanwhile, I have been personally contacted and invited to visit the specific factory, the one I can confirm purchased the CRTs from Advanced Global Techology.   We can invite people who would be able to verify the factory's claims that they are legitimate, permitted, legal, and practicing proper recycling.   I don't know any of those things yet, but I am sure that if given the proper incentives that the refurbishing factories CAN and WILL manage operations in an environmentally sound way.

When I was invited to visit similar factories in China five years ago, including one which ACTUALLY bought the Hong Kong monitors circled by 60 Minutes (who claimed to "follow the trail" to Guiyu), I found that the glass was more than half full.   I brought an E-steward with me, and a native Chinese speaker and recycling director from UC Davis.  We saw screened monitors, like those in the photo on the left, not mixed damaged CRTs like the ones in the photo to the right.
The ones on the right would be what you would see in a "toxics along for the ride" situation.  The ones on the left, if they come from a recycler who can pass the CRT Glass Test (which BAN also uses), would be completely legitimate.  There may be other types of CRT repair and refurbishing operations I don't know about.  I heard there are TVs in the Indonesia load, but I also hear that the Indonesian buyer is a TV refurbisher and that they asked for the TVs.

So I don't know what I will see.  But I have been invited now by both the broker and the factory.  That by itself will put me far ahead of BAN and Takeback and NRDC, who have not been to a contract manufacturing factory, and who clearly in their press releases describe horrific backyard burning operations.  I would like to bring the CEO and VP of our own Malaysia partner along, to help advise me if the Indonesian factory is "cutting corners", and to assure them that we approach "fair trade" as a two-way street.

If it is true what CRTR and Advanced Recycling Technologies allege, which is that BAN notified the Indonesian government that the containers "in fact" contained hazardous waste, and that the Indonesian government returned the containers without opening them or inspecting them, then E-Waste Advocates, who previously had the high ground, will have created a blunder similar to the "global warming" email controversy.

We cannot afford false accusations, environmentalists cannot afford self-inflicted wounds, but I cannot afford to be defending "seventy percenters" (if the mix is 30% bad and results in accumulation of waste in a country that cannot afford to take care of it).  I am satisfied, having corresponded with Natural Resources Defense Council, that NRDC means well but offered their own quote in BAN's press release about the Indonesia controversy with absolutely no knowledge of whether this was an "informal burning" operation, or an actual example of the very "Manufacturer Takeback" programs which are held as the solution.

We should all look forward WR3A's trip to Indonesia.  I hope to invite representatives of the United Nations, Basel Secretariat, EPA, and other researchers with me.  This will not be a tour of a WR3A vetted manufacturer takeback program, but it will be a tour of a factory which fits the description of the factories WR3A began to partner with some years ago.  

(Today's literary reference... what will we see in Indonesia?  The Lady  (link to BAN woman) or the (Asian) Tiger?  WOOT!  "The Lady or the Tiger"?)

Postscript 12/10/2010:   The BAN, ETBC and Boston Globe have all gone back and deleted or "rewritten" the allegations against this company and the exporter of record.  The exporter of record was the same company which was uncovered in the Sacramento Bee "Finds Guys" press release.

Here is a link to the Boston Globe editorial written after the press release, which states  "Environmentalists say what usually happens is that spent electronics goods are thrown into dumps where poor scavengers risk open-air burning and acid baths to procure gold, silver, and copper. This primitive process, which is exploding in Asia and Africa, poisons the surrounding air and water."

So if they stated it, and then withdrew it by deleting the press release, should the Boston Globe place a retraction?  This is CBS 60 Minutes all over again.     

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