"E-waste" Quiz: Is it legal?

Here is a quiz about what's legal in the used and second-hand electronics export business.

The largest factory pictured below produced 5,000 brand new monitors per day in 1998, as a subcontractor to big name OEMs.  In 2006, it continued to produce 5,000 monitors per day, having switched to using refurbished CRT monitor tubes from surplus repairable and working CRTs.

  1. Was it legal for the factory to import brand new CRTs and assemble them in Indonesia in 1998?
  2. Is it legal for the factory to recycle (glass to glass) breakage from that assembly line (est. at 2% per day x 5000 = 100 CRTs per day)
  3. Is it legal for the factory to take back and refurbish CRTs sent back under warranty for diagnosis, repair or recycling from the USA
  4. Is it legal for the factory to take back and refurbish CRTs it did not originally assemble, on behalf of the same OEMs it subcontracted assembly for, under the OEM's warranty?
  5. Is it legal for the factory to take back and repair CRT monitors whose warranty has expired for repair and refurbishment from within Indonesia?
  6. Is it legal for the factory to recycle the monitors sent back for warranty repairs which were not repairable?
  7. Is it legal for the factory to unilaterally extend its limited warranty to "lifetime takeback"?
  8. Is it legal for the factory to accept monitors for repair and refurbishment which it did not manufacture, but which are newer and better than the ones they did manufacture?
  9. Is it legal for the factory to take back monitors from within Indonesia and repair or recycle them?
  10. Is it legal for the factory to take back monitors from within Indonesia and set them on fire and dump the material in a landfill?
  11. Is it legal for the factory to take monitors from the USA and set them on fire and dump the material?

Under international law, only #11 is illegal.  Never practiced by this company, completely a myth that it's a significant number of exports, almost no monitors go to Guiyu ...  but we do concede that while it never happens at this place, that if it did happen, that it would be illegal.  But why was the factory above wrongly accused of being a primitive wire burning operation in a BAN / NRDC press release in the first place?  I continue to ask BAN and NRDC to withdraw the tone-deaf and insulting depiction of this end market.   We may differ which of the above are legal, but we can do it in a civilized manner which does not "willie horton" the contract manufacturing sector that brings sustainable wealth and development and affordable computers to countries which cannot otherwise afford them.

BAN led 60 Minutes to Guiyu and said the monitors go there.  The monitors never go there.  It is a lie and I'm going to keep writing about it and someday history will tell a completely different story than the one circulating.

Why do I keep harping on this?  Go back and take the quiz again, then read SB20 (California law).  R2 (Responsible Recycler) Standards leave the door open for factories like these to invest in better and better repair and refurbishing operations, and cleaner technologies, growing capacity not just for CRTs from America, but capacity for the junk electronics which is actually generated within these rapidly developing countries.  They can become R2 Certified. The E-Stewards standard pretends these factories don't exist, and if they don't exist, then BAN can solicit money from people who refuse to sell to them.  Both R2 and BAN E-Stewards cost a lot of money, but the main difference is how much of the money goes into the pockets of the people who insult the best and brightest people in the developing world.  With R2, more of your money can go to growing sustainable operations that solve the problem, instead of into propaganda films that ignore these talented people.

When I give a presentation at Cornell University to several hundred grad students, 20 young people from a half dozen countries line up to shake my hand.  Brown faces, brown eyes, black hair...
"Thank you Mr. Ingenthron.  We are so tired of seeing depictions of primitive operations from our country.  My (cousin / sister / dad / friend ) works in one of those factories.  Thank you for telling the truth about my home country."
And then they give me their names and ask me to come to their countries and set up Las Chicas Bravas operations in the "informal sectors" and clean the places up.

How articulate.  It's a storybook, man.

What would you do?  I think if you are reading this far, whatever your position, it's because you'd do the same as me.  I love smart good people no matter what their country, and geeks and techies in Egypt and Senegal and Peru and Malaysia and India are the same as enviros in those countries, they speak the same language and the brilliant skill and intelligence screams from their fingers and faces like a supernova of truth.  The world is hot, flat, and crowded, but there are smart techies sprinkled all over the place, like stars in the night.  Mariano Huchim Campos of Mexico, Souleymane Sao or Senegal, Hamdy Moussa of Egypt, Ow Young Su Fung of Malaysia, Jinexx Mindeval of Peru... They could be immigrants in New York City who fix your cell phone when you drop it.  But they are home, working in their own countries, bringing sustainable environmental jobs to the front line.

Atlas isn't shrugging, he's wincing.

BAN and NRDC, I beg you to stop insulting foreign repair factories.  We can disagree on Basel Convention Annex IX without racist and bigoted descriptions of the technicians.  I eat, sleep, live and work with these people, and it breaks my heart to see how many Americans think they work like orangutans in the forest.   They made the monitor on your desk, for heaven's sake.  Please, take the time to say something nice about some of the people who are being arrested and shut down for importing things they can fix and sell or donate to feed their children.  R2 is better because it sees people for what they can do, not for what they cannot do.  If your paid Certification requires you to denigrate good people, look in the mirror and ask yourselves, is the money worth it?  Is the money from the shredding companies (you know, I know) really worth it?   Are you selling Mariano down the river for coin?

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