R2 Recycling Certification Vs. E-Stewards

Responding to an editorial/blog on R2 (Responsible Recycler) vs. E-Stewards (BAN.org) certification:

While BAN.org and their E-Stewards Pledge has the best of all intentions, they have committed the mistake of "perfect is the enemy of the good".  There are very good repair and refurbishing factories all over the world, and there are many types of repair and refurbishing that the USA has no capacity in, whatsoever.  Even BAN, in fact, has to accept CRT glass going to non-OECD CRT furnaces, because there are none left in OECD countries (and its a good thing BAN did close one eye on that recycling practice).

The buyers are not importing from the USA as a favor to the sham recyclers.  In fact, they don't like sham recyclers very much.   They are buying what they need to meet demand.   For example, no one is making a $10-20 video display for computers, but people in countries making $3000 per year are getting online at 10 times the rate of internet growth in the USA.  Supply and demand...  If E-Stewards refuse to sell or export monitors, they will get them from someone else - someone who doesn't bother to inspect them and who doesn't offer the buyers any compensation for dealing with the junk.  The ones who suffer are the end users in the developing nations who must accept an older or lower quality product, at an artificially high cost.

Just as Fair Trade Coffee realized that the "coffee boycott" hurt the farmers and that coffee cannot be grown domestically, R2 or Responsible Recyclers certification realizes that shredding things in the USA is by no means superior to repairing them in Indonesia, if the Indonesian factory is treated fairly, sent good material, and given environmental audits.  R2 will succeed because it sees people, including people of color, for what they can do, not just for what they cannot do or did not do in the past.

The USA e-waste recycling companies which are trying to meet BOTH standards usually harmonize them by abandoning computer monitor refurbishing in favor of shredding;  R2 does not insist on export for reuse, it only allows the option of certifying overseas reuse and repair operations.   Organizations like WR3A.org are exploring other ways to harmonize the standards, e.g. getting subsidized states like CA to test monitors prior to export to BAN standards.  Moving an Indonesia factory to Mexico (a poor OECD country) is another possibility.  But I for one will not tell an Asian engineer who invented, designed, and oversaw manufacture of a CRT monitor that he can never recycle it due to his ethnicity.  Doing so robs the developing country of a head start in establishing a recycling infrastructure for their own material, which is about to eclipse the generation of e-waste domestically.  And during our lonely pursuit of compromise, that is what is happening.

According to FINE:
Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair Trade Organizations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.[5]
Visit MIT.   Visit Cornell.  Visit Boston College.  Visit Universities of California...  BAN's image of Guiyu, China's ewaste is real, but it is real in the same sense that images of redneck hillbilly rednecks in Arkansas are real.  There are also Clintons, and Fulbrights, and Ingenthrons in Arkansas.

And a final benefit:  When used electronics, e-scrap, and e-waste are certified and traded transparently, Basel Action Network could then focus on the important aspects of the Basel Convention, like the prosecution of Trafigura in Europe, which moved a hazardous waste vessel to Ivory Coast to avoid cleanup fees in Holland - with disasterous results.   This is what the Basel Convention is about.  When BAN tries to use the Convention to interfere in trade of Annex IX (legal) materials, it sabotages its case for ratification of the Convention in the USA.  The abuse of international treaties to interfere in WTO affairs is the biggest excuse or reason NOT to ratify the treaty.  Invoking the treaty to ban the export of a device (Cathode Ray Tube) explicitly mentioned in the Treaty as legal for export or repair (!) is precisely the type of thing worries the USA when it comes to signing on.

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