Basel Action Network vs Asian Tech #4

The quote below the video is typical of sharp criticism directed by BAN towards the United Nations, EPA, the Scrap Recycling Industries, and hard working techs in the developing world etc. 

"It is being recycled, but it’s being recycled in the most horrific way you can imagine," said Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network, the Seattle-based environmental group that tipped off Hong Kong authorities. "We’re preserving our own environment, but contaminating the rest of the world." 
Associated Press, January 2008.

Fellow returned Peace Corps Volunteers...  I am in a weird conservative position that seems at odds, superficially, with my history as a progressive advocate of environmental protection.  

If the items are, as BAN E-Stewards requires, all "tested working", then the vision is for USA companies to distribute the working refurbished computers directly to the end users in the developing world.  This bypasses the capable contract manufacturing factories already in many (but not all) of these developing countries, and makes the computers less affordable and the jobs in factories like the one in the video superfluous.  The message to the schools and end users is that your computer comes from a benevolent white man in a helicopter, who cannot support it if it breaks down and cannot recycle it when it eventually teeters into "e-waste".  

Worse, most of the "certified" capacity in the E-Stewards program is shredding up equipment that is never even tested. 

Our partnership with factories like the one pictured guarantees 85% reuse, provides much higher volumes more affordably, and uses the 15% (removed parts, incidental breakage, and other electronic scrap common even in "tested working" shipments) to create a recycling infrastructure there in the developing country.

Shutting these factories down is the worst use of environmental time,  money and energy I have ever seen.   There are indeed genuinely "horrific" e-scrap recycling operations BAN could be going after.  By going after the contract manufacturing sector, they will get support from planned obsolescence interests, and wind up with a legacy of "unintended consequences".  "The perfect is the enemy of the good" is a mistake BAN is by no means the first to make, and when you find yourselves attacking EPA and United Nations and recycling companies, you better not leverage racist imagery or exaggerate your case.

At times BAN has given, offline, other reasons to oppose operations like the one filmed above, like the "reuse excuse" ("This operation looks good, but we worry it will be used as an alibi of bad operations").   Or "this operation is good, but we think shady operations will under-bid it for work".   Or "this operation is good, but we think the recycling of upgraded parts and incidental breakage sets a bad precedent."   I've heard all of those things, but in private.  Whenever BAN's description of the operations is to government or press, it's always "horrific".   I just don't trust them until they say something publicly which acknowledges that some reuse and repair operations are NOT horrific.  I just don't trust them until I see that in print.  Would I work with them again?  Absolutely, I tried reaching out to them last spring.  But I think they just want to quiet me while they line up recyclers to pay them money for E-Stewards.   

Money.  It seems like it's not about the Indonesia factory's operations or pollution at all.  It's all about money.

"What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground?  How could you run, when you know"?
Swedish "indigo girls" band, Dala, plays tribute to Neil Young.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's a sin to kill a mockingbird.