Frontier Psychiatrist

Some of my posts, particularly first drafts, are coming across a bit enraged.  This boy needs therapy.

It was horrible to see good recycling and refurbishing companies in Indonesia being "clubbed to death".   It was as if two best friends were in trouble, since we had used the refurbished monitors from the Southeast Asia factories to save the company in Egypt, when working monitors were banned from import to Cairo.

Only a few reputable USA companies would sell to the factories in Indonesia, so they bought CRTs from anyone who would.  They put in a CRT glass recycling line to properly manage bad units.  They got ISO14001 and ISO9000.  These were not fully WR3A audited facilities, but mostly because WR3A did not have enough monitors for their purchase order.  Most of our E-Steward suppliers went to shredding, and we put everything we had towards the most audited, most reputable factory we had a PO for.  But the Indonesia factories were building the recycling infrastructure that Indonesia needs, as the developing world will produce double the "ewaste" produced by the developed world in the next 15 years.

The developing world is willing to do a lot to get online.  They are willing to risk junk mixed in with working items, they go to great lengths to repair things.   They are willing to disassemble everything by hand.  The average importer overseas is extremely well educated, technically able, and smarter than the people they are buying from in the USA.  If the condition for them to get the goods is that they must accept junk mixed in, the anti-export groups will reap what they sow.  If the conditions we set, through fair trade agreements, is to give them good things if they adapt good practices, they will do that, with thanks.

There is only one possible way to keep smart young techies in developing countries from getting the affordable display units they desperately want and need.  I don't believe E-Stewards will test, let alone repair, the computers and TVs that the developing world wants.  Instead, like a dog in the manger, we will do the only thing to keep these computers out of the technicians hands.  We will shred them.  That is what E-Stewards, and California SB20, are doing.  It's without spite or malice.  We will pat ourselves on the back.

Look at the pictures I've posted this week, of the technicians, factories, and friends who take 22% of what we collect, and avoid the rest.    Look at the factories that may close in Indonesia, look at the slide show (tomorrow) from Egypt.  Then read this description of what has been shut down and taken away, from the Associated Press in 2008:

Most Americans think they’re helping the earth when they recycle their old computers, televisions and cell phones. But chances are they’re contributing to a global trade in electronic trash that endangers workers and pollutes the environment overseas.

While there are no precise figures, activists estimate that 50 to 80 percent of the 300,000 to 400,000 tons of electronics collected for recycling in the U.S. each year ends up overseas. Workers in countries such as China, India and Nigeria then use hammers, gas burners and their bare hands to extract metals, glass and other recyclables, exposing themselves and the environment to a cocktail of toxic chemicals. ...

"Reuse is the new excuse. It’s the new passport to export," said Puckett of Basel Action Network. "Other countries are facing this glut of exported used equipment under the pretext that it’s all going to be reused." 

Call Arkham. 

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