I'm in the south of France, reading Takedown about the undercover investigation by Rick Cowan into the NY waste paper and trash mafia in the 1990s. I had close friends working under people whose photos are in the book. There are also some last names in the book which are active in the ewaste business today.
Crime on a more personal front - I was travelling with family, boarding the metro subway in Barcelona, Spain. Short and sweet.
Family boards subway. Me, the father, naturally stands behind to make sure everyone is on the subway before boarding.
Nerdy Spanish student-looking guy with white shirt, normal cut hair (a bit of a rarity in Spain metros), and camera bags on his shoulders is standing obliviously, blocking the door and not moving into empty space behind him. He is staring at the space over the door as if checking the subway map (many of them are in this place by the door, but there was none it turns out on this door).
I'm trying to push by to get to my family, he seems oblivious, and people behind me are pushing as well. Someone there is probably working with him.
I bust through to the open space, rejoining my kids. But I stare at the guy an tell my wife there is something not quite normal about him. Then, he gets off at the very next stop. He is walking slowly but not deliberately. The subway door closes.
I immediately reach for my pocket as it dawns on me. It's empty. I had had the wallet there 20 minutes earlier. Damn.
Its my travel wallet, the one with no real credit cards. I travel with a special cash only wallet for this reason. I had not been successfully pick-pocketed since the subway in Singapore, when two Bangladeshy-looking guys were standing too close to my personal space to be justified by the crowd.
Anyway, I guess this post, and this trip, is about reading about crime and experiencing the same. But I would not say "don't travel to Barcelona". And NYC would never have said "stop recycling waste paper" because the Pontes and Gottis and Gambinos and Chin Gigantes and Squillantes and Lepkes were active in it.
The problem in e-waste is that a do-gooder group has demonstrated some bad activity, and we don't dispute it... though I think it's normal to question how prevalent the activity is. Unfortunately, the E-Stewards model (in the normal "no intact units" interpretation) is effectively creating a boycott. Would a boycott of recycling and garbage generation in NYC have worked any better than a labor garbage strike?
Fair trade between recyclers and recyclers makes more sense.
Takedown is a must read for recyclers, but probably less than engrossing for non-recyclers.