The "E-Waste" word, Mis-legally Used

It's a terrible word.  I've been admonished for using it.  I should always use "quotations".  Some tell me I should pretend it's not there, as if people never search or research the term.

Here's a suggestion.  "E-waste is to electronics as Litter is to newspaper."   Litter is bad.  But banning newspaper is overkill.

Waste Management, Recycle America, & Asset Recovery Group
Some of us have tried definining "E-WASTE" to mean, specifically, the electronics which really did actually get thrown in a landfill.  "ewaste residue" is redundant.  You don't call a sick person a cadaver... and you shouldn't call something which will be recycled or repaired a "waste".  A bale of newspaper is not called "litter".  Banning used computers to people who cannot afford new ones is like the communists accusing newspaperboys of being litterbugs.

ISRI and others struggled with the words "waste paper" in the late 80's and early 90's, saying it left an opening for waste regulators to over-reguate commodities.  I agreed... but I also noted that the people who most re-used the "waste paper" words were the people in the scrap paper business.  Why?

Because the recycling companies liked customers to think their "waste paper" was less valuable.  If they called it "scrap paper", clients might ask what the "scrap price" was.

There is certainly some of the same thinking in my e-scrap trade.   People who charge for collection of used electronics more often use the term "e-waste".  People who cherry pick their clients, avoiding junk, then to call themselves "Asset Management".

The word "E-waste" is at best overused.  It channels myths, that most electronics go into landfills, or that most exported electronics are simply burned.

Society should beware placing more regulations on secondary material (lead, gold, copper) than upon the exact same chemical material mined from the ground. Refined copper concentrate, sold universally as a commodity, has much more impurity than a copper coil on a TV.

Regulating recyclables as waste has already cost China billions of dollars in economic friction, and may have played a role in the reopening of the OK Tedi copper mine in the forest of Papua New Guinea by Chinese investors.

If anything, recycling should be less regulated than mined ore.  There is an entire section of the Basel Convention, Annex IX, which recognizes that recycling lead is not discarding it.  If the Basel Advocates insist it covers non-disposal, but does not cover mining, they may think they are strengthening their Convention.  But they may be remembered as the Basel Convention's worst enemies.  They are setting it up for a backlash, a historical example of unintended consequences, mission creep, and over-kill, creating far more social and environmental injustice than it cured.

The irony is that the same economic forces which lead to "environmental injustice" (less regulation and more pollution in neighborhoods with lower property values) also benefit mining in rain forests.  But the only possible alternative to that mining - recycling - is under more regulator pressure because it is an economic recourse to poverty.  By defining recycling as waste, we have unleashed environmental justice enforcers onto secondary material and reuse markets.  EPA officials are failing lifecycle 101 if they think stopping poor people from recycling will lead to better outcomes.  It leads to mining, which occurs in even poorer areas, with even greater pollution as a result.  Reform is good.  A BAN is awful.

Robert K. Merton almost seems like an observer or social climates and weather patterns, rather than a logic philosopher.  It's as if we must make the same mistakes, over and over.

"You told me goodbye.  How was I to know... You didn't mean "goodbye".. You meant "please.. don't let me go!"  (Grateful Dead, High Time, originally posted here, I decided it was slowing the page load, but it's a great song.

No comments: