To Our Recycling Friends In Egypt

Although the business we had together has been taken away by a stupid Basel-Influenced policy (actually Ban Amendment, the Basel Convention allows import for repair), which declared  repair to be waste, we are still close with our friends in Egypt.  As I watch the news of protests in the street there, I feel a mix of emotions... happiness, fear, sadness, worry, hope, and tremendous pride.

The CRT monitor repair shop I toured there was not shiny.   It was not particularly well lit.   But it created jobs for 22 young Egyptians under the age of 30, who tested and repaired and refurbished computers for sale in the technology malls.   Some of their computers they sold were to hospitals and medical students.  Some, no doubt, are in use posting news on Twitter and Facebook.

The techs in these photos taught me a lot about computer repair SLIDE SHOW  On the visit with my family, I brought two non-working laptops, which my own techs said had bad capacitors.  I sat with my colleague in his shop as he sent the laptops to the backroom.  An hour later, the tech returned with both laptops repaired;  one I used on the trip, and I gave the other to my host.  I was not Henry Higgins, I was Eliza Dolittle.

Egypt is one of the largest 3B3K markets (part of the 3 billion people who earn about $3,000 per year).  It has tremendous capacity to become a nation of tinkerers, like Japan, and to become the strongest and most developed democracy in Africa.  I experienced a lot of laughter in Cairo.

We switched to selling our partners computers refurbished to new-in-box condition from a factory in Malaysia.  Now Malaysia is beginning to implement the same import policy as Egypt.

I hate people who export junk there, who rip off my friends.  But I also hate the depictions of them as primitives by the once well-meaning group of "e-waste" watchdogs.   People in Seattle are making hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and sending none of it to the developing world.   They take used product away, and they don't replace it with anything but crunching noises.   They circulate ten year old photos of children posed on piles of scrap, and applaud boycotts like the ones on used product in Egypt, which many of us suspected was just a ruse by authoritarians to keep young Egyptians off the internet and in the dark.

I am grateful for the friends I have made during the past decade as an "exporter".  We did not export junk, and we domestically recycled 78% of the product (obsolete, out of demand, or with "unobtanium" replacement parts that no one can find) which the export markets could not reuse.  I supported BAN ten years ago because I too was angry at sham recyclers, who left "e-waste" in the loads, because those people were cheating my friends.  At Good Point Recycling, we monitored what could not be repaired and responded to that in our quality control, and we paid for proper recycling of the leftover. We warranty the product, and took back 4 containerloads of CRTs back OUT of Egypt during the years we exported there.

I miss our trade there.  Tearing computers apart into scrap metal is worth doing, it avoids mining, it is far better than disposal.  But what enriched my life and made this career interesting was the partnerships over the 22% of the reuse equipment, which people are fighting so fiercely to take away, denigrate, raise questions about.  Lauren Roman says that BAN has had a tremendous effect.  Yes, I will grant them that.   In Nasr City, where 2/3 of men under the age of 30 have no job, our technicians are waiting to "leapfrog".

Our non-sustainable culture of throw-aways, obsolete-and-replace technology, and raw material consumption - THAT is America's most toxic export.  Why more people in my business do not stand up and say "touche pas mon pote" is disappointing to me.  I hope that new governements in Egypt and Tunisia will follow the example of Pakistan, and turn back to free and fair trade of used computers.

Favorite 'tweet' about #egypt this morning...

Everything ██is█████ ████ ████fine ███ █ ████ love. ████ █████ the ███ Egypt ███ ████ government ██  

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