Vermont Sting: Illegal "E-Waste" Robot Seizure

[APRIL FOOLS TRADITION Middlebury, Vermont 4/1/2011 ]  Vermont Environmental Police have broken up an illegal "e-waste" reuse operation, in a sting targeted at Middlebury's Good Point Recycling.

Police helicopters and SWAT teams brought excitement to the small town of Middlebury, Vermont.  Film of break-dancing "ewaste" devices shocked local leaders, who had no idea that dangerous reuse was taking place in their own community.

The focus of the sting was Manoi-Go, a stage 11 artificial intelligence robot crafted in northern Japan. Manoi-Go was surrounded by Green Mountain State e-waste police forces wearing hazardous waste "moon suits". Manoi-Go was pursued, moon-walking, into a corner of Good Point's ebay resale department.  Hours later, Manoi-Go would be toe-tagged and taped into a three-ply  box, slapped with a label "Danger, Contains E-Waste".

[Related story in slashdot.org: Speculative accumulation of a TV in Britain (since 1935)]

"Our Special Ewaste Victims Unit has been following this case for over a year," said an undercover officer.  "While painstakingly screening municipal Universal Waste Reports,  an alert staffer noticed E-Waste Robot on one of the manifests.  The time period between collection and resale makes this a crime of speculative accumulation, as Good Point took more than a year to shred the electronic device."

Interpol officers suspected an illegal e-waste export operation when an image of Manoi-Go was found in an ebay listing.  A bidder from Manoi-Go's home country of Japan won the auction, and ANR put a team in place to observe the export transaction.

Good Point Recycling CEO Robin Ingenthron was apprehended red-handed, with a UPS label made out to an address in Miyagi Prefecture in Northern Japan.  He was arraigned on multiple charges of reuse of an e-waste item not meeting the ANR definition of reuseable.

A spokesperson for Good Point maintained that Ingenthron had humanitarian - or device-atarian - motives for returning Manoi-Go to his home country.  But Agency officials suspect something more insidious - a Vermont underground railroad for reusable ewaste devices.

For possession of Manoi-Go, an "electronic device" without hazardous waste labels, Ingenthron will be charged with discard through purchase and sale, commodity impersonation, and violation of the Vermont Dredd Scott 2.0 decision.  Dredd Scott 2.0 maintains that once a product is defined as "e-waste" in Vermont, that it remains a dangerous hazardous waste material even when sold as a commodity elsewhere, i.e. anywhere original intended use may not be considered "hazardous waste treatment" (everywhere else in the world but Vermont).

Danger! Danger!
In a surprising development, Robot Manoi-Go petitioned to represent himself in environmental court.  However, ANR counsel informed the robot that, as presumed waste, he could not handle his own case without a universal hazardous waste handler permit.   Manoi-Go objected, insisting he was not a "waste-like" material, under Vermont definitions which exclude "original intended use".  ANR counsel then demanded proof that the robot's battery would hold an 80% charge, which Manoi-Go could not answer without removing his battery, and would not be capable of answering if he did, thus trapped in a legal Catch-22.

In panicked electronic twerps, Manoi-Go rushed forward an alternative brief, to wit he was in fact originally manufactured in Japan, and could still be returned there, under warranty.   However, Vermont statute 10 VSA 6602 makes no allowance for warranty repair, nor distinction over Japan's OECD status.   Returning an electronic device for repair under warranty is now criminal in Vermont, unless the device is "fully functional".  Since no electronic repair shops in the world registers as a haz waste treatment facility, Manoi-Gho only option appears to be demanufacturing or shredding under Vermont law.

Manoi-Gho spun around on his head to demonstrate functionality, and then cited EPA's ruling that TCLP test should not be used in determining the commodity status of electronic devices.  ANR responded that the robot was A) in Vermont, B) a electronic device, and therefore C) defined as a waste.  If he contained materials which would fail TCLP test, he was hazardous, and therefore even if his case prevailed, releasing him would require he be swept up and packaged again. A "universal waste" sticker was placed over the robot's mouth (whose speaker is in his backside).

Vermont law defines items as "discarded" based on what they are made of, rather than what happens to them.  All exports are covered.  "This is Vermont", said a spokesperson from Vermont.

"Children deserve protection from release of break dancing robots," said the ANR Commissioner.  "Reuse is primitive, repair is disposal, and that's wrong." From inside the patrol car, Ingenthron also shouted "wrong", in apparent muffled agreement.

European e-waste bureaucrats, shocked at being out command-and-controlled by a USA agency, tweeted their intentions to implement similar dancing robot seizures.  Dutch regulators announced "precautionary" plans to include brand new, in-box electronics as "e-waste" and "WEEE", requiring Best Buy consumers to obtain hazmat treatment licenses.  In reaction, Vermont began drafting rules to classify electronics as "hazardous" at the design stage, requiring images of circuit schematics to be regulated... effectively creating a category of hazardous thought.

In the jailhouse now
The Agency of Natural Resources also uncovered evidence that tens of thousands of computers shipped from Good Point were being used productively by students in Egypt, Senegal, and Indonesia.  "Sadly, these students, doctors and nurses probably think they are accessing the internet on a fully functional computer," said the Commissioner.  "They don't even know that these devices originated in Vermont, where their reuse is defined as a form of hazardous waste treatment.   They are illegally processing (reusing) hazardous waste by hand with every keystroke."


EPA representatives in Washington told reporters that sales of breakdancing robots appeared to be legal commerce, a commodity transaction, and that federal law does NOT consider used electronics to be "universal waste".  EPA describes TCLP, or toxicity characteristic leachate procedure, as an obscure 1980s test for which type of landfill a disposed item could be placed in.  EPA expressed polite confusion over ANR's interpretation of RCRA laws.   Vermont's application of TCLP landfill tests to devices not landfilled, but recycled or in use, appeared to re-define "disposal" to mean what an items was made of.  EPA expressed concern over a legal maze, from which even brand new product might not escape.

Meanwhile, Iphone seizure checkpoints are being set up at Vermont borders.  All electronics must be tested upon leaving the state, with "haz-mat" labels attached.  Four "Geek Squad" vans have been impounded.

Manoi-Go said he will appeal to Governor Schumlin for his shredding sentence to be commuted, claiming exemplary non-waste-like behavior. But this would not appear enough for the dancing robot to complete his journey back to Japan.  Good Point Recycling provided no evidence that the Japanese ebay bid winner, 16 year old Yugodabe Kidi-Ng, held a hazardous waste handler permit.  Possible elective upgrade to a larger stick of robot-RAM, a common practice among Japanese teenagers, could further result in proper recycling, which is also defined as "hazardous waste disposal" in the Vermont law.  Not even ANR's own recommended "robot testing procedure" could prevent these criminal elective upgrades in places well prepared to properly recycle the replaced parts.

[UPDATE] A group of college students has started a petition to Governor Schumlin, calling him to release Manoi-Go.

When asked for comment, Basel Action Network's spokesperson made heart-wrenching alliterations about the suffering of Japanese tsunami victims, and displayed photographs of children made homeless by the 9.0 Earthquake.  Using the opportunity to ask for donations for an addition on his office in Seattle,  he called on a moratorium against transboundary movement of break-dancing e-waste robots worldwide.

BAN stated that this seizure was just the tip of the e-waste robot iceberg.   As evidence, Executive Director Jim Puckett showed an old photo of exploited Vermont children sorting a witches brew of inert metal scrap in a "toxic garden" of soccer jerseyed child labor".

Experts at ANR verified that the children in the photos appeared sad, a possible violation of Vermont's rod-sparing statutes.  BAN also released "data" consisting of 11-year-old pictures of ten-year-old Chinese children, painted on black velvet, with enlarged teary eyes.  (One of the children, now a cell phone production engineer in Shenzhen, saw his photos and initiated a class action lawsuit for residuals from E-Steward revenues).

Back in Middlebury, as the ANR e-waste patrol van drove off towards the 'e-waste shredder',  eyewitnesses saw the "universal waste" box jiggling to a tune by Kingrass Hoppers.  A haz-mat crew dusted the floor for releases of toy robot footprints.  Manoi-Go the robot was busy tweeting from inside his Universal Waste Sealed Container.  He issued a 140 character press release:

"@WR3A #ewaste Help me dudes, I'm not broken, tell Yugodobe Kid-Ng to file an ebay resolution complaint, im in interstate commerce, help me call 555-877..."  Unfortunately Mango-Go ran out of his 140 Twitter characters as his cell phone battery went dead.

Today's news is sponsored by Waste-o-Matic.


1 comment:

Nate said...

AWESOME!!! Love it.