2011: Four Truths and a Lie about EWASTE Exports

The "sleeper" study from Europe on Ghana's imports of used electronics is drawing more attention.  Jerry Powell's team finally read it and did a post on Friday.  It's a massive effort, lots of data, 2 years of research.  Finding is that 85% of the imports are reputably reused.  It has caused watchdog groups to rewrite some of their pronouncements on the trade.

This is only the second actual, in depth study of used electronics exported (previous was from ASU, Rhamzy Kahhat and Eric Williams)   Both reports express "surprise" that 85% (Ghana) and 87% (Peru) imports of used electronics were reused, refurbished, resold.

Germany is starting to catch on.  This Interview (German and English) shows the connections between Egypt's attempts to label used working P4s as "e-waste" as the Revolution began brewing.

Adam Minter of Bloomberg and Atlantic Monthly is also doing lots of work on the "myth" of "e-waste exports".

Four Truths:  The EU Report, ASU Study, WR3A Data (behind German interview), and Minter have independently arrived at the same conclusion.  The story of "primitive e-waste burning" has been hyped in the press and trade press.  While there are certainly many cases of "toxics along for the ride", and poor sorting, the economics have never supported the claim that 80% of e-waste exports or recycling is bad.

A Lie:  What began as a very well-intentioned call for due diligence and reform of the used electronics export market has become a juggernaut of planned obsolescence in hindsight, shredding, exaggeration, and anti-gray-market propaganda.  Here I sit in a river of junk, which I'm responsibly removing and properly recycling.   We domestically recycle 78%, which is pretty darn close to the 80% which anti-export watchdogs claim is exported to primitive informal recycling yards in third world countries.

But while it would be simple to jump on the bandwagon, and to claim that my competitors are junk shippers, and to write a check to a non-profit in order to be listed nationally as a "Steward" of the environment, I just cannot join this.

It insults real people that I really do business with.   They buy junkier, 70% good (30% bad) loads for one reason - because they have no choice.  California, Oregon, Washington - the whole "left coast" - have taxed Americans to pay the cost of destroying the product they want to buy for repair and reuse.

It's simply immoral to stand along side the nigger-free restaurants.  Pledging not to do business with chinks and spics and rag-heads is not my idea of "stewardship".  Enough already.  Stop it. Stop.  Every day a new "E-Steward" is announced in the press, and every day I hear the crunching noise of used product, ground and baled to pieces, which are then exported for the same plastic and metal recycling yards which "fair trade" reuse markets send demanufactured material to.

"All right then. I'll go to hell."  Huck Finn.

This is Huckleberry Finn, here in our lifetime.  This is Atticus Finch.  This is Scarelet Letter.  I can no longer swear or Pledge not to do business with the Geeks of Color than Huck could send the letter to Widow Douglas.

BAN needs to open a window to the demand for the material.

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