Dia-blogging with BAN's Jim Puckett

To his credit, Jim Puckett responded to my comment (posted yesterday in my own blog, but also appearing today as a comment below his own blog post on Ghana).

Sorry Glinda, you're busted
Jim makes his usual response, that a "mobile phone guidance document" trumps Annex IX.  It puts everyone to sleep and obfuscates a very simple and practical legal fact:  Basel Convention says that Parties can consider CRT display device repair to be a commodity and not a waste.  It says that in black and white, and flow charts about cell phones simply distract and confuse.

The mobile phone guidance document, which was published several years after the Basel Convention was passed, says that if a technician buys a fully functional unit but electively decides to upgrade a part and make it last longer or work better, that the part that was removed was a transported waste, making that smart technician illegal to work with.  It's a white man's burden thing, not IFIXIT neutral.

This was the case BAN tried to make to the Secretariat about CRTs a decade ago.  Now they are making a similar case again in the still-live-document PACE guidance on computers... if something might get replaced in order to upgrade, it must be removed prior to export.
But this is where BAN gets conflicted between its role as an advocate to change (amend) the Basel Convention and its role as a supporter of the Convention as it is currently written.   I've accused BAN of becoming so blinded by that dual role that they have made ad hominem attacks on geeks of color, allowed journalists to believe and report that SKD factories buying CRT and LCD monitors for refurbishment are explained with a trip to Guiyu, which was never a CRT monitor refurbishing center nor even a CRT scrap endpoint.
All electronics importers are same

BAN lumps Glindas, the good witches with bad Witches of the East and West.  The average journalist, like Dorothy, does not realize Glinda is a witch at all.   Exporters are not all bad, and we need good exporters to make the world better.  Shredding fails.   A "Steward" with no reuse is a prohibitionist, who will call for more and more Elliot Ness enforcement rather than admit that Prohibition doesn't work.

Jim's compromise is that the USA remove all the parts that might be replaced or upgraded, effectively employing two technicians, one in the USA and the other in an emerging high tech market like Singapore.  But not a single E-Steward company showed up to do that.  They are all either shredding, or selling "tested working" and (I assume) assuming the working product is not being upgraded.  Because unlike fair trade recycling advocates, they don't fly over and meet the buyers capable of doing that. It's a let them eat cake solution, the perfect as the enemy of the good.

Meanwhile, even in their most recent blogs, BAN conflates the pollution in Guiyu with the contract manufacturing by companies like Proview (which originally made the computer monitors, and buys back working and non-working units to refurbish to like-new condition for sale in places like Egypt and Libya and Syria and Iran - where the explosion in internet has made a major difference in our world).  Accusing Jim of mounting a Willie Horton campaign, or a Joe McCarthy red scare campaign, against the geeks of color, is not an "ad hominem" attack on Jim, and Jim has never responded to it.

I doubt Jim will continue the dialogue, though I will certainly continue to try to bait him into it.

The contract manufacturing factories are clearly legal under Annex IX, B1110.   BAN clearly objected to Annex IX and wants it amended in the Ban Amendment (not the same as the Basel Convention), and has called EPA names for allowing export for repair and refurbishment rather than "tested working".  There is some lame idea that parts be removed before they are electively upgraded, which does exist in a mobile phone guidance document published in 2008.  But that is not law.  When a nation adapts the Basel Convention, it does not give a group of Bureaucrats in Switzerland the right to change the document after it is adapted.  At least, if it DOES allow that, then maybe the USA Congress was right not to ratify it.

What will probably happen first is that OECD will get completely revamped.   The current leader of OECD is from Mexico, and wants all the BRICK (Brazil, Russia, India, China, as well as current-OECD Korea) to join.  If BAN tries to keep OECD Korea from trading with non-OECD Taiwan, China, Singapore, and Malaysia, they will have to explain that to their Steward Samsung, which has contract manufacturing and trans-boundary movements in all those nations.

This all comes down to DEFINING our disagreement.  Is it:

A)  The contract manufacturing facilities should be recognized as something completely different from Guiyu, but unfortunately are not allowed to electively upgrade when they purchase tested working monitors.  Tested working monitors can only be sold to people who don't know how to upgrade them.

or is it

B)  The contract manufacturing facilities are polluting, and deserve to be described in the exact same campaign as Guiyu.

Here is my response to Jim's response, which still avoids saying that my friends are good people doing terrific things, and that perhaps a nation has the right not to shut them down just because a bureaucrat changes a guidance document decades after the factory employs thousands of people.

Thanks for the response.

I have a degree in international relations, did a semester at the UN in Geneva, and support the Basel Convention.  Annex IX, B1110 supports our position on fair trade, and many parties agree with that.   The "mobile phone" initiative is hardly a definitive international law document...

Be that as it may, whether refurbishing factories are legal or not is definitely a difference.  What I seem unable to elicit is whether it is possible that they are doing terrific work, creating sustainable jobs, providing internet for emerging democracies, providing local takeback - and in many cases the ONLY e-waste recycling infrastructures for their home nations.   

The issue is whether these are great facilities and sadly are illegal (under your interpretation of the Convention), whether they are great facilities and are pefectly legal (under many interpretations, including USA EPA and WTO parties), or whether they are not only illegal but also polluting, primitive, externalized harm.  

The equivocation that they may in fact be exploiting, polluting, toxic as well as (according to your interpretation of Annex IX) illegal is where I feel forced to take a very firm stand.  I have heard a lot of silly things like they are taking jobs away from Americans, that they may secretly be polluting, etc.  They are my friends and it saddens me to see them meet the challenge of creating a credible e-waste recycling infrastructure, and yet not have their investments and efforts recognized, and to see technicians who are amazingly talented models for young people in their countries arrested and described as environmental villains.   



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