This morning, at the Resource Recycling "EScrap 2011" show in Orlando, the World Reuse, Repair and Recycling Association will disappear. In its place will be a new name, //FairTradeRecycling//
Like Kiva, Peace Corps, and Fair Trade Coffee, WR3A members will be people who see other people in other countries for what they can do, not just for what they cannot do.
Logo will be in the shape of a heart, drawn in chasing arrows, with patterns of continents on the heart.
The general public can be forgiven for accepting poster children as a definition of the world's fastest emerging economies. The press can be forgiven for turning in a "man bites dog" story of recycling as a villain, unintended consequences of recycling drives, and sham operations. But the truth will set us free.
It would be natural to "scratch the itch", buy a multi-million dollar shredder, pass the Green Thompson bill prohibiting export for reuse or refurbishment (except by OEMs), and turn American wealth of replaced computers back into raw materials. If Egyptians cannot afford to tweet their way into democracy on iPhones, perhaps that's not our problem. We are safe from America's biggest economic services and product - lawsuits and blame.
It takes more courage to stand up and say that someone who supports you is wrong. BAN is sending some recyclers a lot of business, and free advertising on 60 Minutes, Oprah and Fresh Air. But the truth is that the Geeks of Color have been defamed. BAN has dramatically oversimplified what happens in the export market and, in the process, promoted shredding of value added material which Americans cannot afford to shred, and Arabs cannot afford to buy brand new.
It is one thing to market your company to the AGMA, and there are legitimate concerns over matrial reuse and resale. But passing a law, and funding a defamatory campaign, is killing the Geeks in the crib. The Techs of Color are not primitive wire burning monkeys; they are in fact the only alternative to the curse of natural resources.
Here is a reminder of a link to the story of where cell phones sold in China actually go... The first five or ten images seem to fit the BAN story line. Keep following... by the 30th shot, you learn that this is actually of the best, highest paying, environmentally and socially responsible job that a middle aged woman in China could have.
It may be risky to export. Mistakes happen. I'm not a perfect exporter. Many "fans" are not really people I support the export practices of. However, it is irresponsible of our industry to profit from snake oil, medicine which does not cure the ills of pollution or poverty. Only responsible people in our own industry can make the case that not all Africa, Latino, and Asian importers are the same, and to resist the temptation to allow our competition to be depicted as "primitive". Jackie Robinson may play for another team, but he is not Willy Horton.
A ban on the sale of "scraps to Japs" after World War II would certainly appeal to many Americans who had recently lost loved ones on our Pacific front. But it would not have been good for America, and it would not have been good for world peace.
Fair Trade Recycling is a call to glasnost, openness, and truth. Perhaps, just perhaps, "ewaste" exports will improve if we allow overseas buyers more choices of supply rather than fewer. We could not have imagined in the "scraps to Japs" debate that one day Honda, Toyota, and Nissan would run factories in the USA employing tens of thousands of Americans. If fifty years from now, Africa has a billion dollar electronics company, which opens factories in my childhood home of the American South, that will be a picture of World Peace worthy of framing. In the meantime, let the African Geeks of color not be framed for something they aren't doing.