False Recycling Witness: It Goes To Credibility

False Eyewitness:   I can prove that Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network knows the factories he accuses R2 of dealing with are not creating the pollution his organization publicly accused them of last week.

One of E-Stewards own auditors physically inspected one of these facilities (later visited by reporter Adam Minter), and Jim an I had in depth discussion following that audit, much of it written, about his position on the Basel Ban Amendment being inconsistent with even pristine, non-polluting repair (he conceded to me that the Basel Convention itself allows these facilities, but said in his view the Basel Convention, as it now stands, must be amended).  The "compromise" was to remove parts in the USA prior to export, rather than what we proved was happening - proper recycling of those parts.  He did not like that the focus material circuit boards went with the off-spec and warranty takeback circuit boards back to Japan.

[clarification: Jim's organization specifically accused these factories in the Boston Globe article of March 2010, and last week emphasized the accusation ("inflicting tremendous harm"...) During detailed conversations and disclosures about this type of factory ("California Compromise")  the "technicalities" Jim objected to never approached this falsehood (i.e. even if the factory ships electively upgraded parts to Japan for recycling, that technically a "transboundary shipment" had occurred between export from OECD USA and recycling of the removed part at OECD Japan).  
"This includes untested and/or non-working equipment exported for refurbishment or reuse, some of which is currently allowed under the R2 Standard. Refurbishment often produces hazardous waste, which is responsible for inflicting tremendous harm on the citizens and environments of these nations."
This makes 3 public accusations specific to "semiknockdown", "elective upgrade", and "warranty repair".  One in E-Scrap News (fair trade is not poisoning people), one in the Boston Globe, and last week's, shown above.   This is now an open book.  BAN says that the Basel Convention, by allowing export for repair at original equipment assembly factories under Annex IX B1110, is responsible for poisoning people, and must be amended and changed.  He has specifically said to me that if the Basel Convention is ratified by the USA without the Ban Amendment, that it would be a bad thing.

This establishes that the organization, Basel Action Network, has publicly maintained it is a crusader for international law, but is in fact an anti-globalization organization which believes that trade between 17% of the world and the other 83% of the world is inherently bad.  People like me, with backgrounds in international development of Africa and Latin America and Asia, are horrified by this "war on trade".  The mystery is how the Press has accepted that EPA is bad, ISRI is bad, recyclers are bad, tinkerers/fixers/geeks are bad, and joined this Salem Witch Trial verdict against the Basel Convention while citing, in article after article, the Basel Convention as the source of ethical recycling.

File:Cotton Mather.jpgInjustice:  We expect his false accusations, pairing photos of the factory which originally made the monitors with pictures of dirty operations in Guiyu, to have their intended effect.   The false accusation from a non-profit NGO will create enough doubt in contractors, and enough opportunity for anti-white-box (off brand) computer remanufacturers, that companies like mine will be forced to sever ties.  The factories will either A) remain by buying the product to be refurbished elsewhere (outside Europe and USA), or B) be shuttered like the factories in Indonesia.

Smoking Gun:  BAN specifically knows that this factory is not "inflicting tremendous harm" on the citizens.  This is a clear case of BAN leading the public to believe that the very best of the non-OECD 6 billion people is the same as the very worst, Guiyu.

Motive:   This non-profit sells its influence for cash.  While claiming to be an ethical e-waste recycling advocate, BAN knowingly makes false witness against the best and brightest in the converging and emerging markets.   BAN has accused sustainable factories which replace bad capacitors (Capacitor Heroes) of being a significant source of pollution.   BAN takes money from manufacturers who use non-recycled, mined content, from pollution hellholes like OK Tedi PPG and Kabwe Zambia.  They use that money in a cynical campaign to shut down reuse facilities which create high tech repair jobs in cities which desperately need those jobs.  They are succeeding at shutting down sustainable, clean factories, which sell refurbished computers in democracies like Egypt and India and Indonesia... with money from mining to produce tablets and high end computers which those countries cannot afford.

Sentencing:   My business in Vermont will survive, eliminating reuse (already banned for us to sell within the USA, but not approved to sell outside the USA).  But make no mistake, E-Stewards is destroying reuse.   And more manufacturers are now on the advisory board of R2... I expect they will issue new reuse requirements.

Justice System Bias:  Agency of Natural Resources took the phrase from the Vermont S.77 Legislation saying nothing in the program could be "local reuse" - quite appropriate, you can't have the same products being paid for over and over by the Stewardship program.  But they defined "local" to be "within the USA".  Then they used Basel Language but removed references to OECD, making Canada and Mexico the same as China.  Then they said we cannot just separate reuse and not charge it to the program, that these rules covered devices not charged to the program.  They said we must submit an export plan to reuse.  I turned in the records for the Mexico plan (which is not even export, as defined by USA law, it's a maquila which returns product to the USA) a month ago.

This is downright creepy.  Not even donations to Goodwill Industries are reused any more, they are all shipped for destruction.  This should probably take away the donation tax credit people are taking on their taxes.  Maybe that's how we get people's attention, by alerting the IRS that people are claiming donation value for laptops which must by law be destroyed at a cost.

Effect on Society:  The outcome of all of this will not preserve any USA jobs.  The more money a recycler makes, the more and better jobs they create... you don't create more jobs by destroying added/retained value from reuse.  The new product isn't made here anyway, but more importantly the strategy of protecting brands from white box refurbishing won't work now that non-OECD is 50% of the economy.  Patent and trademark can still keep gray market products from being sold in the USA, but that is not the threat it was twenty years ago... there are plenty of other markets to sell shanzai, knockdown, refurbished product into.

My youngest son, Jake, printed out a paper for his sixth grade class.  It's a two pager about the Salem Witch Trials.  He composed it on a 2002 Dell laptop, an XP machine got from the plant several years ago, handed down from his older siblings.  Irony is not the right word.

If you ever wonder why we still teach our children about Cotton Mather and the Salem Witch Trials, let me tell you... false accusation of intelligent people is one of the greatest sources of literary writing.
""If in the midst of the many Dissatisfaction among us, the publication of these Trials may promote such a pious Thankfulness unto God, for Justice being so far executed among us, I shall Re-joyce that God is Glorified..." Wonders of the Invisible World. Cotton Mather (photo above)


POSTSCRIPT:  This morning I was rereading one of my favorite old posts, Ethical Samaritan Waste to Slums,  this morning after noticing some access this month.  Corrected a few typos.   And I got to the conclusion, about how the point that a flood can turn commodities into waste.  I had previously inserted, in brackets, a disclaimer that it was written prior to the Japan Tsunami.    I now realize it was premonition... the Vermont ANR office building was deluged in a flood a few months later, and all the "commodities" from the Vermont offices wound up in a muddy heap on the parking lot.

"We could all be a slum one day." -  Ethical Samaritan Waste to Slums
(Flooded electronics from Vermont State Offices in Waterbury some months later...)

No comments: