Making Statistics Up as We Go: Philippines ewaste

Typical Video Pronounces Export Data, MIT Announces Data Research Effort.

During the past decade, whenever someone was asked what percentage of "e-waste" is exported to "poorer nations" (the 6 billion people in non-OECD), they could pretty much say whatever they wanted.  It didn't even seem to matter that the same person asked gave a different number each time.

In an interview, Ted Smith of SVTC says 90% is waste.   BAN says 80% in other reports, but in this video BAN is quoted at 50%.   The video elsewhere says 30% of used electronics exported are "e-waste"...  (Perhaps it sets up the title, as ewaste goes from 80% to 50% to 30% before our eyes...)
Video "The Vanishing E-Waste"Complete video is below the fold.  I'm finding that video embeds are blocked as many institutions and offices.  When I put something from Youtube, even documentary, it causes the whole page to be blocked for some readers.  So here's a hotlink above, and the video is now embedded "below the fold".youtube 11:15
Actually, I like the video, it's fair and moves the conversation forward.   Would like to talk about the "las Chicas" and Fair Trade alternative with the producers.   The video documents that most of the "e-waste" comes in for reuse (the "bad" are residuals or exhausted after years of use), and that the USA and EU are far smaller a percentage of imports than Asia-to-Asia trade.  Unfortunately, it dwells entirely on the bad apples, and therefore arrives at "prohibition" conclusions.

This hospital-via-morgue (start at landfill) is typical of activist image management, and the images this video captures are not atypical of what I saw in China in 2002.  Of course, I also saw extremely good EOL recycling and reuse operations, and took photos of both.  The concept of Fair Trade is not to ban exports, but to build financial incentives into the trade so that the legitimate sales leverage the creation of a proper end-of-life recycling stream.   This video tends to concentrate on the bad side, what it calls the 30%, which everyone knows I'm fatigued by.  And the worst shots are still better than metal mining and smelting.  But this is what we need to clean up with Fair Trade Programs like ours in Mexico and Asia.

As far as data and diagnosis over the statistics (vs. poster children), how can we move the dialogue forward?

EPA and MIT [correction will SOON release] have released a plan to research and obtain real data.   What will be difficult is to get exporters and importers to share what they are really doing during this period of "green scare", Senator Joe McCarthy, rabid accusations.   Even E-Stewards and R3 certified companies have accused each other of exporting plastic from shredding to the "wrong" places in China.

"Have you stopped beating your wife"?

Companies like ours are forced to explain and apologize and seek approval for shipments of monitors to a factory which took monitors back under warranty repair, which made the monitors, which recycles all the glass from mistakes and accidental breakage, which we sent an E-Stewards and R2 auditor to inspect,which is ISO9000 and ISO14001 certified, which gives complete reports on every shipment, and which we had a reporter investigate and document.  We provide their import permit, and the next thing BAN asks for a copy of it to call the government and object to the permit (issued by the government under the repair and refurbishing clause of Basel Annex IX).   There is only one thing wrong with this end market - they are not American, the same as the places that make all the products sold at Best Buy.

That seems to be all that some people need to know in order to be quoted as "experts" in recycling exports.

God forbid Americans are ever audited for the numbers they make up as they go along and attest to to the press.   The lack of engineering and math skills in the USA seems to plague the Watchdogs, who mistake development and progress and hope in the rapidly emerging, converging markets, for "incredible harm".

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