Coexisting E-Waste Certifications

I look through past blog posts, including ones prior to "We Shouldn't Have to Make That Choice".  That  post marked a kind of turning point between me and the Seattle organization, Basel Action Network (BAN). I thought it was diplomatic enough...

I prefer peace.  By far, my favorite images of the Revolution 2.0 revolt in Egypt's Tahir Square is the unity the Geeks and Techs of Color show with Coptic Christians (the Zabaleen, most outstanding scrap recyclers in the world).   All the geeks/techs I work with in Egypt are Islamic, but they are all pro-business-pro-peace and very supportive of the Christian minority (about 10% of Cairo population).  A partnership between Muslim geeks and Christian scrappers seems awesome.

The Facebook pages of Cairo repair technicians (who don't speak English, unfortunately) show their families, as my Facebook pages do.  Some are proud photos of pilgrimages to Mecca.   Pictures of babies, nieces and nephews.  They proudly show wives and sisters, sometimes in full bourqa.  Then, the family posing with brother and sister in law, with the sister in law uncovered and in western dress.   Then, political cartoons and logos showing the Muslim crescent with the Coptic Christian cross, together in unity.   I love the shots of the Christians joining hands in a circle at Tahir Square, to protect the praying muslim protesters.  And I love the facebook "likes" of the wall of muslims standing to protect the Christian churches during the riots.

So, isn't peace and harmony a better sales tactic than diatribe?  What if your efforts to negotiate peace result in the other party using information you provided to attack innocent friends?

Do Disposal Costs Increase Export Incentives?

Do the costs of USA environmental regulations trigger exports of "e-waste" overseas?  It is a factor, but not the major factor.   This 2010 report cites it as a major factor, but the economics don't hold up.  A good enough study to post a link, but I give it a C-.   The author, Linda Luther, has several relevant citations and good data, but appears swayed in her conclusions by poster children.  The observation that "the theoretical damage of disposal of e-waste in the USA translates to actual harm overseas" is trite and fails to look closely at the importing and exporting data.
"An unintended consequence of avoiding potential negative impacts of domestic e-waste disposal has been a contribution to actual environmental contamination and human health impacts to some communities in developing countries. If environmentally preferable management of e-waste is the goal, is recycling it preferable to landfill disposal if recycling means exporting the waste to developing countries? Determining how to address this issue—that is, take into consideration concerns regarding domestic e-waste disposal and the negative impacts of recycling abroad—involves many factors."
This is easy to say.  The caution is that we will actually see supply which is not correlated to idemand.  It's easy to say "it involves many factors", that's a given.  But it is equally true that "concerns regarding overseas e-waste recycling may neglect to consider the positive impacts of reuse, repair and recycling abroad" - which also "involve many factors".  A ban on exports is no more obvious a solution than a ban on domestic disposal.  The writer, in revealing virtually nothing, feels more comfortable posing by the barefoot poster child.   If used electronics are being diverted to avoid environmental fees, they are blended into scrap steel, not separated and shipped as sorted product.

Some people think the default is to stop global trade.  Some people think that world trade is better than the absence of world trade.  Alter-globalism and "fair trade" recognize the best result is trade without exploitation.  I like good people trading with good people.

Photo from Hard Rain Project
We don't see much supply that is not correlated to demand.  The goods imported into Cairo or Accra are distinctly different than the used electronics goods imported into Jakarta or Hong Kong.  Extremely different. If the underlying cause of the exports is avoided disposal, one would expect that California supply would dictate Hong Kong imports, and New York supply would dictate Ghana imports.  Instead, you have African buyers in CA buying very different product from Asian buyers in New Jersey.

If avoided disposal cost was the primary driver for the exports, why would the purchase orders for the goods vary so dramatically from nation to nation?
  • Destination X imports commodity A from country USA.
  • Destination Y imports commodity B from country USA.

PACE Commodity or Waste

E-Steward standards vs. real life.  Is this PC a hazardous waste, or a commodity?

1.  It's purchased from someone claiming it is fully functional, and you sell it as fully functional, under warranty.  Is the documentation that the seller represented it to be fully functional acceptable?  If not, how can brand new product be sold without constant re-testing?  Doesn't this make brokering illegal?

2.  You have a choice to sell to two people.  One is a school, a direct end user, with no technical repair or maintenance ability, and no recycling infrastructure.  The other is a factory which manages 5,000 units per day, has hundreds of employees, and upgrades all systems to warranty standards.  They are ISO14001, ISO9000, and inspected for R2 Recycling standards.   Doesn't this standard imply that the first sale is legal and the second is illegal, and isn't that environmentally speaking, a bad decision?

3.  Your laptop holds less than 80% of its original new-in-box battery charge.   A new battery costs $120.   A friend in Egyptian medical school is begging you to sell the laptop to him for $100, saying he understands about the battery, but that he keeps it plugged in the wall most of the time anyway.  Should you remove the battery and sell it with no battery (so that if it accidentally comes unplugged from the wall, your friends work is lost)?  Or must you buy a $120 battery to make this $100 sale?

I can go on and on.  The point is that I was a former regulator, and worked very closely with EPA regulators during the formulation of R2 standards etc.   This is real life.  You can't just get all frustrated and pass a law to make a poster child go away. 

The standard is being embraced by shredding companies who have no dog in the reuse fight, and by planned obsolescence in hindsight companies who want to take used product off the market.

"Focus Material" is not "hazardous waste".  It is not the same thing.  We discussed this for two years, with expert testimony.  ANR now says a working monitor is "hazardous waste" because it has a circuit board - but a toaster has the same circuit board but is not hazardous waste.

Really sad that this is how decisions to move jobs out of Vermont take place.

On and on.

The Voice of the Geeks of Export

I'm young enough to remember Malcolm X and the people inspired by him.   I remember when labelling people "the Malcom X" of gay rights, or "the Malcom X of" some other cause meant "extreme and turning people off, but admired for their persistence in defending people who have been without a public defender."

More important lightning rod
The danger of being a "Malcolm X" is that you are baited (like some believe Reverend Al Sharpton was, in the Tawana Brawley case) into defending someone of unconfirmed integrity.   People have no idea who the person is that you are defending, the third party news sources seem to indicate something may not be right.  The fact that you loudly protest in the defense of someone appears to be based on what they are rather than who they are.

In calculating whether the role of Malcolm X needs to be filled, or whether it's better to recreate the role to be a more nuanced and balanced authority, you kind of need to imagine the world without that "lightning rod" role.   The lighting rod is both scary because it gets struck by lightning... yet we value it, because the lighting would otherwise strike someone less able to defend themselves.

The image of the lightning rod being struck again and again makes lightning not just less dangerous, but less scary.

So... the danger about blogging in defense of used computer exports:

1) We accidentally rush to the defense of someone of questionable integrity.
2) We are afraid to be a lighting rod, and write pansey drivel
3) We become a monotone, single-issue advocate speaking about boring buggy whips, rather than people
4) We fail to adapt, and the crusade becomes a path we don't have courage to change

Malcom X is in part respected because (as his legend goes), he demonstrated his awareness of these pitfalls, and sought during his final weeks (in his pilgrimage to Mecca) to transcend them.  The fact he made this attempt is in part what establishes him as a cultural martyr worth writing about decades after his assassination.   We don't know for sure how much more meaningful the change would have been, say compared to Bob Dylan's Christian conversion.  If Bob Dylan had been assassinated weeks after his discovery of Jesus Christ, (as a personal savior) he may have occupied a different role in our history than he does today.  And if Malcolm X had continued, we don't know how different he'd be from Bob Dylan today.

What the Malcolm X lightning rod does, in the end, is make it feel safer to be black.    If someone that outspoken lives and continues, all of us feel a little bit safer from the Holocausts of our nightmares.  When I defend the overseas export markets, the "Techs of Color", I'm fully aware there may be a Tawana (and by that I mean I have no idea), rather than the Morgan Freedman character of Unforgiven.   But when I say to the Anti-Export Watchdogs, who plea that they are small non-profit organizations and sniff that they are underdogs in my attacks, I quote Clint Eastwood again, as William Munny.

Little Bill Daggett: Well, sir, you are a cowardly son of a bitch! You just shot an unarmed man!

Will Munny: Well, he should have armed himself if he's going to decorate his saloon with my friend.

The nice thing about e-waste blogging is that you can write so much as tongue in cheek.  The importance of the field has been exaggerated (compared to mining).  Yet recycling as an environmental endeavor has been under-sold, if you count the carbon, the avoided toxics from virgin smelting, the impact on species extinction, and the other harms of extraction.   The challenge of the lightning rod is not to become derivative, one-noted, and boring.

New "Data" published in NYT

(I was kidding about the word "data") From the NY Times

Shipping e-waste to the Third World 
Barbara Kyle, the TakeBack Coalition's executive director, estimates that much of this is sent to developing countries. Asian countries like China and Vietnam as well as African countries like Ghana and Nigeria receive the bulk of the waste, Kyle said.
Developing nations like these have few or no regulations, Kyle said, and as a result, a whole industry based on crude, unsafe methods to extract the minerals exists. Many contain toxic materials that harm surrounding environments and populations, Kyle said. 
"If they can pull the metals out by bashing and burning, that's what they do," Kyle said. "These are people working for a few dollars a day and don't get health safety."
Barbara "estimates" that much is sent to developing countries.

She testified as an expert to the Vermont Legislature, House Committee on Natural Resources.
She probably thinks this returned Peace Corps volunteer, who has volunteered and worked in the non-profit and public sector for most of his life, is some kind of a jerk.  She probably finds the pictures of factories of the Geeks of Color to be less convincing than BAN's 12 year old pictures of kids standing on small loads of scrap.  She certainly means well.  And she is certainly not an expert on exports of used electronics.

If she were, she might be acutely concerned that the name of her organization -, is calling for the return of used computer monitors to the same factories which assembled them.  And we'd be in perfect zen.  The name "third world", applied to places like Singapore and Penang, Malaysia, is a bizarre, biased, ignorant and some would maintain racist label.   If Barbara owns a display device, it was made by my friends, and if she wants my friends to take it back, they are willing.  She just needs to stop calling them names like "third world".

3D Film Use: Great Barrier Reef

A good idea witnessed
Like a rare bird, thought extinct
They talk about putting movies into 3D
They talk about Avatar
They talk about Royal Wedding Honeymoons
The Great Barrier Reef. talks about carbon impacts
Richard Branson, air travel questions
The Natural History Museum shows the reef
My kids look fascinated

Jacques Cousteau said it was sad
That people would be fascinated
By habitat trinkets
Manhattan Island sale of mining for extinctions
Grey brown coral stains

Do I want to travel to the Great Reef?
Or is the environmental expense, for personal badge
A waste of carbon, I'm there in spirit
Or does Eco-tourism make the Reef
Valuable to those who'd be bought for its tin gold?

The answer is clear
As clear as the crowd at
Smithsonian Natural History Museum
As clear as a Shakespearean love sonnet
What we hear as flying ideas
If we are spiritual and care
Bring together the Best Idea

The crowd of children around the coral
The 3D Pixar Clownfish singing
Technology is the connection of ideas
Of the physical, scientifically observed
And ideas come from exposure
Even to royal wedding Sunday AM TV

Here's the payoff
Live 3D cameras
Showing actual Great Barrier Reef
In a symphony mosaic
Broadcast by Google Earth
Behind aquarium glass                                                  continued

Laptop Battery, Charger Truth, Repair

Can't make this up!  Here I am, in a hotel lobby in Washington DC, and I just plugged in my Dell Inspiron 14 laptop.  I was working on a post about the draft Basel Secretariat "Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment" (needs polishing, won't publish now).  I got the infamous, dreaded message:
“The AC power adapter type cannot be determined. Your system will operate slower and the battery will not charge. Please connect a Dell 90W AC adapter or higher for best system operation”
(If you arrived at this blog looking for a solution, rather than an essay on "e-waste" policy, go to this excellent UK "Laptop Battery Blog").  
What makes this Dell laptop power adapter problem "infamous?"  This is the same original Dell adapter that came with the laptop.  It lights up, the board detects it.  But from normal wear and use, evidently the laptop can become "estranged" from its working power supply, and no longer allow its current to recharge the battery.

Proving Ourselves the Equal of E-Waste Fiction

How E-Stewards Testing (required for reuse in Vermont) is an unfair standard of comparison

In the next 60 days, my company will have to propose a standard to be allowed to reuse electronic equipment which we purchase from other states and bring into Vermont for double-inspection and resale overseas.  Those re-exports have brought millions of dollars into Addison County Vermont, and have created local jobs.  We were made the exclusive supplier for used computers by some overseas companies, and used that leverage to give incentives to get them to establish proper recycling infrastructure.  In a word, of the millions we brought into Middlebury, we are proud of the millions we rebated the overseas companies who became ISO14001 and ISO9000 certified, who established proper recycling methods for the "hazardous fraction" which they could not repair and resell (or chose to electively upgrade when working).

Vermont ANR promulgated E-Stewards "testing procedures" into law, because they "sounded" stricter than our procedures.  Here's my problem - we provided data on all our reuse, resale, and proper recycling.  The mythical standard we are being compared to provides no such data.  

Vermont ANR could have saved us a great deal of stress if they had put the Procedures as a condition of managing Vermont Covered Electronic Devices (requiring it under the RFP), or given us a year to propose alternatives.   Instead, Vermont ANR made the Procedures cover NY, MA, RI, NH etc., effective very shortly, regardless of our contracts out of state.  No competitor out of state will be bound by these procedures for the material we buy in MA, RI, NY, NH, etc.

In apparent fairness, ANR has allowed us to submit "alternative procedures" which are at least as effective as their Procedures.  However, ANR's standard bearer (VPIRG) provides absolutely no data for us to compare our process to.

Introspective Blog Alert: Surrender "E-Waste" Politics

CAUTION:  This is one of my "introspective", blog-cum-journal posts.   I'm trying to view the political battlefield over "e-waste" from 50,000 feet in the air.  I'm trying to study the philosophy, personalities, history, and politics. I want the best environmental and social outcome.  My outcome is a free people living sustainably in a sustainable Earth, and dialectic and information and integrity seem indispensable to that goal.  Popularity is dispensed with in Chapter 1 of the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 1 of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.  It is a form of personal wealth, and only good for the Sustainable World if that currency is spent furthering the Just Outcome.

Many people prefer peace.   But freedom is won through revolution and war.  How do we use the politics of anger and self-righteousness to leverage a greater outcome?   Surrender is always an option which brings peace.  How do we plan surrender in the battle of e-waste politics?

Not aiming for high readership statistics today.  Skip down to yesterday's post if you are here for cutting edge news about electronics recycling.  This is an introspective blog on the nature of conflict in the workplace, and how political winds play in our quest for a sustainable planet.

Massachusetts DEP was an exciting place to work in the 1990s.  I was hired on as "Recycling Program Director" in 1992, after being shaken out of a job I loved (non-profit office paper recycling) by a depressed paper fiber market.  The five years I had driving a truck and collecting scrap paper made me feel like a hands-on, operations wizard at MA DEP.   I took on the management of the Springfield MRF, and managed over a million dollars in savings by 1993.  A certain amount of that was the good timing of a rebounding paper market, but I am still certain I earned my salary ($168k savings in the first month).

New "E-waste" Report Coming out from Ghana

 Newly released research on European exports to Ghana reportedly show:

1) Average Ghana resident cannot afford new.
2) 215,000 tons of electronics (new, used, including white goods) shipped 2009-11
3) 30% new, 70% used
4) 15% of used not repairable, "along for the ride"
5) Dumps chronicled by BAN are accumulations of 15%, or of product exhausted after use
6) Used equipment may only last 2 years.
7)  70% of exhausted product is recycled, yielding 42% value, rest is residue
8)  Currently there is no infrastructure for the "hazardous fraction" of the WEEE

The solution appears to be increase quality, reduce TAR, give greater choices, fair trade.  Just what we said at Massachusetts DEP in 1998, just what EPA reviewed in 2005 for the CRT rule.    The Retroworks de Mexico (proper recycling of fallout) is the correct solution for the proper recovery and hazardous fraction.
The study includes a stakeholder and massflow assessment, taking into account the whole chain from imports to final disposal of the four waste electric and electronic equipment (WEEE) categories 'large household appliances', 'small household appliances', information and communication technologies' and 'consumer electronics'. The EEE imports into Ghana in 2009 added up to 215'000 tons comprised of about 30% new products and 70% second hand EEE. Around 15% of the second hand imports were estimated to be unsellable. Due to high amounts of second hand imports, Ghana has a high availability of second hand EEE which makes these products available for a large share of the population, but also leads to a high e-waste generation per year. About 171'000 tons of WEEE from consumers, repair shops and communal collection reached the informal recycling sector in 2009 where WEEE is dismantled and sorted into various valuable and non-valuable fractions. Valuable fractions, which account for
 around 42% of the material treated, are then sold to dealers, which again sell the material to local industries or export it. Non-valuable fractions are informally dumped and periodically burnt, in order to reduce the waste volumes on the dump site. Currently there is no infrastructure available for the environmentally sound disposal of the hazardous fraction from WEEE.
If the problem is a residual fraction, let's set up fair trade operations, like Retroworks de Mexico and partnershihps in Indonesia and Malaysia and Thailand and Signapore, which properly deal with the fraction, rather than throw the Geeks of Color and manufacturer-takeback factories into the soup.  Forcing importers to choose between sham recyclers is less effective than fair trade incentives.

This has been my directive since I set up the first in the USA waste ban on CRTs in Massachusetts, while at DEP, in 1998.  MA and VT achieved higher diversion at lower cost to consumers in the decade from 2000-2010, allowing for the export of a small percentage - less than 25% - for reuse by overseas recyclers who agreed to provide data and improve their operations.

That approach is opposed by three groups:  Planned Obsolescence companies opposed to the secondary market, Shredding investors, and a small ill-informed NGO in Seattle Washington which has never visited the factories they are trying to destroy, never looked in the eye of a Technician of Color who relies on a job providing internet to geeks in Cairo to feed his children.

The report again raises concern, like the ASU study of exports to Peru, and the confession by source for their "80%" bad exports number, that BAN may be knowingly promulgating false data and bad statistics.  I don't think this is a mistake any more, if it is, time is running out.  If you make a mistake and refuse to correct it, at some point you are guilty of fraud.

The question is whether there is a financial "payola" mechanism between the three groups opposed to fair trade exports.   Are OEMs paying shredders, who pay BAN?

I hope they will sue me, and I hope people will help me with my legal bills.   Here is the abstract of the study, I look forward to seeing it and using it to improve on our fair trade export practices.  I am not perfect, I know we are not perfect.  But we are trying and we are putting our own money into this. They are taking money away from the techs of color, and wildly exaggerating a fraction of byproduct to be 80% of all shipments of all e-waste.  SHAME.

Reminds me of the comments left on our 2007 WR3A "Recycling to Africa" Video.

Kicking and Screaming E-Steward

Hey, my company is going to be an E-Steward Recycler.  No more export, no more reuse.  Here's how it happened.
  1. We developed a fair trade network, getting working computers from Vermont to places like Egypt
  2. Egyptian customs seized working used computers as "e-waste".  BAN is cited as the reason.  BAN is silent.
  3. We ship the computers to a manufacture-takeback, refurbishing program in Asia, and have the PCs made into "new in box" with Arabic lettering to provide to Egypt buyers, by-passing "e-waste" seizure.
  4. BAN objects to the refurbishing process, saying that elective upgrade and replacement (new parts) means that old parts were disposed (if you don't upgrade the parts, it's not refurbished, if you do, then they object to the elective upgrade of the part).
  5. We get R2 inspection, ISO14001, proving that no electively replaced parts were dumped, all are properly recycled.
  6. BAN states it is still illegal to properly recycle an electively replaced part.  Says USA must remove any part which might be replaced at a contract manufacturing / refurbishing plant.
  7. I suggest that BAN and WR3A cooperate in California, the only place where they have such a subsidized crazy system (paying people to break working equipment) that they could actually afford to remove parts that might electively be replaced.
  8. BAN says they (a) don't have time to pursue the California Compromise, and (b) object to my blogging (see 1-6).  BAN is saying they agree with 7, but won't promote it, because prior to thinking of and suggesting 7, that I criticized them for 1-6
  9. BAN and VPIRG then get ANR to pass a law requiring Vermont to stop selling to the refurbishing, falsely stating #4.  They also provide quotes to the Boston Globe saying that the hundreds of technicians (filmed and inspected and ISO) are "primitive".
  10. Good Point Recycling begins destroying working equipment on June 30.  We will film the activity.
BAN and VPIRG did not defend the Geeks of Color when their tested working product was seized by the dictatorship.  They stay silent, knowing the Basel Convention does not ban all used equipment, does not call for "3 years from date of manufacture".

June Apple: My Brain On Recycling

In June, we stop reuse in Vermont.  We are lining up to de-manufacture the working equipment.  Here's a musical interlude.  Recycling isn't bad.   We already do it to 77% of the equipment, which is too old or too damaged to sell for reuse.  It's simply a measure of de-manufacturing that pesky 23% of equipment we used to sell to refurbishing factories, or donate to internet cafes.

We'll get all those metals and plastics to the factories, which will belch more carbon, making brand new products for our friends in poor nations to spend half their annual income to buy.  Hey, maybe they'll get new I-STUFF too!  This is so cool, taking used equipment from poor technicians, freeing them to leapfrog to brand new equipment!

Let's bust up the old guy's fiddle, so he can leapfrog and buy a new violin!

Ethical: Samaritan Transboundary Movement, Continued

This is a follow up to the "Ethical Samaritan" post.  I continue to think, as a former regulator, about how the identification of movement is attractive as a target.
  • Value:  e.g. $100 bill
  • Movement:  Discard, collection, or transfer of title
  • Release / pollution
In the "Samaritan" example, I used littering, a.k.a. primitive disposal, to define discard, and used a $100 bill as  an example of something of unquestionable value (beyond "tested working").   At the risk of sounding like a freshman philosophy student, I used the excercise to distinguish between "waste" declarations based separately on VALUE, TRANSIT, and "TOXICITY".   That post and this one will probably be more interesting to Ph.D students than ordinary policy makers, but I believe that this kind of exercise can pay dividends in creating fair laws.

Continuing from yesterday's post, we can all agree when a $100 bill has been "discarded", "become waste", "littered" ... it's pretty obvious, and involves intent and the level of care a person takes in getting the item of value into the hands of someone who will use it for its original intended purpose.  The case against calling it littering is only "muddied" by the donor's failure to make direct contact with the girl in the slum.

Ethical: Samaritan "waste" to slums (The Red Shoe Blog)

The "red show blog" (April 2011) was Tocquevillian.

Why RCRA needs a "good samaritan" rule for Americans trading with people in emerging and converging markets.

Disposal used to mean throwing something into the gutter of a street.  In some of the world's slums, that is still the primary method of waste disposal.   If you throw something into a gutter next to other stuff that is wet and abandoned, you can't really say that you considered the object a valuable commodity.

But what if you were walking the streets of a slum, in India, Pakistan, Kinshasa, and you dropped a $100 bill on the street?  Ethically speaking, is that the same thing as littering?

It could be argued that it was stupid.  Or callous.  Or demonstrated a lack of concern or care whether the $100 bill would do any good to anybody, if it was blown away or trodden into the mud it would have been "wasted".  PREMISE:  Value by itself does not mean that something is not waste.

From the Red Shoe Site blog
But imagine you kept your eye on the bill, and you intended to make sure it was either found, or that you'd come back for it.  You mark where it is thrown by a single red high heeled shoe in the gutter, and watch.  You see a small girl pick the money up, gather excitement, and carry the bill to her parents.   Every day thereafter, the little girl comes to look beside the discarded red high heeled shoe.  Naturally, you'd begin to recognize her, identify her, empathize with her.  You might want to leave a $20 bill by the red shoe again.

Ethically, this is no longer "disposal".   I don't think you would define the bill as "waste".  PREMISE:  If not abandoned, placement by itself does not indicate intent to discard.

Now imagine the object you leave in the slum is a device, something else of $100 "value".   Imagine further that the device contains a circuit board, that it is an "electronic device".   The fact that it is fully functional and working does not mean that it is not waste (premise 1), and the fact that it is exported does not mean it has been discarded (premise 2).   The rules we establish for a $100 bill must also apply to laptops.

Video Jamaica Rap, Iraq, Pregnancy, LinkedIn Fraud

First:  A mystery.  On, there is a person named "Jennifer Cruz" in New York City, who is listed as a receptionist for my company, American Retroworks Inc., dba Good Point Recycling.   Is this a case of fraud?  It is not one of the Chicas.  Since there's no employee of ours by that name, it's not exactly identity theft, but it does make us suspicious of fraud.  Does anyone have experience with mystery employees on LinkedIn?

Second:  Below the fold... This is a video I would never have seen without internet, and given the chance to see it from an Egyptian internet cafe on a CRT screen, or never to have seen it at all, I'm 100% in favor of Arabs and Jamaicans singing together.  I like the sound of it more than yesterday's "alter globalization" or "la rage" video.   This one is just silly, but I like the woman, I like that she's not a model, and I like thinking that someone in Calcutta may enjoy listening to the English rap from Jamaica.

PUM PUM Shorts

Alter-Globalization Movement 'likes' Fair Trade Recycling

Alter-Globalization is a movement which rejects the anti-globalization movement, while at the same time acknowledging problems of exploitation in trade between rich and poor.

Anti-mining, pro-recycling, these seem to fit the paradigm of the Alter-globalization movement.  Rejecting exploitation of resources for short term (two generation) gain, but embracing sustainable recycling when it is done as a partnership.  Trade for reuse and repair, in partnership, is like sync. 3B3K

Here is a French rap song by Keny Arkana about "The Rage" which is shared and embraced as an alter-globalization anthem.  The spirit here would reject both the people who ship junk to Egypt to be burned, avoiding environmental fees, but also reject the racist denigration of geeks of color when they set up sustainable recycling factories, generating internet access for people who will already have overthrown a dictator.  Screw you both.

There are a lot more dictators to go, a lot more videos to share, a lot more talented technicians to partner with in a fair trade recycling, alter-globalization world.

Blatant Environmentalist Greed?

When the public thinks of recycling, they do not envisage their old computers and TVs being smashed and burned in China, India or Nigeria,” said BAN’s Executive Director Jim Puckett.  “And yet despite the CEA statement that ‘the use of recyclers and downstream processors who dump end-of-life electronics in developing nations’ should not be allowed, they continue to offer no concrete commitment to abide by the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment, which make such exports illegal, period.”   - Jim Puckett,
Basel Action Network goes on to insinuate, in this press release, that any recycler meeting any other standard or certification - any kind, ISO, R2, RIOS, WR3A, ANY OTHER CERTIFICATION, (than theirs) is the equivalent of "smashed and burned in China".   The key difference between the esteemed certifications mentioned above, and their certification?  PAYMENT OF A PERCENTAGE of company gross profits to BAN.

Sigh.  Attacking good people again.

Pictures of the Worst: Illegal African Metal Mining

Time Magazine has a very good article / video on the alternative to recycling electronics.  No, it's not disposing of them... That's not an alternative, it's just underground storage, as the already has calculated the dates we will have to dig landfills back up to get the metals we threw away.

No, the only alternative to "ewaste" recycling is MINING.   This video basically covers my regular presentation on electronics recycling from Massachusetts DEP in the 1990s.   Recycling has always been about not-mining, or "urban mining", the alternative to poison, toxic, conflict metals.

I'll embed it below the fold.

Exporting Power Supplies

Needle Top right:  tiny green board in power supply

Responsible Recycling Certification is a big topic here at ISRI.  This is the first of three posts about three exports which are up in the air:  PC power supplies, optic drives, and hard drives.

The cost of certification is somewhere between $8K and $18K, assuming you manage TVs etc..  It is not the cost of the certification, however, as much as the added expense or sacrificed profit from activities you may have to add or curtail.

There's a lot of buzz over a small number of items - DVD Roms, CD Rom drives, floppy disk drives, and power supplies.    These are parts that in the past were harvested and accepted as exportable under the Pledge of True Stewardship (at least, according to several Pledge signers I spoke to, who knows what the Imam said at any point in time).  They were acceptable by many countries interpretation of Basel Convention, but not by all.  Today the question is:  Are power supplies "focus materials"?

Watchdog Supports "E-Waste" Recycling, Export to Africa

I'm not sure people paid attention to this story about fair trade recycling, "e-waste" and Ethiopia.

Bullet Points:
  1. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson toured a well run "e-waste" shop in Ethiopia.
  2. Basel Action Network (via this blog) takes credit, applauds their role with this shop.
  3. I applaud it too, as proof that the "Geeks of Color" can do this work.
  4. BAN responds, saying that their African e-waste shop is good, but WR3A's aren't
  5. BAN has never been to one of our shops, nor to several they have attacked.  I say so.
  6. BAN (outrageously) accuses me of re-writing the blog post they had commented on.
  7. I prove "did not".  Screen shots of the date of comment, and of last edit of the blog.
  8. Pouting ensues on both coasts.
So, the Ethiopia "e-waste" shop creates good jobs, digital access, without polluting?   "Not polluting" is too tame a praise.   The recycling is constructively good for the environment, creating jobs both in the developed nations which export, and in the African countries that receive it.  Compare the jobs created by the Ethiopia (BAN-supported) electronics recycling trade, ton per ton, with the jobs created by shredding PCs (then sending the pieces to be sorted in China - the end market for "no intact unit").

Has Robin Turned into an Apologist for Bad E-waste?

During the past 10 years, my posts and articles have gone from mainly critical of "toxics along for the ride", aimed at villain "sham" recyclers, to being mainly defensive of the Technicians overseas who are having their businesses attacked inappropriately by well-intentioned environmentalists.

I've directed most of my fire lately at people in leadership positions, who should really know better than to describe contract manufacturing factories as polluters.  But I'm not happy being so critical of an environmental movement which, for the most part, has the finest possible intentions.  And we all agree that shipping junk to people who don't want it and cannot deal with it is a bad, bad thing.

I'm not against interracial marriage.  I'm against abusive relationships.  To the degree people are marrying someone from a lower caste in order to take advantage of weakness, I'm against that.  I just don't think you ban marriage outside of race, class, or nationality as a response to anecdotes of spousal abuse.

2005: Liftoff of Fair Trade Recycling

Here is a link to the first article about "fair trade recycling", originally appearing in Recycling Today and also picked up by Entrepreneur magazine   It would mark the kickoff of WR3A, the World Reuse, Repair and Recycling Association, incorporated in Vermont, to create partnerships for proper reuse and recycling between developed and emerging nations.

WR3A was very well received by overseas buyers, who wanted to cooperate with USA sellers to increase quality and bring legitimacy to their large scale refurbishing businesses.

Helplessly Hoping for Job Advice

This blog-end starts at the top.  If in doubt, take the job that is "more different".  It may or may not build your portfolio, but it's guaranteed to add value from new perspectives.  My jobs as janitor,  truck driver, and office executive... I'd call them all "ingredients".  That a lesson of Hesse's Siddhartha.

Vermont Sting: Illegal "E-Waste" Robot Seizure

[APRIL FOOLS TRADITION Middlebury, Vermont 4/1/2011 ]  Vermont Environmental Police have broken up an illegal "e-waste" reuse operation, in a sting targeted at Middlebury's Good Point Recycling.

Police helicopters and SWAT teams brought excitement to the small town of Middlebury, Vermont.  Film of break-dancing "ewaste" devices shocked local leaders, who had no idea that dangerous reuse was taking place in their own community.

The focus of the sting was Manoi-Go, a stage 11 artificial intelligence robot crafted in northern Japan. Manoi-Go was surrounded by Green Mountain State e-waste police forces wearing hazardous waste "moon suits". Manoi-Go was pursued, moon-walking, into a corner of Good Point's ebay resale department.  Hours later, Manoi-Go would be toe-tagged and taped into a three-ply  box, slapped with a label "Danger, Contains E-Waste".

Waste-o-Matic: Solution to E-Waste Reuse

A simple solution to "ewaste"!  No more tricky repairs, donations, testing, reuse.   No hand disassembly to keep valuable parts.   No risk of being accused of leaving junk on overseas containers (unless you want to see where the shredded pieces go).  Waste-o-matic is a must-have tool for today's new "obsolescence class".

Don't let reuse and repair be labelled "haz waste" in Vermont.