It's here already. Today. Anti-ewaste-export curveball

Panasonic, Hangzhou Dadi, Dowa and Sumitomo Corp. jointly forming company to process electronics.

Four Asian companies, Japan-based Panasonic Corp., Dowa Holdings Co. and Sumitomo Corp., and China-based Hangzhou DADI Environmental Protection Engineering Co. Ltd., have reached an agreement to form a jointly-held company in China called Panasonic DADI DOWA Summit Recycling Hangzhou Co., Ltd. The company will process home appliances and electronics.
The decision to open an electronics recycling firm follows the enforcement of an ordinance in China, which began Jan. 1, 2011, on the collection, processing, and management of waste electrical and electronic products. The aim of the ordinance, which applies to five types of electrical and electronic products, is to promote environmentally safe processing of obsolete electronics. The five types of electronics include televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners and personal computers.
The new recycling company will collect and disassemble used home appliances and electronics and sell recovered materials in compliance with the Chinese ordinance and aims to be a model company for China with advanced recycling technologies. The new facility is expected to be operational by spring 2012. According to Panasonic will be the first Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer to enter the Chinese recycling market.
Under the plan worked out among the four companies, the companies will have the following roles:
Panasonic Group will provide its recycling technologies and equipment developed through its recycling business in Japan. In addition, the company will be responsible for gathering information on equipment procurement, production management and improvement of working environment including implementation of so-called "Five S" concept for workplace organization: Sort, Set in order, Shine or Clean, Standardize and Sustain or Discipline.
Hangzhou DADI, which has been engaged in collection, processing and general utilization of solid industrial waste, will cover information gathering on the related laws and regulations and the recycling market including collection and recycling-related companies, as well as negotiations with the government authorities to obtain approvals and permits. The company will also build systems and routes enabling to collect enough volume of waste home appliances to ensure business viability.
DOWA Group, which supplies materials and services in a broad range of businesses including environmental management and recycling, will operate the new recycling plant. The company will also gather information on equipment procurement.
Sumitomo Corp. will collect information on the global recycling industry as well as market trends and prices that will help sell recycled materials.

Fair Trade E-Waste Story in German

VERMONT - TONIGHT ON 3SAT.DE   The "Fair Trade Recycling" story, in apparently fair and balanced reporting of both the pollution danger and the danger of paternalistic censorship.  (Video takes awhile to load, but it is exceptional quality).

Translation to English -

MAN!  I want to know how to speak German and I want to know how to speak German NOW!  Here is a text translation, courtesy of Karin Hanta of Middlebury College.

This is the program running this evening.  Has a lot of footage of our Vermont retroworks reuse computers, the 23% we allow for export, the ones destroyed in "no intact unit" programs.

Postscript... the video is in high resolution above, its available in lower (flash) resolution on Youtube.  More importantly, thanks to videographer Ken French I just realized the two people interviewed as experts are(Muharrem) Batman and Robin (Ingenthron)... bringing freedom and democracy to Cairo.

Hopefully, the youtube embed of the flash version will appear soon.  فاير ترد ريسيسلينج إس نت وسط أر بولتون.

Cognitive Risk: Ewaste Cell Phone Cancer

Reading about which makes and models of cell phones may "correlate" to risk of brain cancer (on Slashdot).

I speak on my cell phone while warming coffee in a microwave oven.  This is exposing me to two technologies.  I wish to assume the microwave oven is not cooking me, and to assume the cell phone is not giving me cancer.  I'll never be around long enough to learn whether the two in combination have some effect, or whether either, in a small dose, is beneficial.  Most things in life are actually beneficial in small doses but harmful in large (red wine, iron, water, solar radiation).   There may be a "correct dose" of cell phone use which, in combination with microwave oven use, actually reduces brain cancer...

Too late - my cognitive risk assessment lobe has been tripped.

It's part of the human industrial cycle...  Use of the word "cancer" in conjunction with any common household appliance (cell phone, microwave, "e-waste", etc) will generate headlines and readership, due to human cognitive bias which equates change (technology) with risk.

"Cognitive bias is a general term that is used to describe many observer effects in the human mind, some of which can lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, or illogical interpretation." [wikipedia]

Local News: Interracial E-Waste Civil Union

Good Point Recycling made the front of the local Addison County newspaper yesterday.  I was shocked to immediately get congratulations from Mexicali Mexico, Rhode Island, etc.  It's a small world.

It was kind of a coincidence that the local paper came in during a walk-through with the Angolan electronics buyer.   Would they see this as evidence that we are "an exporter?"   Actually, I think the paper did a very good job, for a non-trade journal, of distinguishing between the 23% we export for reuse and recycling and the 77% of computers and TVs ("e-waste") we process domestically.

Compared to the articles I would have been a part of ten years ago... I'm doing the same thing... exporting a small percentage of used electronics, paying people to test and de-manufacture the junk.   But back then, the emphasis of any article was "look! look!  I'm NOT exporting 77%!  Look at us destroy!"  Yesterday's article, in a way, gingerly put, was about a local inter-racial marriage.

Conclusion: Bad Recycling Can Happen Anywhere

US News and World Report, among others, reports on a new study published May 31, in Environmental Research Letters.  Its a paper on the effects of toxics on human health, observed in a dirty recycling village where the recycling had been shut down because of the problems it was causing.

Environmentalists are already tweeting about the study's descriptions of toxics on the human body.  Those are all true, and no one doubts that the operation from Taizhou (shut down in 2004) is a mess.

But the researchers also clearly, very clearly, identify the problem as the standards for recycling at the plant.  It is not a call to ban imports of electronics or "e-waste".  And the researcher, Dr. Yang, is careful to note that recycling is better than smelting and refining, and that the culprit is the 2004 Taizhu process, not "recycling" or "imports and exports".   He calls for better trade, and reform of practices. It's a good foundation for fair trade or alter-globalization solutions.

Incidentally, my new HTC Evo 4G is completely unacceptable!  It is a total failure!  I missed the "30 day" warranty and do not out of principle buy the $80 annual warranty on cell phones (which would reflect an acceptance of 40% failure rate based on cost of the phone).  There is some "touchscreen" sensitivity issue which causes it to be unresponsive to touch at certain times - and not at others.  I can't get a clear answer whether it is a software or hardware issue, and I don't want to pay $400 for another damn Sprint phone.

HTC, Android, Sprint... I liked my first EVO, the one I broke accidentally, and was anxious to replace it.  I would maintain that the resale and export of that working one with a broken screen and a full return warranty and happy buyer feedback is NOT waste, and that THIS BRAND NEW ONE is e-waste.  I am mad enough to consider dumping Sprint after 10 years, or turning to Waste-o-Matic.  Totally and completely unacceptable that the phone is unresponsive to touch and I cannot answer calls.

It was made in China.  And any replacement phone I buy will likely be made in China.  It is not the fact that the phone is Chinese or made in Shenzhen.   I focus my anger on Sprint and HTC for the quality of this particular phone.  If I buy an IPhone replacement, it will also be made in the same factory, Foxconn, probably in Shenzhen, and if I am pleased with it, I will applaud it.  It is the quality of the device and the quality of the work which is the focus, not the nationality or ethnicity of the cell phone workers.

The same lesson - the exact same lesson - should be applied to recycling.  The fact that one Chinese process fails does not mean "China fails".  Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, we don't boycott Dallas.  Duh.


African Geeks and Free Geeks Everywhere

No sooner had Miguel reboarded the plane, with his sample laptops (sans hard drive), than we got another call from Wahab, and his friend Dada, of Ghana.  Wahab came to my plant to share photos and do an interview, and to meet the founder of Free Geek and IndieCycle, Nate Hutnak, who's also visiting Middlebury.

From Ghana Wahab 2011

Wahab's sharing photos of the wonderful genius "e-waste" technicians he hired (that means created jobs for) with the load from Vermont.  Here's a picture of the copy machine guru, who Wahab was delightfully describing an hour ago, using his hands and gestures to show how cool this guys work is.  He will also share some photos of a 15 year old he hired for circuit board repair (bad capacitor replacement included), who fixed the LCDs.

From Ghana Wahab 2011

I'll also share photos of the mistakes and lessons.  Wahab, you'll remember, tested the equipment at our site, but took them by truck to load himself in New York (closer to port).  Though he packed them himself, the container was "inspected" and either in shipping or in inspection, some LCDs got busted.

That's one example of how busted equipment winds up in Ghana.  Did you know that 11% of all  new display devices sold in the USA are non-working returns? 
From Ghana Wahab 2011

I'm trying people.   I'm trying so hard.  These are the jobs I dreamed of for my students in Cameroon.  Egypt's Tahir Square is the result I dreamed of.  More people are writing about alter-globalization, fair trade, and trying to do the right thing.