Wandering Environmental Justice: Mining Cost of Non-Toxic E-Waste

Hurray for non-toxic metals which replace lead solder under ROHS?

Who cares about gorillas and conflict metal mines, when wealthy nations landfill toxicity is at stake.

Three T's
What is truly sad is that environmentalists my age began recycling before anyone thought it was a "waste" material... we did it to slow energy use and mining.  We rode the "avoided disposal cost" wagon right off the cliff.   Join the push-back against tin solder, tantalum, and tungsten (and I'd add gold and silver) in electronics.  Or at least recycle them, make it closed loop.

Stopping Africans from repairing and recycling computers (with clean tools and incentives under fair trade) means 15,000 Ghana repairworkers lose their jobs.   Should they go dig up tantalum so we can make brand new cell phones for them?  Is this Basel Brand of Environmental Justice?

I know I've been harsh this month.  But this is bloody important, and it's been ten years of the same poster children pushing shredders which don't even recover these rare earth metals.  Hand disassembly, saving the chips themselves, is the highest, highest form of recycling.  Stop taking pictures of kids at landfills and start taking pictures of good recycling operations, s'ils vous plaites.

Organizations - Advocacy Organizations
This is a group for those who want to Tell Cell Phone Companies To Stop using tantalum, tungsten, and tin for cells because using these products they finance armed conflict and atrocities in Congo. Companies need to take two steps to provide credible assurance that they are conflict-free:First, trace their minerals back to their specific mines of origin. This will help them determine if they are p...See More
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Legion Jericho Guinn Valor (Abilene, TX)

Tell Cell Companies To Stop using tantalum, tungsten, and tin for cells

Aly Jones
Tell Cell Phone Companies To Stop using tantalum, tungsten, and tin for cells because using these products they finance armed conflict and atrocities in Congo. Companies need to take two steps to provide credible assurance that they are conflict-free:First, trace their minerals back to their specifi

March 19 at 5:02pm ·  ·  · 

Alyssa Perry

 I hope that this page is able to accomplish the mission. Cell phone companies need to stop using tantalum, tungsten, and tin for cells because using these products they finance armed conflict and atrocities in Congo.

March 19 at 2:44pm ·  · 

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.

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.

Basel Convention vs. OECD Convergence: Export Facts


The worst recycling practices in the world need to be cleaned up.  R2 and E-Stewards, along with different state and federal stewardship laws, create a space which Moral Recyclers need when there are tough choices to be made on recycling price points.

I agree with Basel Action Network and Computer Takeback, at least half the time.   We agree about the situation of the poorest three billion people, or half of the six billion people who do not live in OECD countries.  Lead poisoning of children is not a myth, it's a heartbreaking environmental crime.

This is why I'm so upset to see my friends falsely accused of causing it.  Good exports are different than bad exports.

Rationally, let's look at the numbers.

"Non-OECD" does not mean "primitive". It's 83% of the world, and 50% of the world economy.  I am a staunch defender of geeks and technicians who happen to live in "non-OECD" nations, who operate impressive repair, refurbish, contract manufacturing, elective upgrade, white-box manufacturing facilities, which create sustainable economies and internet access.
  1. Half (50%) of the Global Economy is in Non-OECD countries.
  2. Of OECD raw material exports, about half (50%) are mined ore and timber.  Half are recycled.
  3. Of the recycled portion (including e-waste), it is alleged that 80% of sales are to 83% of the world's population.
  4. During the past decade, growth of internet access in the non-OECD nations grew at ten times the rate as OECD nations.  They need the monitors, even used ones, for video display.
So OECD exports 80 percent of its used monitors (either shredded as raw material, or for reuse) to this 83 percent of the world.   The surprising thing would be ...anything else.  The non-OECD nations are growing, projected to be 60% of the world economy by 2030.   They are younger economies, which have less scrap and more virgin land.  Internet there is exploding.  The older economies have more scrap, and less mining and forestry as a percent of their economy.

Poisoned children in Guiyu China is not a scam or a hoax.  The hoax is that E-Stewards lends them a dime or does anything to help those children.  This is not a beauty contest, where the NGO with the most heartfelt answer gets the contract.  Fair trade recycling means locating the people doing fantastic things, like IFIXIT and WR3A members, and giving them incentives and compensation to create sustainable comfort and prosperity.  Boycotting 83% of the world because the worst 30% of the world is so, so, so sad... It's not a final answer.

And the worst recycling, even in Guiyu, beats beats lead mining in Kabwe. We have to let the developing world reuse and recycle, while giving them the financial incentives to do so in a safe and clean manner.
Fair trade is a real methodology for dealing with e-waste, based on data, trade. We don’t address “primitive” recycling practices in one area of China by boycotting the best recycling practices in the world in another part of China, or another country.
One man’s opportunity for exploitation is another person’s chance for cooperation. The ban on interracial marriage was also a bad idea,no matter how many pictures of unhappy marriages the opponents take. Love will conquer all. And I love the geeks of color in the converging economies of the rapidly developing world.
(Reprinted in Motherboard.tv   More stats below)