E-Waste Made Simple. Logo Extortion

"It's as if recoiling from images of poverty is becoming equated with compassion."

That quote was one of my most powerful insights in 2011, crystalized after reading the December Bloomberg piece on fairtrade cotton and Victoria's Secret.  It's a powerful human impulse to harness, and Bloomberg reporter  Cam Newton (not the NFL player) is not the only "parasite of the poor".  Another report came out yesterday from our friends at BAN, loaded with allegation, evidence, and a solution for your e-waste angst, dissonance, panic, unease, discomfort, and fear.  The witch doctor in Seattle has a Copyrighted Logo cure for your toxic juju.

It's the same parasitic business model, harnessing our cognitive risk, unease, and good intentions (or fear of blackmail via public watchdog "outing") without sharing a dime with the poor people used in the process.  Read BAN.org's press release / email. Then look for evidence to support their allegation. 
But what most people don’t know is that most companies that call themselves electronics recyclers are not really recyclers at all.  They are global e-waste dumpers. The vast majority of companies and organizations touting themselves as environmentally friendly “recyclers” are just selling this highly toxic scrap to brokers, who then ship to developing countries in African and Asia where all this waste is broken down in highly dangerous and destructive ways, creating what 60 Minutes calls “the most toxic places on earth” (seewww.ban.org/photogallery).
Most people, Most recyclers,  Most Toxic Place.  Vast Majority...  Hyperbole accusations are a bad sign. The NGO doesn't know what it is talking about, and is making "facts" up as it goes along.  Providing false evidence is the first signal that someone is either mistaken or has an angle.

The first statement is not true on two levels.  Most people I meet think most electronics are exported and burned in primitive conditions.  BAN has been tremendously effective in its campaign to pair pictures of soiled children with closed containers of what they label "e-waste".   The evidence is to the contrary... See  IDC Survey of 182 USA Companies in 2011:  How do you employ 45,000 people in an industry that doesn't (according to BAN) actually do anything?
"Approximately 3.5 million tons of electronics were treated by the recycling industry in the U.S. in 2010. More than 62% comes from PC and IT-related equipment. The survey indicates that almost 70% by weight of the 3.5 million output in tonnage was processed domestically into commodity grade scrap, such as steel, aluminum, copper, precious metals recovered from circuit boards, glass, and plastic. The US geography remains the biggest market for survey respondents' direct output in both weight and value. 78.66% reported that their output was traded, sold and/or transferred within the U.S....  
"From an economic perspective, the industry employs at least 30,000 workers. These are workers active in companies that are defined as "recyclers" or in the recycling units of OEMs. In 2010, the total estimated combined revenue for the industry was $5.2 billion. These figures concern only recycling enterprises, not taking into account the contribution of not-for-profit entities, government agencies, etc. By including these entities, the broad electronics recycling impact is much bigger, with employment potentially as high as 45,000." 
And when the BAN press release cites CBS 60 Minutes as a "source" of the Most Toxic Place on Earth, the Watchdogs are actually quoting themselves (something they did 5 years ago when they told USA Today that "Eighty Percent" went to primitive recycling, then quoted "USA Today" as a source).  Being a primary source is ok, laundering yourself by taking your own quote and postulating it as a secondary source, that's academic probation.  But what do other secondary sources say?  Guiyu looks pretty dirty, whether the waste was imported, found in China, or what.

Here is another 3rd Party list (Mother Nature Network) of the top fifteen most toxic places "on earth". I did at least one second background check via search engine on each claim (each has 2 sources).  Not all these are toxic (e.g. deforestation, space junk), the previous post of top ten is strictly toxic.
  • Citarum River, Indonesia    - Textile Mills
  • Chernobyl, Ukraine - Nuclear Power Meltdown
  • Linfen, China -  Coal Plants
  • Gyre, North Pacific Ocean - discarded plastic
  • Rondonia, Brazil - Deforestation, meat industry
  • Yamuna River, India - Urban sewage
  • La Oroya, Peru - Lead mining
  • Lake Karachay, Russia - Nuclear waste dump site 
  • Haiti - Deforestation
  • Kabwe, Zambia - Lead and Zinc mining
  • Appalachia Strip Mines, USA - Coal
  • Dzerzhinsk, Russia - Munitions, petrochem, insecticide factories.
  • Riachuelo River Basin, Argentina - Tanneries, textiles, sewage
  • Vapi, India  - Textiles
  • Earths Orbit  - Satellite debris... This may qualify as "e-waste" if satellites are electronic devices.
Still, let's say Guiyu belongs on the list.   What is the pollution source?  Go upstream (Lianjiang River) from Guiyu, and you will find large textile dying operations, same as the Riachuelo, Lourajong, Citarum and Blackstone Rivers... and copper and evidence of smelter waste. But mining (the opposite of recycling) is the actual cause of the most toxic places on earth, with the highest blood levels for lead - Kabwe, Zambia and Oroyo Peru.   So if Guiyu is recycling, then it may be a net positive, reducing earth's pollution, at their own risk.  That should be rewarded with investment and cleaner technology - fair trade recycling.

Here is an independent Chinese report (GreenSOS.cn) on the pollution in the Lianjiang River UPSTREAM from Guiyu.
An independent laboratory found that the volume of heavy metals such as lead, copper and cadmium contained in the samples exceeded the national standard. However, with 133 “textile enterprise clusters” across the country, “Jeans Town” and “Underwear Town” are merely the tip of the iceberg.
In the river, large patches of dark blue embellished with light blue streaks and thick white flowing foam, transform into various colorful shapes. At first sight it resembles a lively abstract oil painting. In fact, this is the wastewater emitted by a denim clothing factory in Xintang, Guangdong province. The wastewater has never been processed and is poured directly into the winding river that surrounds the village. This water will eventually flow into the Dongjiang River and join the Pearl River.

BAN's remedy is different.  Close Guiyu, boycott recycling in China.  But their hyperbolic claims.. Most people, Most recyclers,  Most Toxic Place.... are mostly false testimony.   

Is this an honest mistake?  Is BAN a well-meaning, impartial, trustworthy eyewitness?  What about motive? From their press release:
So, how to tell the difference between “good” and “fake” e-recyclers? It used to be difficult for even the most conscientious consumer.  But now there is a simple choice, thanks to a new program that certifies responsible e-recyclers. Only Certified e-Stewards® Recyclers ensure your e-waste will not be exported to developing countries but rather recycled by the most secure practices in the world.
Ahh, the copyright symbol.   Only.. No one else is good.   The only way you can know I'm doing what I promise to do is if I have the certified E-Stewards recycling symbol.  And the only way I can get it... pay a portion of my company gross proceeds to BAN.   That's right, no matter WHAT I DO, send it to the SAME place, do the SAME thing, it does not matter ... unless I pay thousands of dollars to BAN, I'm not (apparently) ensuring that your e-waste will not be exported....  NO MATTER WHAT I DO, I MUST PAY BAN MONEY, or I'm polluting?   Crass, rank, out of control greed.  This is a business, backed by business, an anti-reuse, anti-trade campaign, backed by shredding investments and planned obsolescence.
The e-Stewards® Recycler Certification Program was developed by a leading environmental watchdog, the Basel Action Network (BAN), to give consumers and other generators of e-waste an easy, simple way of finding responsible recyclers. Only Certified e-Stewards Recyclers may display the e-Stewards logo, and these business leaders can be found on the e-Stewards website...
They have a cure.... a remedy, a good process.  But only someone who pays them for the copyrighted label can access the process or display it.  And if you don't use a company that pays BAN, you are "mostly" polluting.  The standard is created by the people making money from the standard.  No copy of the standard exists online, so you cannot even follow it, you have to pay them money to see it and find out if you'd be qualified, compliant, or equivalent.  And once again, not a penny goes to the kids "eyewitnessed" overseas whose photos BAN links to in the Basel Action Network photogallery.

Replace all the NGO imagery and names and places, and run this by any impartial judge.  This is fallacy with financial incentive, profiteering on photos of poor people.

What a great business model.   Make up an allegation against someone. Then sell people a copyrighted logo as a cure.  Sell your copyrighted logo to the people you accused.  Then stop accusing them, as long as they pay.  It's an "environmentalist extortion" racket.  Fortunately, serious environmental organizations are not going this route.  But someday you may see it...

- Unless you use my "Carbon Reducing Logo", you aren't reducing carbon?

- Unless you eat my "Vegetarian Steward" logo bearing food, you aren't a vegetarian?

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