As regular readers know, I believe the biggest environmental outrage of the decade was Basel Action Network's accusation in 2010 of a large scale computer monitor takeback and refurbishing factory (PT Imtech of Semarang, Indoenesia) of being a "hazardous waste" polluter. BAN refused to ever acknowledge that the factory was permitted, ISO9000, ISO14001, had put glass-to-glass washing equipment for incidental breakage, and was providing sustainable recycling and reuse jobs in the tsunami-ravaged nation.
I don't have any details about the accusation made late yesterday against the Netherlands and other exporters of "e-waste" to Jakarta. It may or may not be one of the Indonesian Techs we interviewed on camera.
We do know for sure that BAN has falsely accused people in the past, and has a pattern of not admitting it or explaining themselves. BAN made false statements about the 2010 rejection (BAN said in writing that the Indonesian government had opened the containers and discovered hazardous waste, but the Indonesian government said that they were "notified" by BAN that the containers has HW and returned them unopened). We got independent verification from Port of Boston officials (where the 2010 containers were returned) that the seals on the containers had not been opened.
We cannot defend anyone involved in today's case, as we have done no more business in Indonesia. Perhaps the "e-waste" is hazardous, I really don't know.
Here is video and slides of a factory I do know was in Jakarta, where todays containers were seized. They refurbished computers into like-new condition and sold them in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Iran and other nations which were hungry for affordable internet. When we visited, they were refurbishing 5,000 computer devices per DAY and employed hundreds of people. Yes, that's 5,000 units per DAY.
I approached BAN about a Compromise two years ago... hoped that BAN would look at these pictures and perhaps feel a little remorse, and be a little gentler about the concept of Fair Trade Recycling. Jim was civil, but said his hands were tied, as he believed that the export SHOULD be made illegal, even if it was not, event if no pollution resulted. His theory was that rich people will always abuse poor people, and stopping the trade between rich nations and poor would result in poor nations "leapfrogging" into better technology. While he admitted it wasn't actually illegal under Basel Convention, that for consistency he had to oppose it because he objected to that part of the Basel Convention (Annex IX).
BAN's solution to me was that Basel Convention Annex IX B1110 (which makes this activity LEGAL) should be amended by a Basel Ban Amendment (so that even if legal now, it would become illegal), and that the factory should buy worn out stuff from poor countries instead of the 3 year old equipment they like to refurbish from rich countries. Then BAN said that they would meet the demand for internet by selling "tested working" and "fully functional" computers from E-Stewards, eliminating the need for refurbishing jobs in Indonesia. We wonder how close to 5,000 working units per day their E-Steward shredding companies have come.
So in the past the NGO has committed fraud. In the past the NGO created a hoax that the computers at the dump in Ghana were recently imported (no evidence of that). We'll see whether their history of false accusations is even brought up by Treehugger, Grist, Huffington Post or Good.
The European and American press are cowards for not uncovering the money that goes from planned obsolescence interests into this shady, reckless, racist organization in Seattle whose job it is to chase reuse entrepreneurs out of the closet. This Seattle NGO organization does nothing for the environment. The biggest shame of the environmental movement is that they continue to circulate the accusations and stories and never lift a finger to investigate the truth about the people who have committed no crime except to be geeks of a different color.
Basel Action Networks press release is below. Maybe this time they are right. A broken clock does that twice per day. If the formula is to accuse every geek of color who buys surplus property from rich nations a polluter, they may eventually get one... because they have millions of people to profile.