BAN BAN Reports on Jakarta, not on Kenya

BAN should get credit when they get it right.  And BAN should take credit when they got something right back in 2006... when it turns out they assisted the first study of Africa used computer imports - and found that 80% are reused.  A link to the study follows.
primitive environmentalism

As for this week's headline, BAN appears to have gotten a bad guy for a change.  According to E-Scrap News, the loads of "ewaste" seized at the port of Jakarta, originating in Europe, are dirty loads... they sound like the office material we got from the Waterbury Office Irene Floods.   The broker, WR Fibers, is not anyone I know or anyone that any of my former buyers in Indonesia have anything to do with.

Now, the free trade argument can still be made... note that sales of raw ore and blister copper - dirt from the ground with high metal content - is still legal to export.  Digging it out of a mountain or rain forest doesn't seem to me to be safer than taking a percentage of metal from dirt second-hand.  And I still wait to hear from the person who bought it, whether they are upset, or were paid to dump it, or see value (like ore value) that we don't recognize.  But I'm relieved it's not another refurbisher being accused.

Indonesian authorities should be watching  for loads like this - rather than computers and monitors imported by "white box" computer re-manufacturers.  This is very different from the crackdown in Semarang, Indonesia, two years ago, when a very highly functional ISO14001 factory was wrongfully accused of being a primitive wire burning e-waste dump by Basel Action Network., the start of my blog crusade against "accidental racists".

We need to applaud BAN when they are right. And today, I get to applaud them twice.  Because it turns out they were also right back in 2006, supporting a study in Nairobi, Kenya.  The Kenya study, below, found that African techs want to buy good computers, not junk, and they succeed 80% of the time.  That's right, BAN's study said that most of the imports are good, and the focus should be on cleaning up the worst 10-20%.

BAN is not just unwilling to admit when they make a mistake.  In 2006, they refused to admit they got it right.  In 2006, they had information which supports the Fair Trade Recycling theory that the import glass is more than "half full".  But that kind of information doesn't seem to make it into their press releases.

PRELIMINARY STUDY ON THE IMPORTED SECOND HAND COMPUTERS IN KENYA - THE CASE OF NAIROBI by Richard Kiaka and Rachel Kamande (2007) "with guidance from Puckett James, Basel Action Network"
  • The study emphasizes how terrible the bad portion of imports - 10 to 20% - are for the environment
  • The study calls for an infrastructure to properly recycle the bad portion - 10 to 20% - of computers imported into Kenya.
  • The study tracks how the buck is passed, to children or scrap dealers, or "along for the ride" with the legimitate reuse imports (80%-90% of imports).
early Kenyan Study
The question is, why did BAN continue to say that 80-90% of computers imported into Kenya were bad?  And did that have something to do with Kenya's decision to ban all affordable second hand computer imports in 2010?  And why did BAN  not proudly circulate this study to all of us?  It's like they knew Kenya was embarking on a dangerous surgery, and didn't provide evidence of misdiagnosis.

Their own study was the first of 4 showing that 85% of computers imported are typically reused.  Yet not only did they "bury it", they went on to criticize studies and articles which reached the same conclusion!  BAN could have said that the next 3 studies and articles were on target, and shared their report from Kenya.

1) My "Monkeys Running Environmental Zoo" analysis, which used shipping cost, value of goods sold, and payment to back-out the possible junk in a load of monitors.   At 30% bad, it's break even at best... I predicted 15% reuse.  Of course I'd also the benefit of years of experience of actual shipments.

2) Ramzy Kahhat's Peru study in 2009, which tracked sales of used computers imported into Peru... and found 85% were reused or repaired.

It's one thing to arrive at a different conclusion based on different observations than another person studying.  But if you are caught observing something which confirms your opponents hypothesis, and you cover it up, and still attack the opponent... you are biased, discredited or at best, primitive in your logic.

3) The Ghana E-Waste Assessment (2011), which found 85% reuse (70% direct reuse + 15% repair).

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