Playing Nice With "eWaste" Geeks

I sort of get wound up sometimes.  I really believe in Fair Trade Recycling, and it's really sad that our biggest opponents are "environmentalists".  This post is dedicated as a reminder of some of the people I've been very, very proud to have met in developing nations.  See my friends pictures, below the "more" fold.

Simon Lin, Wistron chairman
Photo Simon Lin, Wistron chairman
Photo credit: Digitimes file photo
What is a shame is that I have no slides of, or friends in, Chengdu, China.  It's just a little bit smaller than Cairo, with 14 million residents.  It's in Western China, which has lagged in development.

How is China trying to develop and advance this part of their country?  By partnering with Wistron, (the contract assembly company that owns ACER, number 2 in world PC sales).   The mainland Chinese government has turned once again to a Taiwanese billionaire with "tinkerer" roots.   Wistron began as a maker of plastic cases for computer monitors, and continues to supply SKD factories.  I'm sure there will be Western pessimism about Wistron and environmental stewardship, as there is with Foxconn and other Taiwanese-owned manufacturers.  But do they know that Wistron is also opening a major plastic recycling plant in Texas?  In fact, Wistron funds my company to collect computers from schools, free of charge, in New England.

I have met several people in the refurbishment business who bragged of knowing Simon Lin (one SKD factory owner was a nephew named after him).  Will I live to see one of my friends below, from Africa, Latin America, or South Asia, use the same refurbishing springboard?  No more far fetched than the idea of China's Shenzhen beehive would have been (to most) two decades ago.  And Taiwanese and Chinese investors are buzzing around Africa and South America like bees on daffodils.

What dreams can we have for the developing world?  I learned a new vocabulary word, ODM (original design manufacturer)...

These are great stories, about sustainable reuse, intelligent refurbishing, and geek and tinkerer economies, and recycling takeback, worldwide.  When I heard Allen Hershkowitz of NRDC, speaking on the Diane Rehm Show, say "I have been there, I have seen it" to describe "#ewaste exports" to 83% of the world, I shook my head.

I think I've been to a lot of different places.  Yet I could never imagine myself saying "I have been there" to describe the rest of the darn world.   I've never been to Chengdu, I've never even been to India or Pakistan.  But here are some places I have been to, and some people who have electronics knowledge have in common, with each other, with Wistron, and with FreeGeeks and Refurbishers here in the USA.
"As an ODM (original design manufacturer) Wistron designs and manufactures products for other companies to sell under their own brand name. "
I noticed in the Wikipedia entry for Wistron that they have made a distinction between contract manufacturing (when IBM designs something and outsources the assembly to a factory), and their own design and invention of new products, which they "license" out to western names (like "Polaroid" and "Kodak") for brand recognition.   Simon Lin is a living example of how a Tinkerer can rise to the top.

My dream is that my tinkerer and geek friends will do the same.   I'm proud of my exports.

This was my friend in Cairo.  We traded about 30,000 computers together in the past decade.   He and his brother primarily sold them to hospitals and universities, but also at malls.  The trade was banned in Egypt in 2008.

These photos were taken at contract manufacturing plants which were buying back used computer monitors and refurbishing them.  The largest was a really outstanding refurbishing factory in Indonesia.   They refurbished 5,000 units per day at peak.  They put in takeback programs and glass to glass recycling for the material, creating an infrastructure for "e-waste" in countries that need them.

These photos were from our friends, the Chicas Bravas, in the Sonora desert in Mexico.   They take used computers and create local jobs and recycle the glass and plastic, using hand tools to separate out parts and pieces that would be shredded in the USA.

This is film from a takeback program in Africa which did local reuse and repair, but was mostly funded by the margins on PCs they imported.

In all these photos, I count about a hundred people whose lives were ruined by people who believe and trust other people like Allen Hershkowitz of Natural Resources Defense Council.  He spoke on the Diane Rheam show last week, and described how all the 83% of the world is burning the computers they buy in primitive conditions.  He really believes it.

He trusts Basel Action Network more than he trusts me.

I just don't know what else to do.  Tried compromise, tried writing professional articles, tried writing funny articles, tried writing angry articles.

It's like I've had this dream for thirty years, since Peace Corps, to find a way to create jobs here in the USA, to help people in the developing world, to travel to exotic places, to own my own small business, and to be philosophically active.

I'm living my dream.

But it's so sad the number of people I have to offend, who are probably good  people, or at least think they are good people... in order to protect my friends in other languages, who are incredibly capable of doing this "e-waste recycling" correctly, better than I can.

Next month I'm sending 4 Fair Trade Recycling representatives to Nairobi, and I'm going to go visit a new SKD factory relocated to South America (from Indonesia).  I'm taking my family with me, as I've done to visit the families of recyclers and geeks in Cairo and Mexico.

Donald Summers said we can agree to disagree.  I cannot agree to call these people primitive polluters.  I used to think the NGOs were really genuine and belived this.  Now I think NRDC is in the pocket of Neu at WeRecycle, and I think Puckett and Summers are trying to cash out all the influence they had in the past decade, turn it into money.

These people don't seem to care when 3 containerloads are confiscated, representing a lifetime of wages, which would have been reused in internet cafes.  The Basel Convention allows it... the NGO wants to amend the Basel Convention so it won't be allowed anymore.   It's not even waste anyway.

(note, this post "morphed" or was added to between Friday night and Saturday AM, after I saw the news about Chengdu and wanted to work in how I know nothing about it, but had heard Allen at NRDC say "I have been there")

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