Washington DC Testimony on E-Waste Rare Earths

I have to catch the 5A Bus to Dulles, and don't have many good pictures of the US Trade Commission hearings.  But I'll mention this:

The last panel of shredders and recyclers said that rare earth metals are not recoverable, and kind of waffled on the question whether hand disassembly provides better quality.

Here is an article by Bloomberg Reporter Adam Minter, who visited our Fair Trade Recycling partner in Malaysia.  They hand-disassemble hard drives there, and sell the rare earth magnets directly back to a company like Seagate in Singapore for direct reuse.  I'll show these magnets in a future post.

Here is an article recently posted by Fair Trade Recycling researcher Adelaide Rivereau, who is in Vermont from Marseilles, France, to study "e-waste" policy.  She has found definitive third party research showing that hand disassembly has greater value, creates more jobs, and has twice the environmental benefit when reuse components are recovered.

So how can someone testify under oath that rare earth magnets are not recoverable and hand disassembly is not preferable?

If you repeat the words "toxic e-waste", "toxic e-waste", "toxic e-waste" as many times as our shredder competitors said it, you can become entranced.  They made reference to an article from 2008 by National Geographic, talking about the dirty children burning waste computers from the city of Accra.

The photographer, Peter Selleck, ALSO visited the fair trade recycling company visited by Minter, and showed pictures of the reuse operation there.   But there were no children in those photos, so if I say "remember the really great operation in National Geographic?  That's the one where I learned to hand disassemble hard drives for magnets".   No one remembers the National Geographic in that context.

Toxic "ewaste" + Shredder = small pieces of toxic "ewaste" = $$$

The shredded material is exported "as a commodity".   Amazing what the power of high force friction will do to lead, it turns it into gold.

Hand disassembling power boards to retrieve heat sinks, chips and capacitors is far better than shredding those tuner and power boards.  That is the truth, and covering up the truth with fear of black children is a lousy way to protect your business.

Here are some Africans primitively fixing computers for med school students (most of their clients at this shop) in Cairo.

Here are the "Medical Computer" shop.  Their biggest client was a blood bank.  The single highest cause of premature death of women in Africa is blood loss from child birth.  I had a report card in my hand, which I've written about before, to hand to my Cameroonian student who died the night before in childbirth.  Ok it doesn't have the word "toxic" in it, so maybe shredding the computers is better.

Here are nine people in Indonesia doing the work of a USA "shredder", pulling components and sorting them from computer monitor boards.

Indonesia factory shut down by accusations of "primitive" .. um... rare earth, chip and component harvesting.

This is about defamation.  IFIXIT's Kyle Wiens was there, and we had lunch and dinner.   I'm trying to make the connections between refurbishers like Kyle, Jim Lynch (TechSoup), Charles Brennick (Interconnection) and Willie Cade (PCRR), the others who testified.  They know what it's like when OEMs make things difficult to fix, and they do it anyway.  They know what it's like when used product is a second class product.  But they don't yet know what it's like to have pictures of poisoned children, burning wires at a city dump's slum, and have Washington officials told, point blank, that's them.

The "non-OECD", the six billion people buying 50% of all new technology.  Like NRDC, "I have been there".  It's an exotic and faraway place... a land called "Polaroid".  But not all six billion people there are glue-sniffing slum gutter dwellers.  And what's worse, repair and fixing IT is the best way to earn income and find your way OUT of the slum.

Convincing people that shredding equipment and boycotting brown people is not only their method, but should become mandated USA law, is a job I'd quit from.  I would not accept an invitation to testify if that is what I was told to say. 

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