E-Waste Export Hoax Coming "Home" to Roost

Recycling Today reports on the US International Trade Commission Study - the fifth, I think, to say that between 80% and 90% of used electronics purchased (with money) and shipped (with more money) by Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans were working or repairable.
"Exports accounted for $1 billion in sales of refurbished UEPs and $439 million in recycled material.  According to the study, despite longstanding anecdotal accounts to the contrary, 88 percent of all UEPs exported as repaired/refurbished are sent “tested and working.” Only a small share of U.S. exports, less than 1 percent (0.8 percent), is sent overseas for disposal."
Is it any surprise that BAN.org was this week turning its Watchdog Binoculars onto USA E-waste processors who are speculatively accumulating crushed CRTs?  The NYTimes article barely mentions exports, its focus is all the money that has been paid for DOMESTIC USA recycling which has led to nothing but big piles of toxic glass on the ground.

I was tsk-tskd as going too far when I wrote the article last year, E-Waste Recycling Hoax.   Pleas to #freeJosephBenson never got a retweet.  Everyone (especially CAER) kept to the hymn that 80-90% of USA's CRT televisions and monitors are not being processed, but dumped in China and Africa.  The 85%, or 88%, or 87%, or 90% studies (of what arriving overseas is good for reuse) got no ink.

But now NYTimes says that NGOs are protesting the massive piles of CRT glass from tubes collected in the USA's domestic recycling programs.

 What does this picture say?

It says the Africa export story was indeed a hoax.   But Watchdogs have turned the page, and are poaching game in the USA's home turf.

Well, it's not a complete hoax.  There was some truth to Basel Action Network's export story.  In my passion to defend the Hurricanes (Hamdy, Benson, and Chiu) I don't want to pretend there is not serious room for improvement in e-waste recycling overseas. There are indeed toxic repercussions of burning wires, or using aqua regia acid to get gold.  There were, indeed, toxics along for the ride.  The exporters had the control, and the power, and externalization did result.  The problem is, a boycott took the agents of conscience out of the trade, and gave those with less conscience even greater power to leverage the demand, and sell into it.

Externalization economics had affected some aspects of the trade in used electronics.  Exactly as externalization economics have resulted in mining raw materials in rain forests, just as it led to the "anti-gray-market" seizure of used goods, challenges to first use policy, delayed patent exhaustion, and other wars on the poor.  Tinkering, fixing, and refurbishment isn't perfect.  It can indeed be reformed and made more fair. But tinkering and repair are the go-to game for the poor.   Arresting Africans, seizing their purchases, and putting them in jail just doesn't deserve the air time that it competes for with ivory hunting, sex tourism, and child soldiering.  Arresting the victims isn't my idea of restitution.

BAN's Jim Pucket was this week back in the NY Times, his camera binoculars set on USA CRT processing companies.  Once his darlings, are the domestic CRT processors now the next scourge of e-waste? Will BAN feed on its own, for speculatively accumulating CRT glass he told them to take apart despite the orders from overseas factories that wanted to repair and reuse them?

OK, if we are moving closer together, this is not the time to attack fellow environmentalists.  But after Interpol's arrests and Joseph Benson's plea agreement, just changing the subject doesn't go far enough.  It's time for BAN to say something constructive to the people in Semarang, Lagos, Accra, etc.   The NYT case is not just a finger wag at American CRT recyclers - it's an important anti-defamation credential for the folks who import used equipment for repair, reuse, and even proper recycling.

Many Africans (and Pakistanis, and Indians, and yes Chinese) are poor.  They are also getting online at TEN times the rate of growth of the first billion people to get internet.  Cynically, it appears the NGO has gotten all the nickels they can from the poor kids photos.  Next source of money?  Shaking down the E-Stewards?

The UN showed the junk being burned by Africans at African dumps was mostly THEIR African junk.  Yes, African junk.  Used up and twice repaired.  And there is a lot more of it.

That's no longer interesting, yesterday's (fake) news... not worthy of NYTimes attention.

But now the NYTimes sees where the USA junk TVs were actually going.... the glass piled and piled on USA property... We cannot blame the e-waste Watchdogs for the mismanagement of the CRT glass.  But as they draw our attention to it, wouldn't it be nice if they said, by the way, #Chiu and #Benson and #Hamdy were "collateral damage"?  I mean, they said it to me personally, and I'm grateful... but why not tell the NY Times reporter as well, when Interpol is announcing the arrests of African importers just weeks earlier?

Thinking cynically, BAN.org is photographing the USA companies they told not to sell to black people.

Those companies didn't, they were afraid to sell to the export market, and they broke the TVs as they were told.  They broke all the CRT glass into big piles, per Stewardship orders.

Now, it's the US Section of the New York Times.  American CRT glass, piled in American yards.  Which, once the US ITC added it up, never allowed enough of it to be 80-90% exported to poor people overseas.

The extreme limit of every single generation of electronic device?

It cannot be in two places at once.

"Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east. …"

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