Bloomberg: Stop the Baseless Panic Over "E-waste" Exports

llustration by Tim Lahan

Today Bloomberg News runs an editorial by Shanghai-based author Adam Minter which debunks the widely over-reported and false statistics about e-waste "dumping" overseas.   Citing several studies, Minter concludes
"Thanks to the International Trade Commission findings and other, smaller-scale studies, we now know that most secondhand electronics are reused and recycled in the U.S. The toxic tide that frightened Americans into stashing their old computers in closets turns out to be nothing more threatening than a trickle."
See Mike Enberg's response (from comment field) below.

enbergsea 4 hours ago          The author cites the International Trade Commission survey which asked recyclers to self report on whether or not they are party to the illegal export of hazardous e-waste to developing countries. Of course, such results are going to under-report the incidence of exporting e-waste. If you asked 5,200 individuals to report on whether or not they cheated on their taxes, I bet the survey would show a remarkably honest tax base, too.
This has got to be Mike Enberg in Seattle, the director of E-Stewards.   Digging himself in deeper.  He finds the weakest link in Adam Minter's article - the fact that one of the studies he cites was based on surveys (surveys correlated with data and supported with bayesian analysis from MIT).  But he neglects to comment on the UNEP studies, which took 279 sea containerloads of used electronics imported into Nigeria in 2011, and individually went through each container, and found 91% reuse.  Or the ASU study, or the Basel Convention Ghana Study, or BAN's own Kenya study... all finding 85-91% was NOT primitively dumped.

The point of the article is that Basel Action Network made up a number, that 80-90% of what Americans and Europeans collected for recycling was not actually recycled but dumped in Africa and Asia.  The BAN propaganda was used as "training film" for European waste enforcement.  They arrested Joseph Benson of BJ Electronics, and seized goods in containers, based on Mike Enberg's organizations completely fictitious, false, made up, hoax stastic, which is obviously the point of the Bloomberg article.

The organization is so burdened by the success of its unicorn-laden-myth, that it cannot respond rationally to the ITC study, or the five or six other studies.  Where is a single source of data to support the "80-90%" statistic BAN gave to Frontline, Fresh Air, CBS 60 Minutes, Oprah and USA Today?  Enberg could apologize, or he could at least aknowledge that SOME of the Africans whose lives were ruined by his organization's Baseless Panic over E-Waste Exports MIGHT be innocent.   He's clutching a candle in the wind, hoping that a critique of the weakest aspect of one of the studies will serve as a fig leaf.

His predecessor lied.  Jim Puckett lied to reporters.   Enberg has a choice, whether to try to ride this out, or to turn the organization around and try to do some good.   They should donate money to Joseph Benson, Hamdy Moussa, Gordon Chiu, and other importers whose lives Jim Puckett ruined with his ego-driven chutzpah laden "facts" about "e-waste".

They did not know what they were talking about.

The were making it up as they went along.

It's not going to be the crime, it's going to be the cover-up, which Enberg owns.   I respect him, and I hope that BAN's board is turning over the reigns, ending the despotic reign of fatwahs on recycling.   Mike needs to feel comfortable enough in their position to take the UNEP data, the Kenya report his own organization assisted (and then buried) in 2007, and do its part to end the profiling arrests of brown skinned tinkerers.

Enberg's comment about asking organizations to report their own income is shocking as a rebuttal to an editorial which calls his own organization on a falsified, made up number.  He has to do better than that.

The page has turned.   Enberg can make a fresh start, support Fair Trade Recycling, meet the Geeks of Color.  He can rescue his organization, reform it, before it goes down in history as the biggest Parasite of the Poor.  It's a sin to kill a mockingbird.

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