FIREHOSE Statistics on Exports of Used Electronics

"The majority of refurbished products stem from imports via the ports of Lagos. The interim
results from project component 2, the Nigerian e-Waste Country Assessment, show that 70%
of all the imported used equipment is functional and is sold to consumers after testing. 70%
of the non-functional share can be repaired within the major markets and is also sold to
consumers. 9% of the total imports of used equipment is non-repairable and is directly
passed on to collectors and recyclers."
- Final report of the UNEP SBC, E-waste Africa Project,  Lagos & Freiburg, June 2011 

Right wing think tank?  Protectionist industry study?
"9% of the total imports of used equipment is non-repairable and is directly passed on to collectors and recyclers."
No.  This is from the two year study of the Basel Convention Secretariat, one of the several listed at the UNEP and Basel Convention site.  " Informal e-waste management in Lagos, Nigeria – socio-economic impacts and feasibility of inter-national recycling co-operations"  And it is not a typo.  Thats NINE PERCENT, not 90%!

Ok.  It's not perfect.  9% of the used electronics purchased by Africans could not be reused or repaired, and that's a lot of waste.  But is it bad enough to ban exports?  

Take a guess what new item store returns are for product sold in California?  11.9%

That's right, dear readers.   According to the National Retail Foundation, store returns of merchandise sold in California is nearly 12%.   Now, no doubt some of those returns are "buyers remorse", and the NRF estimates that a certain percent is return fraud.  But that's retail, it doesn't include damage in shipping... or static damage discovered before the goods are sold, or are pulled from the shelf because of high returns.

Here are the statistics of the percentage of electronics which are damaged by ELECTROSTATIC charges upon import to the USA.   From ESD Association web site:
“Despite a great deal of effort during the past decade, ESD still affects production yields, manufacturing costs, product quality, product reliability, and profitability. Industry experts have estimated average product losses due to static to range from 8-33%. Others estimate the actual cost of ESD damage to the electronics industry as running into the billions of dollars annually. The cost of damaged devices themselves ranges from only a few cents for a simple diode to several hundred dollars for complex hybrids. When associated costs of repair and rework, shipping, labor, and overhead are included, clearly the opportunities exist for significant improvements.”
So damage to new electronics is estimated at 8-33%, and store returns in California are 11.9%.   And Ghana and Nigeria studies found loss or damage of used product to be between 9% and 15%.  

AND HERE'S the killer.   At the Vermont Fair Trade Recycling Summit at Middlebury College, I learned that brand new product - the ones Africans can afford, cheap stuff from China - fails at a higher rate than used goods!   The Ghana and Nigeria study never tested the new product, so there's actually not even a control group... but the Africans who came to the Summit said there's much less risk to buying used American  name-brand electronics.

Based on the firehose of disinformation hurled at Africa technicians, the statistics above aren't ever considered.  Basel Action Network fabricated, hallucinated, or otherwise made up the only statistic Interpol needed to arrest and seize the goods of 40 African electronics businesses in the past 6 months, 240 tons of affordable computers and televisions purchased by Africans for resale in their cities...

And now, without further adieu, here is today's press release from our friends in Seattle Washington.  Click below... hear how Puckett describes the "reuse excuse", those nasty, polluting, toxic African techs.  From the source of the "90% of Africa Imports are Primitive", here's a report from the Basel Convention.... which leading up to the Fair Trade Recycling Summit, is leaning our way.


Electronics Industry Lobbies to Classify e-Waste as non-Waste to allow Export to Developing Countries

“Export for Repair” Exemptions Would Allow Uncontrolled Exports
of Obsolete, Junk Electronics
Geneva, Switzerland. May 03, 2013. At this week’s meeting of the Basel Convention – an international treaty designed to protect developing countries from international toxic waste dumping -- computer and other electronic equipment manufacturers are pressing hard for exemptions from established controls on the export of electronic waste or e-waste.  The proposed exemptions would allow untested or non-functional electronic waste, often containing toxic lead, cadmium, mercury and brominated flame retardants, to be considered a non-waste and subject to free-trade in many circumstances so long as the exporter can claim that that the old equipment might be ‘repairable’.   

The Basel Action Network (BAN) will condemn the latest industry move today at the opening of the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (COP11).  This week’s meeting comes on the heels of the previous COP10 Basel meeting in 2011 that celebrated the advancement of the Basel Ban Amendment – an international agreement that forbids the export of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries, and is already implemented by 33 developed countries.  BAN argues that this latest industry effort would undercut the very reason for the Basel Convention, not to mention the Ban Amendment.

“This is really a very shocking effort to further widen the floodgates of a tide of toxic techno-trash already inundating ports and dumps in Africa and Asia,”said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of BAN, “Industry claims this will foster re-use, which we fully support, yet they fail to adequately explain why re-use can’t be done in accordance with established Basel Convention rules.  Truly caring about about re-use, would mean that manufacturers would make equipment that lasts longer, is upgradable, and does not contain toxic chemicals.  It’s all just a bit disingenuous to claim that exporting broken, obsolete toxic equipment to developing countries is best for the environment.

The battleground for waste de-listing for ‘repairable’ electronics is a guideline entitled Draft Technical Guidelines on the Transboundary Movements of Electronic and Electrical Waste (e-Waste).  The important overall conclusion of the Guideline without the proposed “for repair” exemptions is that if equipment is not functional or not tested then it is a waste, consistent with longstanding interpretations of the Basel Convention.

ITI (the Information Technology Industry Council), are spearheading this latest attack on the Basel definitions, is a high-tech industry lobby association and includes major computer and TV manufacturers, such as Dell, HP, Sony, Samsung, LG and Apple.  Ironically, many of these companies individually have boasted policies against exports of e-waste.  Yet it is known that ITI lobbyists have been approaching countries all over the world for months to persuade them to de-list broken, obsolete, used equipment from being considered waste under Basel, as long as it is exported in various broad categories of “repairable” electronics. 

According to BAN, a reparability claim can be made for virtually any type of broken, dysfunctional, obsolete or junk electronics. And even if the repair really does take place such operations invariably create massive amounts of hazardous scrap, as it most often involves swapping out whole circuit boards, mercury lamps, CRTs, batteries, etc., resulting in the hazardous waste ending up in developing countries – who have the least ability to manage it.

It is feared that if  “for repair” claims are all that is needed to remove e-waste from the Basel Convention regulatory regime, then this will becomethe means by which most, if not all, e-waste will be “managed”, and it will be able to proceed from developed to developing countries without pre-notifications, and without the ability for recipient countries to reject or consent to the shipments as required by the Basel Convention currently.
Recyclers in the US and Europe are also concerned about these dramatic exemptions because their investments in businesses to dismantle or shred e-waste and transform it into commodities will be undermined once it suddenly becomes legal to simply export whole broken, junk equipment, without the expense of properly processing them.
“BAN represents over 100 recycling facilities and their customers who understand the need to abide by the responsible rules of the Basel Convention,” said Puckett.  “It has been an expensive undertaking for them to internalize costs and do things the right way.  Now its,  ‘Nevermind!  Don’t bother because almost everything can now be labeled repairable and simply shunted off to Asia or Africa.’  These exemptions, if accepted, would represent a devastating setback for both the responsible recycling industry and for human health and the environment in developing countries.”

For more information contact: 

Jim Puckett
Basel Action Network, Executive Director
skype: jimpuckett
Sarah Westervelt
Basel Action Network, e-Stewards Policy Director
skype: swestervelt

About Basel Action Network
Founded in 1997, the Basel Action Network is a 501(c)3 charitable organization of the United States, based in Seattle, WA. BAN is the world's only organization focused on confronting the global environmental justice and economic inefficiency of toxic trade and its devastating impacts. Today BAN serves as the information clearinghouse on the subject of waste trade for journalists, academics, and the general public. Through its investigations, BAN uncovered the tragedy of hazardous electronic waste dumping in developing countries. For more information, see or
For more information about e-waste dumping in developing countries see:

        206 1st Ave South Suite 410 | Seattle, WA 98104 US

        No comments: