Bullyboy 5: Urban Waste is a "Story of People"

Human Waste is Generated by Humans (Silent Spring)
Human Consumption is consumed by Humans (The Waste Makers)
Human Racism is Human-on-Human Crime (To Kill a Mockingbird)

This chart shows the urban share of the population in Australia, United States, Japan, South Korea, India and China. China’s urbanisation rate has increased rapidly from 19 per cent in 1980 to 50 per cent in 2011, and the United Nations projects that it will continue to rise steadily to 73 per cent by 2050. India is also expected to see a rapid increase in its urbanisation rate from 30 per cent today to around 55 per cent in 2050.
This is not the "Story of Stuff", it's a "Story of People".   Fair Trade Recycling is an effort to see other humans for what they can do, not for what they cannot do, and to make the exchange of goods and services, driven largely by urbanization, as constructive as possible.  Call it Alter-Globalization if you will, call it "reform".   It's not about exploitation and victimization or waste externalization when the African cities and Chinese cities are paying for the goods and transport... it's economics of urban geography.

China has been buying scrap.  Egypt has been buying used computers. Nigeria has been buying used TVs.   All three are "non-OECD", but they buy different things.   Look at urbanization, and you will see that industrialization correlates with smelters, internet cable correlates to computers, and electricity correlates with TVs.  China, Egypt, and Nigeria have cities, and cities are full of people.

The Urbanization Trap - Short article in the Economist (2013)
Economic Development, Industrialization, and Urbanization, Australia Treasury Economic Roundup (2012 Report on Global demand)

Urban Africa:  Lagos
Nigeria is fascinating.  Lagos has surpassed Cairo as the largest city in Africa.   Nigeria ranks #1 in the world for the largest number of people earning $2 per day, the largest number of poor people.  But it's also #2 in the world in reported "happiness", according to 2005 World Values Survey.

It's a major case study for the urbanization dream I've written about frequently in this blog.  Nigeria has the most female circumcisions, and the most traffic jams.  It is at least two or three worlds unto itself.   And the country has grown, in televisions per household, in share of smart phones, in internet access, thanks to Joseph Benson.   No one else can take credit.   At least 70% of all electronic media devices are sold in the used, secondary market, and the failure rate of new product is higher than Benson's used.

If Nigeria is poor, and imports used electronics, that is apparently all the Basel Action Network needed to start their witch hunt.  If Benson's correct, and the UNEP says he IS correct, and BAN no longer claims to have ANY data from Nigeria, what led up to the arrests by the "Bullyboys"?

Urbanization is the cause.  E-waste is a product of cities.  OECD is no longer a predictor of electricity, internet, or smelting, the way it was in 1960 when OECD was formed.  It's not about the OECD, which is why the Basel Convention is fatally flawed if it tries to regulate reuse and recycling, and is distracted away from the dumps like Transfigura's Ivory Coast (a real case of Environmental Injustice).

Urbanization is the story, and the forces driving urbanization are in many ways logical, and in many ways could play a role in a sustainably designed planet.  China is devoting enormous attention to urban design.  One of the challenges will be that people still care about endangered species, coral reefs, and other habitats if they grow up (like ex Mayor of Boston, Ray Flynn) never having seen a tree and not understanding why someone would want to hug one.

There are natural maternal forces in society which will protect other species, I think.  But we need to harness the forces that fund PETA and fear "toxic ingredients".  Pets and toxics in product (like lead solder in ROHS printed wiring boards) are important, but cutting down rain forests to grow beef for dogs and cats, and mining Indonesian coral reefs to get rare tin for leadfree solder, is a road into a rain forest, paving nature mainly to assuage human cognitive risks.  The lead solder isn't leaching into ground water in landfills... and I won't break the news about dogs and cats in rapidly emerging cities... even I don't have the guts.

Like the BullyBoys blog 3, the real and true risks which Interpol is trying to address with shark fin, ivory, tiger paws, and toxic sludge dumping, there is a really important story to follow, and the amount of e-ink we devote to the distractions (like TVs thrown out by the city of Lagos) is difficult to measure.

There are many urban scientists studying how societal growth causes people to move together, and causes raw materials like copper to move to where urban populations are growing.  Taking a look at African and Chinese "E-Waste" exporters through this lens is not making excuses for bad behavior (what I've been accused of by BAN.org).   It's about a proper diagnosis, and charting a proper course, to sustainability.

This chart shows trends in the share of global steel consumption for China, the US, Japan, Germany, India and South Korea from 1980 to 2010. China’s share of global steel consumption has risen from around five per cent in 1980 to around 45 per cent in 2010. This has been offset largely by falls in global copper consumption shares for the United States and Japan. US share of global steel consumption has fallen from around 15 per cent through the 1990s to a little over 5 per cent in 2010.
Copper Demand History
A "Willie Horton" campaign does not add, in any way, to the progress of this discussion.  Look at where the copper is moving, and you see where the SCRAP is moving.  Look at where the internet is growing, and you see where refurbished CRTs go.  Look at where electricity is growing, and you see where Televisions go.  It's the Good Enough Market, and it's HUGE.

China has been buying scrap.  Nigeria has been buying used TVs.  Egypt has been buying used computers.  Look at the root causes, not at the exotic Pieter Hugo photography, if you actually really care the way Rachael Carlson, Vance Packard, and Harper Lee cared.

Notice how "big corporations" fit silently in this discussion.  The cities are the market, the "good enough" market, the gray market, the refurbished market.   The laws to ban what I can sell to other cities have been carefully vetted by The Waste Makers, the Planned Obsolescence, Anti-Gray Market.   I'm accused of being a conservative because I oppose the Saul Insky fueled BAN, and make light of PETA and Greenpeace.  But I think big when I think conspiracy.  Keep environmentalists focused on pets, on knock-offs, on toxics safely locked in landfills, and you keep our eyes off of the species endangered by coltan mining (for cell phones), off of reform of the General Mining Act of 1872, and focused on things that dovetail with the interest of corporate "stewards".   The irony is that Puckett has us arresting Africans in order to protect markets for OEMs, and that's why E-Stewards gets funding that Fair Trade Recycling doesn't even aspire to.

Tomorrow:  How NGOs exploit urbanization to peddle green snake oil during the past 5 years.

One hand no fit tie bundle.

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