Open Minded Electronics Importer Gets R2 Shaft: CEFAD

There are way too many trolls on the internet.  People who are either super sure of themselves, or who get off somehow by acting that way, appear to go out of their way to shock and provoke insult.

trolling e-waste downstream markets
There are also too many wishy-washy agreeable people, people who 'like' whatever is being said today by the people they are near, most comfortable with repeating second hand impressions as fact.

And then there are really principled people, who really think they are good and fair, who really mean to do well, but they are caught in a tide of group-think.

Some of us cannot even see how our perceptions of reality have been caught in a kind of cultural gravity that general impressions cannot escape.   Many of these people are even agents of conscience, trying to make the earth a better place, as best as they know how.

It was someone like the latter to whom I sent the email (bottom, in yellow) for someone's first R2 (Responsible Recycler) end market report two years ago.  I have changed names, hotlinks, and email addresses, otherwise this is exactly what we sent.  This is a real case of "collateral damage"... no one meant to do anything but good...

Someone I wrote about in September 2012 is now out of business.

At bottom is a copy of the actual email my friend sent from Malaysia, in response to our new R2 Audit Requirements.  Her factory had once manufactured SVGA CRT monitors for major USA companies.  The company's founder, as an engineer in the 1980s Taipei, was one of a group of students who would try to conquer the display device market (he patented the way a cathode ray gun shoots Chinese characters onto a CRT shadow mask).  His group included Simon Lin of Wistron, and Terry Gou of Foxcon, Rowell Yang of Proview... men whose companies would invent the touch screen displays (that Apple contracted for the IPhone but cannot patent).  The Taiwanese geeks and nerds who, through Android's operating system, created the good-enough "white box markets" for smart phones worldwide.

Fung, or Fang, has been CEO / engineer Mr. Liu's right hand woman, his anchor and protege. She came over to visit Las Chicas Bravas in 2009, to help advise us in setting up a monitor recycling and reuse factory in Mexico.  She came to Vermont to train my staff in sorting what her company needed.  She came to 3 conferences to present and de-mystify semiknockdown, warranty takeback, and refurbishment.

She formed MERA, a Malaysian WR3A/Fair Trade Recycling association.   She let her company be visited by Kelley Keough of GreenEye.  She negotiated to meet ISO9000 and ISO14001 standards.  She went through the front door of the Malaysia EPA in 2006, at my request, and obtained an import permit (before the SKD market became a focus of Basel Action Network).  She let Joe Yob, an E-Steward tour, and she and her boss came and personally met with my biggest clients, OEM at the headquarters, and suppliers in Long Island.

Fung opened the factory door to Adam Minter of ShanghaiScrap, who went on to publish a book, coming out in November, called Junkyard Planet.   She taught us that shredding hard drives was really dumb.   The valuable magnets cling in pieces to the steel and are lost (the rare earth magnet shortage became a crazy hard drive shortage that year, as Thailand floods wiped out the hard drive manufacturing and China restricted the rare earths).  She openly directed us to sell into that same market, keeping no secrets.

Her company went in to represent us with Samsung's CRT glass furnace in Klang Malaysia (see attachment link), where we recycled CRT glass in a "glass to glass" furnace until 2011, when Samsung closed.  She met with SyChar, the Samsung rep, who was upset that sent a letter to Malaysia's EPA about Samsung's purchase of "CRT glass" from the OECD, sending Samsung to other non-USA buyers.  They began taking back used CRT glass tubes generated inside Malaysia, becoming Malaysia's first CRT tube recycling company.

The company dedicated an assembly line to manufacturing new CRTs monitors when my friends in Egypt were locked out of the used computer market.  The monitors they sold had my Egyptian repairman friends company name and logo, and he kept his Egyptian techs employed providing warranty repairs.  Those monitors allowed Egypt's "good enough market" for internet to continue after Mubarak tried to shut off all used display sales in 2008... allowing the internet genie back out of its bottle.

Perhaps the experience Samsung had, being banned from making new CRTs from USA's recycled cullet by Malaysia EPA... perhaps it should have forwarned her, that by sending the email below, by baring all, by playing in a transparent market, she'd sacrifice her company.

This is why we need to push back.  John Lingelbach, R2 Solutions, and the auditors mean well in asking for Tier 2 and 3 destinations.  That means that when Fang and I provided the information below, we weren't just providing is to XXX, the upstream recycling company, but to all their clients.  Whether from a troll, a wishy-washy BAN-fact steward, or a well meaning do-gooder, her email would come back to bite, and bite hard.

Someone sent all this information to the Malaysia EPA, including the signed letter by the Malaysian EPA official.  Who freaked out.  I don't think it was Basel Action Network.  I think it was a do-gooder.  Someone who saw their job as protecting little Malaysian and Egyptian children from burning wires and CRTs in primitive dumps.   As a former USA regulator, I can tell you we were a risk averse bunch.  And in Malaysia, being an official who signed an "e-waste import permit" letter was far from safe.

No good deed goes unpunished.   Below is the email whose contents came back, as friendly fire, to kill my favorite Fair Trade Recycling partnership.  Don't ever share information like this.  Don't lie.  Just destroy the material, and help your friends find someone else, in a back alley, to peform their sales and procedures.  You cannot both be R2, and at the same time, participate in the underground railroad of reuse.

 Dear XXXXXX & Robin,
Refer to XXXCo require of "Downstream Vendor Questionair" , we had collected the data from our final disposal for thoes focus materials we could not generate for reuse.
Pls. kindly refer to the attached copies 

Dear Robin,
Pls. help me to forwar to XXXXXX this mail, as my email alway like to be rejected by his mail service provider.

10 attachments — Download all attachments  
It's a sad year for R2.  The do-gooder also notified R2 that Malaysia wasn't retorting mercury to be sold into alleuvial mining operations in rain forests.  As every nation but the USA understood, that's "bad recycling".  (It's now illegal here as well, as of 2013).

Someday people will get it, and will understand this was in actuality a "manufacturer electronics takeback program".   The Taiwanese are the manufacturers.  Dell and HP never made CRT monitors.  Tell Annie Leonard to draw her cartoons with Taiwanese engineers, ODMs, and contract manufacturers, who are savvy engineers who invent smart phones.   Tell Pieter Hugo to stop on his way through Africa, and photograph the blood banks which were being set up in Cairo and Lagos, where Hamdy and Benson, respectively, were supplying the good enough goods for the emerging markets.  Correlation is not causation.  They bought used stuff from rich countries, but the trade was not making them poor.

Check out this Wall Street Journal op ed, written by professor Daniel Fletcher, of UC Berkeley's Blum Center for developing economies.

Some of the worst internet trolls are fellow tree huggers.

I hope that the board of directors at R2 Solutions has a long talk with John Lingelbach about the potential for unintended consequences and collateral damage.  Too many white people are running around, frantically interfering, trying to save 6 billion people from having normal lives, from doing normal things, like setting up internet cafes, or recycling electronics, just like we do.  There is way too much risk in sending every copy of every insurance document,, every permit, every downstream, to every client of every client.   More risk, it turns out, than the risk of selling monitors to original equipment manufacturers in the first place.

This is far worse than CEFAD (crap email from a dude).  This is Collateral E-waste Fouling A Downstream.

We have met the enemy of "Electronics Takeback", and he is us.

No comments: