Fair Trade Recycling: Interpol Promises Fact Check

Not bathwater: Baby bassinet found at Mexican dump 2008
Here's a novel idea.  Habeus Corpus.  Find the body.   Make sure a crime has been committed before you start arresting people.  Witch hunts and mob justice have plagued democracies for thousands of years, and our system of justice has learned, over the centuries, that accusations need to be investigated before arrests take place.

Environmental Crime enforcement thus reminded itself last week.   Interpol, the Lyon, France-based international police force, announced that it would take a year to re-study the WEEE or used electronics trade.  Why is a study a victory for Fair Trade Recycling?  It's called "back to the drawing board"... Interpol studied it once, gobbled up some baloney Basel Action facts, and started an enforcement campaign it is now going to revisit.  Mockingbird will be retried.
11/7/2013 "The impact of pollution caused by the dumping and mishandling of waste is global, affecting the quality of our air, water and soil," said Cees van Duijn, a Specialized Officer with INTERPOL's Environmental Security Unit.
"Through Project Eden INTERPOL will support its member countries in their efforts to implement national legislation and regulate the international movement of waste to ensure healthier local environments and help protect the overall integrity of our environment worldwide," added Mr Van Duijn.
With the recent launch of the Countering WEEE Illegal Trade (CWIT) Project, INTERPOL and its partners will conduct extensive research into the illegal e-waste market in Europe and provide technical and policy recommendations.
- See more at: http://www.noodls.com/view/1E03CF366C333C703F1EE40A61E2A293816DCAF3#sthash.ysnd6TSY.dpuf
Now Interpol's "Project Eden" doesn't sound all that big a departure from the past 12 months of seizures, arrests and enforcement.   Why do I assume there could be good news here?

"INTERPOL and its partners will conduct extensive research..."

What caused Interpol to take a breather, and to make sure of its prosecution?  WR3A, the World Reuse, Repair and Recycling Association, monikered "Fair Trade Recycling", perhaps played a  role.   Our organization introduced Interpol to researchers from Memorial University, PUCP Peru, USC, MIT, and Middlebury College.  We introduced them to importers from Ghana and Mexico and Burkina Faso.  We introduced them to recent studies by UNEP and US International Trade Commission.   And I took a few days from my vacation in July to meet Interpol at their offices in Lyon, en route to Geneva and Copenhagen, and to my meeting with Mr. Collateral Damage himself, Joseph Benson.

TVs replaced at London hotel by flatscreens make false arrests
Fair Trade Recycling applauds legitimate investigation of the used WEEE and electronics export trade.  Cees (pronounced "case") van Duijn, the head of Interpol's environmental unit, met with me in Lyon in July, extended his hand, and promised to do what is right.  And I believe him.  He was not there when the enforcements and seizures and questionable arrests based on "80%" baloney statistics got started.  He was not holding a torch, and does not seem to be in the lynching business.

We are on the heels of a year of arrests and seizures of exporters of used electronics, following a great E-Waste Hoax.  Interpol had taken a fake, false, hootenanny statistic from a puny Seattle non-profit, and based on the fake number, had seized hundreds of containers or used computers, displays, televisions, and cell phones.  Items, it turns out, which are reused or repaired 91% of the time.

Habeus Corpus means "Habeus Stuff", habeus #ewaste.  Start at the crime scene, start at the dump. "Stuff" is not, by itself, evidence of environmental injustice.  Just keep the facts straight, that's where justice begins.

Where do the corpses of old TVs really come from?  You don't need the Annie Leonard cartoon (Story of Stuff).  It's even simpler than Annie's cartoon.

Stuff at USA dumps comes out of our USA cities.
Stuff at Lagos's dumps comes out of Lagos, a city with 7M households with televisions.
Stuff at Abogbloshie comes out of Accra.
Stuff at Guiyu comes out of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong.
Stuff at Mexico City's dumps comes from Mexico City.   Mexico generates 200-300 million tons of #ewaste, and a boycott of exports to Mexico will not change the pictures at the dumps in any conceivable way.

Mexico City dump, lo-res fair use from NBC
Interpol gave a presentation in Middlebury, Vermont, to a group of researchers, experts and students.  Many of these people had just rendevous-ed at Good Point Recycling for a tour, to witness "Retroworks de Mexico" recreated in action - proper dis-assembly of "e-waste" by hand.  No one saw anything exotic, or poisonous, or halloweeny, in the Latinos taking apart computers by hand.

That Earth Week 2013, three classes at Middlebury College in Vermont hosted what was billed as a "Fair Trade Recycling Summit".   Experts from Geneva, Amsterdam, Washington, Mexico City, Paris, Accra, Berkeley, St. Johns, Lima, Montreal, Ouagadougou, Boston, Dhaka and Burlington conferenced about the concern over "externalized waste" (export of pollution), and balanced it against what I coined as "The Tinkerers Blessing".    Are exports of used electronics from the USA and Europe to places like Africa, Latin America and Asia something that needs to be more regulated?  Or has regulation of the trade become an excuse for internet censorship, hard rock mining, and planned obsolescence?  Interpol presented its case, and experts listened.  Apparently, Interpol listened as well.

The "Tinkerers Blessing" was offered as the equal and opposite path to Development of the "Resource Curse".  Where emerging market economies depend on the exploitation of oil, minerals, timber and other natural resources, the most value is given to bullies in government who are strong enough to control the resource contracts.  The "resource curse" trends are anti-democratic, sectarian, and tend to create struggles for national offices who control the vast spiggot of licensing wealth.

Yep, we CAN all just get along!
By contrast, Tinkerer economies have developed in places without abundant exploitable natural resources.  The Summit discussed the successes in Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and other nations (and urban centers like Dubai and Sao Paulo) which achieved OECD-comparable wealth achievements in a matter of a few decades.   Repair, refurbishment, and gray market reuse create the most wealth.  It's hard to imagine an African creating $300 per hour with the knowledge in his head, but repairing laptops and cell phones offers just that kind of value added economy.  These nations tend to supply "Good Enough Markets", which is a pathway to high scaleable refurbishing production, leading to contract manufacturing, and eventually ODP corporations which invent, design and produce electronics to be marketed under the names of better known brands.

I hope at the end of this Mockingbird story, the legitimate fixers and traders and entrepreneurs don't run, like Tom Robinson, to be hunted down by a mob.   We will provide them legal representation, and we will proudly represent the traders, and introduce them face to face with David Higgins of Interpol if that's what Eden wants.   We want Interpol to resume its chase of ivory poachers, of pirates, of shark finners, of conflict mining criminals.  Fair Trade Recycling is about being fair.  Environmental Justice begins with "do no harm", primum non nocere.  Tinkerers blessing, recyclers blessing, call it what you will.   Mining rainforests to make new stuff and planned obsolescence enforcement does not look good in green.

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