Labor Saving Devices Advertise Jobs In USA

There are older versions of this song on youtube, and versions I like better.

This is a song about jobs, it romaniticizes hand labor.

Shredding machines have been given a much lighter job than rail setting machines.  They don't repair, they don't even set aside repairable items.

And in fact they don't finish the job.

The specifications you see advertised on electronics shredders are real.  They really do produce the copper, aluminum, and plastics streams they show.  But the trick is this.  They produce 80% of the sort in the first 20% of the time and energy they run.

In 20% of the time, the machine owner gets 80% of the benefit.  The owner of the machine has to continue to grind, grind, grind, running the shredder 5 times longer, to get the cleanest stream advertised in the shredding magazine.

It's called "diminishing returns".

Adam Minter's book (Junkyard Planet) shows the lines at the back end of the shredders, the people who hand-sort material that has been shredded not-quite-to-spec.  As he documents, it's appropriate at some point, when the labor has run into it's own Paretto Principle, when there are diminishing returns for the labor.  My company sends a percentage of cleaned e-scrap off to shredders, we are not hand-disassembly "purists".

But even the material we send for shredding doesn't "end of life" there.  Most profitable USA shredding companies turn the machines off before 50%, sending the remaining pieces overseas to be hand-sorted.  They never run the machines 100%, due to "diminishing returns".  It takes as much energy to clean the last 20% of material as it took to clean the first 80%.  Sorters do a better job, by hand, in China, and just as much labor is exported as was displaced in the USA.

The irony is that shredding companies advertise themselves as creators of jobs in the USA.  That's really not true.   The shredders who advertise "USA jobs" are using mechanical means to eliminate labor in the USA, and to eliminate repair and remanufacturing jobs which simultaneously create more employment in both the exporting and importing country.

But they don't reduce the jobs overseas at all.  Only the USA side of the equation.  The shredded material is not furnace ready, it will get sorted again, in tiny pieces, overseas.

I'm fighting this year to keep 45 jobs.  I've been accused of exporting the jobs I'm protecting, overseas.  But the E-Steward, K in Philadelphia, employs fewer people per ton than we employ in Vermont.  They have used E-Stewards to simplify the sorting and testing jobs, and to reduce employment.

It's fine.  I'm not profitable enough.  I can find more money elsewhere.  But for John Henry's sake, stop the lying about what's going on with the anti-export boycott campaign on #ewaste.

From a Marxist Economics point of view, the value chain is interesting.

Most of the value (labor according to Marx) is in the reuse.  We earn about $3000-4000 per week on 10% of the material, which we don't disasemble at all.  Marx says we are preserving the labor value embodied in the 5% we reuse.

Next, we disassemble.

The 70% we are able to hand-disassemble, like plastics we bale, will still require more labor.

Then there's the 20% that has to be shredded.  By different types of shredders, some to whole-unit shredders (printer scrap), some to refiners (circuit boards).

Enough.  It's not about jobs.  I create more jobs my way.  Your shredding way is fine.  Just compete with us and stop promoting legislation to skew the market, dudes.

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