Too Fine a Point on E-Waste Exports: You Shall Not Pass

Some have said it's an interesting thesis, the "Tinkerer's Blessing", and the risks of "Environmental Malpractice".  Search those terms in the box to the right.  The "" article has gained a lot of traction, in part because it accepts the premise that non-profit anti-export advocates mean well.  But perhaps we have put too fine a point on it.

If you are doing a term paper on "environmental justice", or on a topic I call "environmental malpractice", or simply researching the export of recycling generally, here's the truth.

A small non-profit in Seattle publicly accused African and Asian reuse traders of buying USA waste in order to burn it on the ground, of polluting or dumping.   The NGO accused the African and Asian traders of being motivated by "externalizing the cost" of American E-Waste companies.

The USA NGO, Basel Action Network, has repeatedly told the press that 80% of the used electronics exported are recycled in "primitive" processes, coining phrases like "reuse excuse" and "digital dump" (rather than "digital divide").

As a result, African, Middle Eastern, and Asian reuse factories have had their goods seized, have had their import permits revoked, and have been forced into smuggling channels with less responsible suppliers. 

There is no "habeus corpus" linking these people to the dumps.  It's "To Kill a Mockingbird" in the digital age.

In fact, independent researchers have found the opposite.   Most of the junk shown at African dumps was NOT recently imported, but comes from cities like Lagos (20 million residents, 7 million households with television).  The importers there, according to independent sampling of 279 sea containers, achieve 91% reuse... that's 9% not 80% recycling.  And it is a better reuse rate than brand new product sales in Africa!

The NGO has now publicly admitted to making the 80% statistic up, but Interpol is still engaged in a "Project Eden" which has resulted in arrests of GOCs (Geeks of Color), like Joe Benson in the UK.

This is a racial profiling campaign under a "Stewardship" banner.  Good people are being arrested, swept up in a witch hunt, funded by Planned Obsolescence companies, executed by do-gooders.   The unintended consequences are outrageous.  Groups like WR3A (Fair Trade Recycling) have tried for years to orchestrate a balance, a tempered approach, recognizing the good intentions behind most of the "Stewardship" participants.

The head of the NGO, Jim Puckett, has now seen the UN reports documenting 91% reuse, and has called the Africans and Asians whose goods were seized "collateral damage".   But when called about the story by USA Today, he STILL provided the fake 80% statistic, and disparaged the importers again.

This is unexcusable.   They are going after my company, going after my employees, going after the reputation of "fair trade recycling" advocates.   

As I tweeted in 2011, Basel Action Network should get a real job.

Every journalist who interviews the importers in Africa and Asia has come away shocked at the CBS 60 Minutes Wasteland, PBS Frontline, NPR Fresh Air treatment of the entrepreneurs who reuse, repair and recycle better than Americans, and who are the opposite of primitive.

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