2013 Good Point Recycling End Markets: 6 Percent Reuse

Good Point Recycling of Middlebury Vermont is now preparing our 1st Quarter Report and Annual 2013 Report for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.   Having just had these numbers audited under our R2 Solutions annual surveillance in March, we have more than enough data to demonstrate what kind of a company we are.

The most obvious change over the past 4 years was our decision to bring demanufacturing jobs in house, doing the television and monitor teardown here in Addison County.  Our payroll hit $26,000 per week, much of it in time-and-a-half (OT), and we hired more experienced people to do it.  So Red "CRT whole unit outsource" went down, and blue "Bare CRT tube glass", and associated plastic, went way up.

Something that surprises people is how little we export, and the reasons it has declined.  Good Point never exported more than 30% of the material, I think the peak (28%) was in during the years (2006-8) when we were buying and selling monitors from other companies, for refurbishing in Malaysia and redistribution in Egypt.

Why the decline?  Was it stricter EPA enforcement?  
Responsible Recyclers standards?  
Pressure from Basel Action Network?   
Strict Vermont E-Cycles Program standards?

No, none of these explains the fall from 28% export to 6%.  It's the marketplace.  And there's nothing ghoulish, witches brewy, noxious, or radioactive going on.  There's no Batman villian in the "e-waste" trade.  When the reuse market finds another source, no one wants to import it any more. It's scrap.  Metal and Plastic.  Recycling.  Boring.  Laundrymat scale boring.

The cost of CRT glass recycling has gone up exponentially.  We wish there were more places to sell working CRTs, but the ones coming in now are huge 150 pound 32" pieces.  Even working, they are not in much demand because of the cost of shipping, and because people who can afford an apartment big enough for one of those can usually afford a flat screen.  And they can find them without flying to America, getting a hand me down from their own emerging cities.

First, the hot commodity in 2003-2008 was 15" to 17" CRT monitors.  Those were nearly indestructible compared to fragile LCDs.  They were being converted into dual-use televisions and computer monnitors, and sold like hotcakes in rapidly urbanizing parts of the world.  Typically in a city like Cairo, the electricity available and the size of the city apartment kept people from buying 27" televisions.  The original CRT factories which assembled the monitors for Foxconn, BenQ, Proview and Wistron were buying 17" monitors with more than ten years of life on them and reassembling them for the 3B3K market (3 billion people earning $3k per year, the fastest growing in both television viewership and internet access).

There just aren't as many 15-17" CRT monitors around.  The demand is still there, and some of the factories are still producing these small TV-monitors for places like India.   But the supply is now in China.

The USA is no longer the "Saudi Arabia of reuse".   There are plenty of alternative suppliers of used goods.  Former buyers of mine in South America now import used CRT televisions from Shanghai, where everyone is upgrading to LCD.  CNC (Chinese English language television) reports that China's now the number 2 supply of used electronics.

We still keep looking for reuse markets, and enjoy the 6% exporting we did in 2013, of tested product sold to Latin America, South Asia, and Africa.   Kyle Wiens of IFIXIT just reported on the "geeks of color" in Ghana, and I'm working on an article of the interview with Eric Prempeh, Good Point Recycling's head technician, who is from Accra and traveled back there in February for Good Point's end market diligence.

People ask me why I don't brag about destroying and domestically recycling 94% of the material in the OECD, mostly here in Vermont, rather than brag about the tiny portion we still export?

Easy.   Reuse is higher on the waste hierarchy for a reason, and hand-disassembly makes cleaner product and less waste and less carbon emissions than shredding.  And life is too short to waste on racist marketing. Touche pas a mon pote.

The images of "e-waste exporting" show just a few scrap items on a barren dump which receives city garbage generated by Africans who have had television for decades, and generate "e-waste" from their cities the same as we do.

It is not the 6% exporting by Good Point Recycling which bothers pseudo-environmentalist groups.  It's that we push back against planned obsolescence and racial profiling.

We push back against Halloween Imagery of "scary black people".  Vermont is proud of reuse, proud of high standards, and proud of our friends from other cultures.

When Greenpeace posts video of Africans unloading nice black working TVs from London hotel upgrades, and claims they are being dumped and burned by "primitive" African recyclers, we inform Basel Convention Secretariat (not "action group", but the actual Geneva based organization), and help arrange a study of the 279 seized sea containers, and publish the reports demonstrating 91% reuse.

There's Craigslist in Accra, Ghana, people.

Greenpeace actually filmed these stretchwrapped working TVs and intercut the footage with Agbogbloshie dump

It's not about the 6 percent we exported.  It's about the false accusations and arrests of technicians, internet cafe entrepreneurs, cell phone nerds, supporting the tinkerer and repairer markets.  It's about diverting the good people at Interpol from elephant poaching, child slavery, and other serious problems.

We are not competing to do the least reuse.   That story is such a hoax.  The story is going to pop.  Which side did you want to be on?

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