CRT Repair JuJu vs. CRT Maths

Is it juju, toxic cost avoidance, or engineering?  What's behind Hurricane Joe Benson's "WasteCrime"?

"Every man is, no doubt, by nature, first and principally recommended to his own care; and as he is fitter to take care of himself than of any other person, it is fit and right that it should be so."  - Adam Smith
Europeans have decided to save Africans from trading with Europeans, and have made big glass "cathode ray tubes" the equivalent of ivory - trade punishable by imprisonment.  Environmentalist's acceptance of the sentences passed rest in part on our cultural ignorance ("they don't even have electricity in Africa" I've read in comment threads), in part our lost repair skills, and just bad math.

Buying a used TV in Essex, paying people to list its make and model and individual price, hiring a sea container, and paying people to pack it... we can estimate how much that costs.   The cost of shipping the container to an African port is somewhere between $4k and $9k  (see below).  The price to buy the TV from the marketplace in Lagos is known.  And the number of TVs you can fit in a sea container is simple.

But somehow, race and ju-ju and pictures of kids at city dumps get in the way of a simple transaction.  Technophobia, metalurgy, toxics and black people make simple trade too scary to contemplate.

Here are the mysterious parts of a display device.  This one is a CRT computer monitor, but a TV is not much different ( a different tuner mainboard).

In the 1980s and earlier, you needed several different types of mainboards for televisions which worked in different nations.   PAL, NTSC (National Television System Committee) , NTSC2 ("Not The Same Color" = Japan!), SECAM (Système Electronique Couleur Avec Mémoire) , MESECAM, PAL-M... For protectionist and other reasons, television analog transmissions varied country by country.  If you sold a USA Television to an African country in the 1970s (before VHS tapes), you'd have a very unhappy buyer who would have to pay a TV repairperson to replace the NTSC mainboard with a "Phase Alternating Line" (or, "Pay A Lot") analog board.

This all ended in the 1990s.  Remember the "converter box" for turning "rabbit ear" analog televisions into HDTV receivers?  Flybacks, Heat Sinks, Horizontal Output Transistors, RGB... a whole lot of TV tuning bot put onto a motherboard which was designed to "translate" any analog signal into digital.

This new mainboard (made in Taiwan by "Taiwanese" - the people in Taiwan who make stuff) was PERFECT for SVGA monitors... they already had more DPI (dots per inch) than TV monitors.   And it allowed any assembler or contract manufacturer ("Big Secret Factories") on any assembly line in the world to sell a TV to any country on any analog system.  They even sold the "coverter box" to countries (I saw them in Egypt) to allow a regular old SVGA computer monitor to receive any type of analog signal.

I'm in the electronics reuse and repair business, and everyone in the emerging markets knows all this.  I am dumbfounded why recyclers in rich nations don't know what I'm talking about.

Value of CRT Device = A + B + C

A= The CRT tube.   If it works, it's worth $20.  If it's busted it's worth -$4.  That's a $24 spread.

B = The copper stuff.  Circuit boards, yokes, wires, degaussing coils.  SMJ* says they are worth $5.38, I'd say closer to $3, at least inside the box before you do the work.  Working, they are only valuable if you have a CRT connected to them.

C = Supporting players... Plastic, steel, screws... stuff that has no purpose but to hold the CRT screen and circuit board/copperstuff together.

The scrap value = 0 + $5.38 + $0.30 , and the $0 is actually a negative number.   You pay people, or a machine, to separate the stuff (but if you run it through a shredder it's worth a whole lot less than $5.68).

Now, just imagine, what if you leave these things together, in working order?

A = $20              (per alibaba)
B = $5.38           (per SMJ / scrap metal junkie, see below)
C = 0.30             (handful of plastic and screws)

Working CRT TV or monitor = $40+  (What Joe Benson made on the TVs delivered to market in Lagos... and what Greenpeace had to pay to get them back again).

If the $5.38 set of parts has a non-working part - a flyback, or a CRT Neck Board - was removed, you'd either render the item scrap value $0 + (5.38-part) - 0.30(the "mystery" part removed by BBC or Skynews - one of them merely "snipped" a wire, the other removed the neck board), or you'd buy the replacement part on

You either have a $40 video display device, or you have $5.68 less the copper part value... you have at least $34 to spend on the replacement part.

Repair in Africa is completely logical, engineering and economic decision.  If the CRT ray gun is all worn out, leaving a blurry picture, or the vacuum is cracked, no one pays for a $20 part... because Europeans and Americans are willing to just GIVE them to you.  A worn out CRT used to be cut (in the 1980s) and rephosphored and revacuumed together again.  But if rich people are tossing good ones out, they are easy enough to find.

I call it rational economics.  Jump forward to the pink letters to see the maths.

But some don't believe in it... they don't believe that the TV repairs done by a hundred thousand USA television repairmen in the 1980s could be done by black Africans.  Why does Interpol and UK's Environmental Agency assume that people travel from Africa as "waste tourists", primarily motivated by $5 in scrap (and a benevolent interest in saving $4 in worthless CRT recycling costs)?


JU JU!!!!  Magic!!!  Mysterious voodoo!!


 noun \ˈjü-(ˌ)jü\

Definition of JUJU

:  a fetish, charm, or amulet of West African peoples
:  the magic attributed to or associated with jujus

Origin of JUJU

of W. African origin; akin to the source of Hausa jùju fetish
First Known Use: 1894

Ju-ju means magic, unexplainable, mysterious forces and powers.  It was a word used almost daily when I lived in Cameroon, West Africa, between 8/1984 and 12/1986.   Someone who could do something no one else could do might be rumored to be using juju.   If a device was once owned by a white person, the "stewardship" fetish is attached.  Whitie can now send international police to track you down and arrest you for "wastecrime".

If the Africans buy a TV monitor used from China, or new from India, all the same toxics apply, but Interpol is no longer interested... it's missing the white man fetish.  That's why we care.

As we review the various videos put together between 2008 and 2012, we see that Africa television exports are almost always presumed to be "waste".   We get lots of photos of young people standing on 20 year old WEEE junk, and not many photos of the goods actually coming out of containers.   But the point is crystal clear - PAT Tests are necessary (a UK "tested working" standard defined for direct consumer use) because Africans are too primitive to repair electronics.

In fact, most Africans are as illiterate in capacitors, wires, audio visual repair as most Americans or Europeans.  Most people don't know how to repair their own TV.

But there are plenty of people who do.  There's one big difference between electronics repair in Africa and in the USA... Not many USA valedictorians (smartest kids in the class) choose TV repair as a career.  But if you are a smart African, electronics repair is a pretty darn good choice of jobs.

Color and how it works.

Now watch the Skynews video, the one produced by Rupert Murdoch

Hypothesis:   Exporters put junk electronics in containers in order to avoid the cost of "proper recycling".

Busted.  The fact that one person is willing to sell something for more than they THINK it is worth does not make it a wastecrime if the item is worth more than they thought.  Visit Adam Smith.

The alleged intentions of the white person - to reduce the cost of waste - don't actually prove a crime has been committed.   They had a choice between an A + B + C buyer who had $0 for the CRT, and an A + B + C buyer for whom the CRT represented's $20 replacement cost.

And for that damn matter, the material could be "properly recycled" in a country which does it less expensively.  There's no evidence of a crime when someone gives work to someone who does it less expensively.  That is NOT evidence of a crime.

Adam Smith was talking about African TV repairpeople buying from white people that buy new flat screens.

Every man is, no doubt, by nature, first and principally recommended to his own care; and as he is fitter to take care of himself than of any other person, it is fit and right that it should be so. - Adam SmithMore maths below....

Extreme best cuthroat case:  Scrap Metal Junkie.  (warning people will be unhappy if you link to this guy, notorious for leaving CRT glass for others to deal with).  I've offered a more realistic round estimate @WR3A which factors in local Africa scrap prices are lower, closer to the actual value,  Note @ScrapMetalJunkie price is for "best case" 15" monitors. 

Scrap Metal Junkie most optimistic scenario is 15" Monitors   $5.38 each with least residue per s.f. (of sea container).  Most optimistic price, easiest material, price after work is done to USA scrap metal dealer.

Scrap Metal Junkie warns it's much worse for TVs  "If you are unhappy with how much money you are making from scrapping TVs, I suggest you try scrapping Computer Monitors instead. They have less glass and more metal." 

Most of us think Scrap Metal Junkie exaggerates the value, I'd put it at under $3 in metal (yokes are about $0.65, coils $0.95).  And DVD and VCRs in Benson's containers are worth about $0.08 / lb x 5 lbs.  Numbers below are pure copper cleaned, no transport, no work, no disassembly or burning, it's the pure value of copper in the container.

Pure copper scrap value per sea container load:

15" monitors - maximum 1100 per container  x  $5.38 = $5,918 @SMJ, x$3 = $3,300 @WR3A    NOTE:  AFRICANS DO NOT BUY 15" MONITORS, only 17" since about 2005
17" monitors - up to 900 per container x  $5.38 = $4,842 @SMJ  x $3 = $2,700 @WR3A 
19-27" large living room TVs - maximum 450 per container loose pack (no 32" max TV accepted) x  $5.38 = $2,421 @SMJ,  x $3 = $1350 @WR3A
Kitchen TVs around 650 loose pack x  $5.38 = $3,497 @SMJ,  x $3 = $1950 @WR3A (note it's really hard to find these at a scrap yard, in high demand but rare species)

Each of these containerloads is about 40,000 lbs max on a container (can't meet 43,000 lbs max with CRTs).  Lowest price on containerload to China (from LA) may be $500 per container.  You could theoretically get 41% junk CRTs onto it.  This is NOT the case for shipments to Africa...

Lowest shipping price on containerload London to West Africa $4,699.70 - $5,194.41 (Lagos not available but Angola, Equatorial Guinea are par) $4,700 (from USA it's about $7k).  Does not include Benson's payment to London collectors, inland trucking in either country, labor to disassemble, customs duty, risk of arrest, risk of lost money!  Africa does not have large SKD factories, cosmetics are important in direct resale market.  (I'm worried someone could imagine an "immaculate delivery" of the copper from the TVs to an African scrap metal yard paying USA prices, and think the numbers support the shipping)

Mr. Benson was paying the London Collectors more than the WEEE fees, about $4 per unit, paying rent and labor.  He doesn't ship 15" CRT monitors, despite them being higher copper value, he goes for TVs worth less.  He avoids older units and monitors with more copper value.  He itemizes the units.  And to get their "waste" TV back, BBC and Skynews have to pay about $40 for it at the Lagos market!

My 2010 prediction was that for a shipment to Africa, you waste your time at under 70% reuse, I predicted at least 85% based on similar math to the above.  Ramzy Kahhat and Eric Williams found 87% reuse in Peru.  UNEP found 91% reuse.   The economics doesn't support "wastecrime", the photos don't support "wastecrime", the number of households watching TV in Lagos doesn't support "wastecrime", there is no incentive for Benson or Africans to be flying over with their money to buy scrap in London.

If 10% are bad, Benson doesn't even get 10% of the scrap value above, that is the money when the final copper is delivered, and Agbogbloshie scrappers do not get @SMJ prices.  Benson has to sell his 90% for X to get the 32K british pounds ($1.72) the prosecutor said he'd make on (is it 4?) the containers in question.   

If it's 4 containers x 450 per container (large TVs) = 32,000 BrPS, that says Benson makes $30.57 per TV, after shipping, according to the UK Environmental Agency.

Who makes more sense, Lord Chris Smith or Adam Smith?
"There is not a negro from the coast of Africa who does not, in this respect, possess a degree of magnanimity which the soul of his sordid master is too often scarce capable of conceiving. Fortune never exerted more cruelly her empire over mankind, than when she subjected those nations of heroes to the refuse of the jails of Europe, to wretches who possess the virtues neither of the countries which they come from, nor of those which they go to, and whose levity, brutality, and baseness, so justly expose them to the contempt of the vanquished." - Adam Smith

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