Snapshot of Lagos Nigeria. Not your daddy's "Third World" country

When Basel Action Network shows a junk television at an African dump, and then accuses African traders of doing mysterious favors to avoid UK or USA's recycling costs, it hits a chord... with people who have never lived in Africa.

If you've spent time in Africa, you know the real problems in Africa are things like TRAFFIC JAMS.

Multiple reports show that most of Africa's e-waste is generated by Africans.  Cities like Lagos (over 15M inhabitants) have televisions and computers and cell phones, have had them for decades.  

And it's a good thing.  People are much more likely to get their electronics from repair and reuse, which creates sustainable African jobs, for geek entrepreneurs, than from new tantalum mining in the Congo or tin mining of Indonesian coral islands.

And it's fundamentally good.  That's why it's so criminal for UK's Environmental Agency to put the Geeks of Color, like Joe Benson, in jail.

From 2010 to 2014, Africa's Internet usage increased by...
5,219.6 %
Here's a link to da stats

UK Continues to Falsely Imprison African Expat for "WASTECRIME"

15 Reasons to Free Joseph Benson of BJ Electronics, falsely convicted of "e-waste" crime.


I will repost this soon with hot links to the trial documents, hopefully by this weekend.

1)  The Guardian, Murdoch's SkyNews, BBC, Economist and Independent (2012) Newspapers all reacted to public statements by Lord Chris Smith's environmental agency that exports of televisions and computers for repair was "against international law".

2)  The international law in question, the Basel Convention, specifically describes this as legal activity and does not ban reuse or repair, only dumping.   (LCS may be referring to a proposed amendment to the Basel Convention which has not been passed or ratified.  Violating a proposed rule is not a crime!)

3)  The allegation made in court against the expat trader to Africa ("Hurricane" Benson) relied on "statistics" about the likelihood of dumping, provided by Greenpeace and the NGO Basel Action Network.   Both of these organizations have been quoted by LCS and by the press, stating that "up to 80%" of what the African traders ship to Africa is destined for primitive recycling.  NOW THEY DENY SAYING IT!  That's right - nothing was found "dumped", but based on claims, Benson's prosecutor said it was "LIKELY" dumped, and he was put in prison based on "likelihood", given BAN's statistics.

4)  The photos these organizations (press and NGOs) use to make the case are taken at the city dumps of huge cities (Lagos, Accra).  According to the World Bank, these countries have had millions of televisions in use for decades.  The number of Nigerians with personal computers?  12 Million.  The UK and "Project Eden" depict Africa as if from Disney's "Lion King", while Africans are dealing with their own growing piles of e-Scrap, cell phone towers, and massive traffic jams.

-- Link:  UN Report "Domestic Consumption is the Main Contributor to African "E-Waste" --

5)  Photographs of junk Toyotas in London or Lagos do not prove Japanese guilty of wastecrime, and photos of junk TVs at Ghana landfills do not prove the Trader violated any laws or shipped any junk.  Africa has been "rapidly developing" for decades.

6) During the widespread reporting that exports of used electronics to Africa were mostly junk, the Basel Secretariat and UNEP participated in a two year scientific analysis to research containerloads shipped from London, including many by the accused Nigerian expatriot in prison.   Examination of hundreds of Sea Containers found 91% of product was useful - better than brand new product sold in Africa!  MIT, Memorial University, Arizona State, USITC, and other studies all confirm the "ewaste" import statistic (80%) was a hoax.

7)  Evidence presented in the UK court trial included no such test for repairability, or even tested the equipment in the containers, relying on "widespread knowledge" disseminated by Basel Action Network (repeated by Lord Chris Smith).  (LINKS COMING THIS WEEKEND)

8)  "Likely"?  Or NOT?   Basel Action Network has not just withdrawn the 80% dumping statistic, they actually disavowed it.

9)  "Hurricane" Benson is in jail, despite no evidence of a crime, a trophy on the wall for #wastecrime enforcement.   Benson's guilty plea was admitted at the end of a long appeal, when the judge had admonished him, and he was offered a commuted sentence (16 months rather than 60) only if he accepted a guilty plea.

10)  The cost of shipping 500 televisions from London to Lagos or Accra is higher than the cost of recycling them in the UK...  The entire "waste export" (for avoided recycling cost) theory was never tested and is mathematically impossible... it can be disproved with a simple review of Benson's receipts and costs of shipping.

11)  Pages and pages of individual brands and models listed in the African traders containers in Benson's court records show relatively new units, hand selected.  Who writes down the model number of a TV before they burn it??

12)  The World Bank statistics on households with TV in use in Africa (e.g. 6.9 million households in Nigeria as of 2006) cannot be explained via new unit sales, and offer proof that past imports were not "mostly waste".  There were not enough "new" TVs imported to explain World Bank's households-with-TV statistic.

13)  The argument that "even working televisions will one day become waste" is true of brand new computers, cell phones, and TVs, and reflects a colonialist regulation.  We do not restrict ourselves from importing new devices made in Asia until we have a recycling system for them in the USA.

14)  Planned obsolescence and non-tariff barriers applied to the secondary market is an old trick. Recent investigations by the US International Trade Commission found absolutely no evidence of the 80% waste export claims, and no evidence that "waste" shipments to Africa were common.

15)  The NGOs which raise money on the photos of children posed with E-Waste do not share a dime of the donation with the children.  Rather, they seek to put the kids parents in jail.

Quantitative studies supporting Benson:  15.   Evidence of Wrongdoing?: 0


Lord Chris Smith is probably not a bad person.  Jim Puckett isn't a bad person.  They are just wickedly late admitting they were WRONG about the "e-waste" hoax, and at this point there is an innocent man in JAIL and all I get from Basel Action Network is a statement about "collateral damage".   E-Stewards have to demand this be fixed, Chris Smith needs to look at the references to his quotes in Benson's sentencing and make some calls to get Benson out of there.

Blacksmith Institute has, in 2015, abandoned it's "ranking" of "top most polluted sites", but only after offering legitimacy to the BAN fake and disavowed statistics about Agbogbloshie.  The year Blacksmith listed Agbogbloshie at the top of their Top Ten List is the year Joe Benson was locked in a United Kingdom prison cell.  #SHAME ON MY ENVIRONMENTALIST TRIBE.

Africans and other "geeks of color" see this as just one of many racist, colonialist, poverty porn, planned obsolescence driven acts by Europeans and do-gooders.  It's a sin to kill a mockingbird.

Game Theory 3: Monopoly Itch Mite Cure

Part of what makes game theory interesting is the use of analogies to analyze rules.   Gedankenexperiment (Thought experiment) is a game theory approach to philosophy and ethics.   And for an Ethical E-Waste blog, its a way to view a situation from 20,000 feet.

Wikipedia - Schr√∂dinger coined the term Verschr√§nkung (entanglement).

What if one player uses a different set of dice than another player?  If that player won 60% of 1,000 games, you'd want to control for imbalanced dice... but you'd have spent a lot of time playing in order to prove it, so it seems better if both players have to use the same die without the effort to prove one set of dice is faulty.  That requires an umpire, an authority, an NFL, and NBA, a regulator.

In non-democratic communist governments, the authority is itself a monopoly.  Regulators can be paid off, and you can't go to court to appeal weighted the dice.  In capitalism, the use of patents and trademarks create temporary, time-sensitiv,e monopolies... the authorities enforce your monopoly for a limited amount of time, which does promote research and invention.  The use of a combination of government regulators and capitalist corporations is a horrible system, the worst, except for all the other ones.

As this week's thought experiment, lets look at a theoretical entanglement of ethics and patent law.

What about... PermaChiggerInc?

What if a corporation - PermaChigger - cross bred some kind of chigger and itch mite to develop a type of scabies resistant to sulfur, to permathrin, and neem  oil.. resistant to every treatment except their trademarked GMO petrochemical?  The entire world is scratching its collective butt off, and the money rolls in.   The GMO treatment can be manufactured at scale, cheaper to produce and more profitable.  Empty bottles of PermaChigger become as common as litter from bottled water.

That's about the worst capitalist system I can think of.  It's similar to AIDS conspiracy theories of a decade ago, but the AIDS conspiracy doesn't make sense because it kills the clients.  Mite management might make more sense.

Short of being caught contaminating people on purpose, the corporation has engineered itself a guaranteed profit.  They don't even need to do the dirty work of enforcing it, they have government trade commissions and international police to stop the sale of counterfeit and copied product.  I'm not anti-capitalist, and the system here is the one which AIDS and Ebola have the highest chance of being brought under control.

Profit ensues.

Now imagine a Nigerian man, Benson, who has never been to school, from a pidgin speaking corner of an inner city Lagos slum, has the itch.  A six foot six man weighing 260 pounds, he's black as they come and looks scary as all hell when he gets mad.  He has the genetically modified mites, his wife has it, his kids have it, all their neighbors in Lagos are scratching their thighs off.  But they can't afford the Capitalist GMO treatement.  It's not a fatal condition, but life would be a lot better if he thought of a solution.

Game Theory 2: #EWaste Players and Stakes

Live from New Orleans, International finalists for Recycling Innovator Prize (c: Resource Recycling)

Game Theory continues.    Can the policy over #ewaste, the tiny little environmental niche of electronic device recycling, be assessed best via the individual conflict and cooperation strategy of decision-makers?   Or rather by the environmental risk and benefit of the environmental impacts?

Competition, evolution, survival of the fittest... in societal groupthink, it's called Survivor.

I wasn't.  Ah well.  Neither was my reuse business model.

Over the years, this blog has examined how "legacy display devices" movement is better explained by reuse value than by "avoided disposal costs".  Used CRTs from the USA compete with new CRTs made in Chinese factories in 2002.   Used CRTs provide ten-fold increase in internet access in cities ruled by anti-democratic governments.   Cheap secondary devices compete against new.  The planned obsolescence, or anti-gray-market forces, join an alliance with "parasites of the poor".  The NGOs see the visibility of their "cause celebre" picked up by more journalists, turning donations into enterprise.

The rules in any game are bought into by the players at the table.   The rules are set by environmental officials who don't know an SVGA monitor from a monochrome flat panel display.   The rules are enforced by international police, beat cops who act on the information given by journalists, following the footsteps of Lord Chris Smith.   "I'm reporting on a really big and important story," says the journalist... and "80% exported to primitive wire burning operations" becomes the single critical ruling enforced by umpires on the field to protect Africa and China's Eden-ism (or the value of the primitive imagery to westerners, who seem to almost see huge African city-scapes - development itself - as a loss of vacation habitat).

The story builds interest in the Game.  And public interest in the game is currency.  Every perceived crisis is an opportunity.  Even if the water samples in Guiyu, China, actually measured textile dying factories from upstream, the awareness brought to "E-Waste" can be turned into a game changer.

Game Theory 1: African Can't Fight UK City Hall

Hurricane Joe Benson (#FreeHurricaneBenson) spent years on appeal before concluding he couldn't fight "City Hall."   
 "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake." - Sayre's Law (Wallace S. Sayre)
In a small pond, big fish are kings.   And intellectuals talking about a rather obscure niche of world recycling policy have become empowered by the smaller audience.   You learn that the proportionality of Sayre's principle cuts both ways... the big stakes questions about recycling policy go "whoosh" over the heads of local decision makers.  And the small contracts, small business disputes, small business accusations, and "people from third world countries", can whip City Hall into a frenzy.

Game Theory is the study of strategic actions in multi-decision-maker scenarios.  Game Theorists may use math - especially statistics - to predict how the number of actors involved in a decision affect the outcome.  Or they may measure the wealth of the outcome, and how its control affects the behavior of stakeholders and decision makers.  Look at it this way - the strategy and outcome of a game of RISK is affected by the number of players.  If you have six players, a goal of controlling a continent is much more difficult to achieve than a game with three players.  If you get to keep the cards of an eliminated player, timing that player's elimination (so you execute their final play and get their cards) becomes more important than the extra pieces you achieve by controlling a continent.

As players are eliminated, the sea of stakeholders gets smaller and smaller.  The stakes in the economy, per player, get larger.

[Note:  I'm on my way to New Orleans for the Recycling Innovators Forum... leaving in 20 minutes.]

A small set of stakeholders interested in an outcome starts to resemble a "small pond", as goals and perspectives become less diverse.  This in turn defines the law, or the rules about behavior concocted by the remaining participants.  But as the economy or stakes become greater, more people want to play at the table.  This "game theory" analysis explains a lot about electronics recycling policy, perhaps so much that no one even notices the lack of actual data on the "risks" to be mitigated.  Free and fair trade is almost presumed guilty, and in a rush to make rules, any rule may do.  And the rules are being made by a small group of players:  OEMs, Big Shred, Poverty Pornographers, and the contract managers at City Hall.

Take an online game of poker, with real cash stakes, with players on 5 continents.   A vote comes up, which lettering to use on the playing cards, Chinese characters or western Arabic?

Australia, Europe, North America, and South America vote against the Asian card numbering... and like the JDowsett's Ferguson-themed Racism by Bike Blog, the game is subtly biased in a way that a Western observer won't even notice.   Language is in many ways a better lens than color or bike-vs.-car for studying how majority behavior dictates systems.  Debating use of language used at "City Hall" is a better study for "tyranny of the majority", perhaps, than calling darker skin a "minority" in a world geography, precisely because it takes us away from "You're not Trayvon" jingoism.

Apparently, I'm now defending JDowsett and the Racism by Bicycle Blog.   But I'm also trying to demonstrate how finger-pointing do-gooders can create a carnage of collateral damage in a rush to make rules they haven't the time to vet.   Primum non nocere ... first, do no harm.

CRT Glass Recycling "Breakthrough" - Innovator Award Finalist

Great News!

After 5 years of trials at our sister company "Retroworks de Mexico" (see NPR Living on Earth, and MarketPlace), approval of the glass recycling system under EPA CRT Rule last year, and a $469,000 "Fair Trade Recycling" research grant with 3 universities to study the process, Good Point Recycling's CRT Glass management is in the news again.

This month we are being flown as a FINALIST to the National Recycling Innovators Forum in New Orleans, hosted by the national Resource Recycling Conference. This is a very prestigious national competition, which includes all types of recycling innovation (paper, glass, plastic, compost, you name it).  Our "Fundente Production Partnership" (FPP) proposal is recognized as a way for electronics recyclers across the nation to cooperatively share in this new market.  Basically, it supports the use of old TV CRT glass as leaded silicate to replace as a necessary ingredient in copper, zinc and gold smelting.  A single copper smelter we are working with in Mexico uses over 200 tons per day of leaded silicate "fundente" or fluxing agent, and copper smelters (like Phelps Dodge in Arizona) would also become end markets in replacing mined Angelsite, Feldspar, and other virgin leaded silicates for their smelting processes.

News about the Innovators Forum is here, the winning proposal submitted by Good Point Recycling of Middlebury, Vermont is described here (FPP).

 (Breakthrough, or "break, threw"?)

White Liberal Checks Privileges by Bicycle

Two friends shared a link to a blog by Michigan preacher and blogger JDowsett, who hit the Facebook lottery with a blog last week, "What My Bike Has Taught Me about White Privilege".   It is well written.

Liberal white privilege college students 1981
It has been one of those months when a lot of social and racial soul-searching is going on in the USA.  The mysterious shooting of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri...  Without going into a lot about that case here, I'll just put this link to "7 Important Details that No One Mentions about Ferguson" (my Facebook status for much of the week).  The language is salty, but I think Cracked has definitely evolved from a Mad Magazine rip-off in the 1970s to some of the best editorial writing on the web today.  Here's a shot of my status, including a snippet of the article.
Dudes... has grown into something, like... way different from "Mimic MAD". I've actually considered quitting to go work for Cracked, it's today's editorial.
Robin Ingenthron BTW It's a longer article than usual in Cracked and the language is quite quite salty. But there are some great points made, e.g.: "Aside from protesters throwing rocks and things at police, you've probably heard reports that LOOTERS and RIOTERS were at the protests, and that is true, .... There were people at these protests who got out of hand (some from out of town, some not), and the community paid for it. But small groups of drunken youths do not a riot make, especially when it's surrounded by much larger groups of completely peaceful protesters. Most of them are just like any average citizen in America. If you have to, just imagine that all of these protesters also happen to be white. Hope that helps."

Note the distinction the author Cody Johnston makes about how a mass protest gets labelled as a "riot" less easily in our minds if we "just imagine that all these protesters also happen to be white".   It's much the same point I make ad nauseum about TV repair... people perceive an African TV repairman as a little more dangerous, a little more criminal.  #HurricaneJoeBenson did not get six bullets like Mike Brown, but the time they took to defame him and prosecute him was a slow motion train wreck.

Hey Yah...Teach me lies...

Even as UN reports surfaced showing 91% reuse, and the original source of the "ewaste hoax" statistic ("80% dumping?") mumbled away a denial of ever having stated otherwise, the prosecution of Joseph Benson and BJ Electronics plodded away, taking a note of none of it.  It's harder to assess, perhaps, a mistaken snap judgement made by a Ferguson MO policeman in seconds.  And Trayvon Martin's killer was acquitted based on the quickness of the killing (and prosecuted in the press for the number of minutes he spent stalking trouble).  Benson was FRAMED over a course of years, and apparently no one ever thought he was worth the time to check that Greenpeace and Basel Action Network were full of @#$*.

Yep, the biggest thorn in Jim's side is indeed a liberal environmentalist, a college chum of Puckett's chums.

Yearbook got us liberal Minnesota PIRGs (leaning left) mixed up with sparse Black Christians in Asia?