Tragedy 1: Export for Reuse is Better, and Legal Too

"Ending is better than mending, ending is better than mending, ending is better …" -                  - Brave New World / Aldous Huxley               

Export for repair and reuse is specifically legal.  Not just saying 'it's not explicitly banned'.  It is specifically and explicitly stated to be legal inside the text of the Basel Convention.

"B1110 Electrical and electronic assemblies:
  • Electronic assemblies consisting only of metals or alloys
  • Waste electrical and electronic assemblies or scrap(13) (including printed circuit boards) not containing components such as accumulators and other batteries included on list A, mercury-switches, glass from cathode-ray tubes and other activated glass and PCB-capacitors, or not contaminated with Annex I constituents (e.g., cadmium, mercury, lead, polychlorinated biphenyl) or from which these have been removed, to an extent that they do not possess any of the characteristics contained in Annex III (note the related entry on list A A1180)
  • Electrical and electronic assemblies (including printed circuit boards, electronic components and wires) destined for direct reuse,(14) and not for recycling or final disposal(15)
14. Reuse can include repair, refurbishment or upgrading, but not major reassembly.
15. In some countries these materials destined for direct re-use are not considered wastes."

But more and more people are confused, or downright fooled, about international law.   "Sure, Africans are repairing as well as reusing, and reuse is better than recycling, but the export is illegal under the Basel Convention".

For an expert source on the Basel Convention, unamended, please consider the position of the Basel Action Network, in their 1999 piece "Why The US Must Ratify the Entire Basel Convention (or None At All)"  It's Jim Puckett's complaint about what he sees as the weakness of the Basel Convention, and saying that only nations which had voted for the Ban Amendment get it right.
"It is our conclusion that US ratification of the original 1989 treaty without simultaneous ratification of its Ban Amendment will equate to a net loss for the global environment and the protection of developing countries. Until the United States changes its position within the Basel Convention and decides to join the rest of the global community in ending the most abusive form of the international waste trade -- export of hazardous waste to developing countries it would be much better for the earth and its inhabitants to keep the US out of the game entirely."
The Basel BAN Amendment is a proposed, unpassed and unratified language which would make export for repair and reuse just as illegal as the export of waste.  It represents votes by representatives to the international secretariat.    They come together every couple of years, and BAN lobbies them to alter the rules in the convention (see video Part III).  Basel Action Network calls "loopholes" in the Convention, and perhaps they are and perhaps they aren't... but democracies leave those changes for legislatures and executive branches to decide (else many governments would never sign any treaty, if it could be changed by representatives appointed by non-elected officials in other lands, and the changes were binding on the democracies.).

Most see the Amendment as recommendations voted on by representatives of "parties" who attend Basel Convention meetings and conferences.  At Basel Action Networks urging, these committees take votes to add to the upcoming "Amendment".   Nations are free to incorporate the various "amendments" into their national laws, and many European governments do this (adapt Guidelines into the WEEE rules, for example).   But most nations don't, because it would be unconstitutional to have a bunch of people at a meeting who are not even citizens, much less elected representatives, vote in changes of law.

The USA, and most nations, take the position that once their legislatures ratify a Convention, that the language in the Convention as passed is the law until/unless the legislatures ratify later amendments adn suggestions.  Jim Puckett cannot attend a meeting in Vienna and vote a change to USA law.

That is a proposed AMENDMENT to the current Basel Convention Law.  It is not the law!
The current Basel Convention explicitly states under Annex IX (legal exports) section B1110 on electronics that electronic assemblies and cathode ray tubes specifically are legal for export for repair and that signatories can consider these "non-waste".   They are also specifically mentioned as non-waste commodities in the "cores" and refurbishing WTO agreement (Doha Round).

Term "Third World" is Anti-Second-Hand Propaganda

How "e-Waste Tragedy" propaganda is imprisoning African Geeks, Nerds, and Technicians.

  1. The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either NATO (with the United States, Western European nations and their allies representing the First World), or the Communist Bloc (with the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and their allies representing the Second World).
  2. Third World - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ok.  So, the number of people who are not aligned with either the Soviets or NATO is... irrelevant.

Now, we all have friends who are overly anxious to impart their trust quickly on the statistic which affirms their bias.   The "bias confirmation" here could be something Eric and I suffer from.

We see that people are being arrested for importing stuff which mostly works.  To us, banning the trade between rich and poor makes as much sense as outlawing the used car market.

Stunning, Profound Ignorance Of International Cultures: 3B3K

I was watching a Nigerian television interview with pop singer Nneka Lucia Egbuna this morning, and making travel plans with Ghana Electronics Technician and new WR3A Board Member Emmanuel Eric Prempeh Nyaletey.   Eric will be attending this year's Resource Recycling E-Scrap Conference in Orlando.

Nigeria has morning news programs, kind of like our Today Show, or CBS This Morning, which people in Lagos watch while drinking coffee in their apartment buildings, getting ready for the morning traffic jams and commute to work.

Over the years, WR3A has sponsored travel to E-Scrap conferences for many international representatives.  Su Fung and Allen Liu of Malaysia, Roberto and Alice Valenzuela, and Oscar A. Orta and Mariano Huchim of Mexico, Wahab Muhammed Odoi of Ghana, Souleymane Sao of Senegal, Hamdy Mousa of Egypt, to name a few.  Emmanuel Eric is special, however.  He's a geek from Accra who was head technician for Good Point Recycling in Vermont for 2 years, and he flew back to Ghana last spring to revisit Agbogbloshie and the tech/repair warehouses in Accra.

Emmanuel Eric Prempeh Nyaletey fixes Good Point Security Camera
Emmanuel Eric will be circulating the #FreeHurricaneBenson petition, and trying to get people to renew their memberships.  He'll also be answering questions about Africa.

No, they don't all have Ebola.   No, they don't pay money to import e-waste for copper value.  Yes, they have had television and computers for decades and generate their own e-scrap. 

Emmanuel Eric is now on a full scholarship for coding at Georgia Tech, but we are looking for people to help us pay him to keep him at least part time working for Fair Trade Recycling.

7th Year Blogging Anniversary Landscape: A Black Sabbath

That's the Landscape in Vermont.

view from the vermont office

I've probably got two times as much unpublished blogging in the drafts folder as I have in the published column.    It's hard to write as an unpaid amateur.  But it's harder for professional writers to write about recycling and other trades accurately and meaningfully.

We occasionally get a rare hybrid, like Adam Minter, who (because he grew up as a child of scrap metal businessparents) had previous exposure to the trade before getting a degree and becoming a writer.   And we have trade journals, like Recycling International, Resource Recycling, and Recycling Today and Waste360 and Scrap, which (if they retain a writer long enough) build enough reference points to amount to expertise.  But they also have paid advertisers.

And we get opinionated profit seekers. I'd point fingers, but know that same finger has been pointed at me.  When most of your money comes from either export or shredding to prevent export, you have expertise and you have bias.

Does anyone play a game they don't intend to win something for?

Black Sabbath.  Clash.  Neil Young.  Woodie Guthrie, perhaps?

This year I decided to improve the quality of the blogs, and as a result I have fewer posts and a bigger "draft" folder.   The drafts are particularly heavy when I decided to attempt something grand, like the "Game Theory" blogs.

"Game Theory" blog drafts have some of the most insightful writing I've had all year, but it's difficult to make it actually readable.  I had about 12 blogs worth of "game theory" insight, weaving the psychology of self-interest into the morality claims on both sides.   It led at times to a rather gruesome truce, more of a free market than fair trade.  If everyone has a way to "win" the game, anyone can try to influence the rules to make them more likely to win.

Game Theory draft blogs were about how people make decisions to do stuff based on their own situation.  At times they factor in the behavior of other people.  In the "e-waste" trade, the decision Africans make is to "get access to mass media".  The way to get TV and computers on  a limited income is to buy used product.  It's exactly, exactly the same as the game theory which predicts USA teenagers buy used cars unless their wealthy parents by new for them.  Africans buy used display devices unless they have wealthy parents buying them new ones.

The theory that the trade is driven by avoided pollution costs in the UK or USA has been completely disproven, but the theory itself has "game theory" value for certain players.

1.  Planned Obsolescence
2.  Big Shred
3.  Dictators (who oppose affordable internet)
4,  Regulators (who want a "crisis" to inflate their budget)
5.  Reporters and Conference Holders (who make money on the "sizzle", not the steak)

It's a powerful set of players. "Evil minds that plot (device) destruction..."

s h r e d     p i g s

How to Use Twitter in E-Waste Research (Fatty Fatty Boom Boom style)

I was a huge skeptic of Twitter when microblogging first came out.  Reading page after page of what people I was "following" were "doing" at that minute?  Writing back what I'm "doing"?   Seemed like a South Park episode waiting to happen (and it was).

Within about 6 months, however, I found out how to use Twitter.   Simple.

Twitter is about its SEARCH BOX.

In the search box, you use keywords, and it greatly multiplies the number of experts and opinions and views that you are exposed to.  And increasingly, you can find the words of African TEchs talking about their own view of the "E-Waste Poster Child From Disney" debates.

Just this week alone:   "The Gaze On Agbogbloshie, Misrepresentation At Ghana's E-Waste Dumpsite" by Heather Agyepong.   Heather is also covered here at Carbon Creative Arts.

“My initial intention was to understand how waste could still be illegally dumped in Ghana and understand the conditions about how people felt. However when I arrived it was nothing of what I had read about the place. It was just super organised and not as dystopic as I thought. From the month I spent with the boys who live and work in Agbogbloshie, I wanted the images to represent that distortion. The images have that cross process look which leaves the images looking apocalyptic. I wanted this to exemplify how the western gaze effects our understanding, not just in Africa but how we can see other issues.”
Through Twitter, you find what Interpol is doing ("Project Eden" seems de-emphasized in this months Interpol Africa newsletter, in favor of wildlife crime... a welcome turn if it's sustained).   More emphasis on putting Elephant Poachers in jail, rather than Nigerian TV repairmen.

LIVE from UNH's Post Landfill Action Network: Internship, #FreeHurricaneBenson

Presenting to 150 Recycling "Zero Waste" Activists in Durham NH.  

1)  We go LIVE with the iPetition to #FREE Hurricane Joe Benson (see tab at right)
2)  We go LIVE with the Fair Trade Recycling Ambassador Program Applications (Internship).

Much has been written, and will be written, about Joe Benson's ridiculous trial, convicted based on the "common knowledge" that the "majority" of TVs and electronics he purchased would be dumped and burned.

The Fair Trade Recycling Ambassador Program is being launched to recruit students interested in international travel to fly to countries where used electronics are being purchased and interview the buyers.  Find out what's being dumped (if anything) and negotiate improvements (if necessary).

WR3A/FairTradeRecycling would provide relief to the legitimate Geeks Of Color - like Benson's buyers - who are being branded as ignorant children.   A college educated Recycling Ambassador could go to Agbogbloshie and find out where the dumped TVs came from (as Grace from Memorial University did, finding they were collected in carts from the City of Ghana, NOT from sea container yards).  At the same time, if the buyers aren't all they claim to be, that could also be revealed.

Instead of "fly and buy" (or "fly and lie"), think of it as "fly and sell".

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