Europe's EWaste Armada: Following Captain Puckett to the Edge?

The logo to the right appeared in the NY Times Opinion Editorial section, in a n article by philanthropist Peter Buffett, titled "The Charitable-Industrial Complex"

" Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.
"Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.
"As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.
"But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life."
This #charitableindustrialcomplex meme, and #theafricathemedianevershowsyou, and #povertyporn and #parasitesofthepoor memes are not something I made up as an "ad hominem" attack on the Basel Action Network, which renewed the claim in an Op Ed this month at Resource Recycling.

"Exporting Deception:  The Disturbing Trend of Waste Trade Denial" by Jim Puckett
Jim makes some kind of association with climate change deniers, and tries to make the case that his poor non-profit is the victim of some kind of right wing conspiracy.  If his #EwasteHoax is denied, and Climate Change is denied, then obviously .. uh what?

He goes through 3 studies that I've featured here on the blog which focused on exports of second hand electronics to cities in emerging markets, studies which found about 9% of what is exported may not be repaired.  That "fallout rate" is documented in every industry, in "spoilage and breakage" statistics.  If you export 100 tons of corn, and 9 tons spoil, did you "illegally dump" nine tons of corn waste?

What is maddening is that Jim himself acknowledged the value of the study two years ago (before Hurricane Joe Benson was sentenced) and made the claim that it was better now thanks to his organizations "reform" of the trade.   But when it was pointed out that the studies were done on the very containers his organization accused, leading to seizures, (BAN Spins: How the Basel Action Network "Saved" Africa) he never replied.  We have had to attack the #ewastehoax, because he wasn't answering any questions or making any corrections, calling Joe Benson "collateral damage".

In the latest version of BAN SPINS, we see a curious loop.
"The media messengers that are now presumably in the cross-hairs of a new chorus of deniers include the most prestigious journalistic outlets in the world, including CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, AP, CNN, CBC, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera, National Geographic, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and The New York Times." - Jim Puckett
So in defense against "deniers", he cites the very articles I cited... the ones which reported him making the specific claim that 80% of what Africans and Chinese buy isn't reused but illegally dumped and burned by orphans.

Something Jim then denies.  From the first BAN Spins Blog
"Despite your reading diligence however, it is unfortunate that you did not start by questioning the baseless assertions made by Adam Minter in his reckless article.   Never has BAN ever stated that 80% of US e-waste is exported." - Jim Puckett
(-Bloomberg News)
Jim cites the organizations, which claimed the Hoax Statistics, citing Jim, which he denies giving them?  Jim defends himself with the statistics quoted by those organizations citing interviews with Jim Puckett, who denied giving them the statistic?  And this in an editorial calling African Technicians, calling Joe Benson innocent, "deniers".

 If Africans now have TV, radio, internet and cell phone use at rates competing with Europeans, it must be with brand new devices, since the used ones were dumped?

Here are the guys going to jail.

The major media can be forgiven for not getting into the weeds about the disputed facts around secondary market electronics imports and scrap metal policy.  But what about Interpol, and CWIT, and the UNEP, and United Nations University?

Unfortunately, the sense of guilt of Europeans in the post-colonial world is herding them into a Charitable Industrial Complex with no equal - a war on the secondary market.

As I perform the final rewrite on the long-due Agbogbloshie 2015 Report, I've turned to one other tome of research.   Readers should recall that immediately after our return from 3 weeks investigation in Accra, Tamale, and Tema, that the UNEP and CWIT issued "reports" that either emphasized Agbogbloshie or described trade in used electronics.   Following my blog, academic scrutiny on those reports resulted in this peer-reviewed debunking of the UNEP Report titled "Criminal Negligence". Still there's curious, deafening silence from the European experts.

In BAN's defense, I'd cite not the mainstream press which quotes Jim Puckett's baloney statitics.  His main defenders are in Europe.

The Executive Summary of "THE GLOBALE-WASTE MONITOR 2014 Quantities, flows and resources" is as much as many will read of the report by C.P. Baldé., F. Wang,  Ruediger Kuehr, and Jaco Huisman.

From the "Forward", the report singles out Agbogbloshie as one of two examples of "global trading" leading to "environmental catastrophes".
"There is a large portion of e-waste that is not being collected and treated in an environmentally-sound manner. Further, some of the world’s e-waste is shipped great distances to developing countries where crude and inefficient techniques are often used to extract materials and components. These “backyard” techniques pose dangers to poorly protected workers and the local natural environment. Global trading of electronics and substandard recycling in developing countries has led to environmental catastrophes in places like Guiyu, China and Agbogbloshie, Ghana, to name two examples."
This states that Agbogbloshie - 27 dudes burning tires and auto wire - is an (a) "environmental catastrophe" which is due to (b) improper e-waste export.  It's neither a nor b.  It's not due to e-waste import, nor is it any more an "environmental catastrophe" than any other auto scrapyard.  Yet it merits not just a mention, but the Forward.  And the Executive Summary continues on this path:
"The intrinsic material value of global e-waste is estimated(1) to be 48 billion euro in 2014. The material value is dominated(2) by gold, copper and plastics contents. ... Whether the raw materials are recycled or the toxins lead to actual harmful emissions largely depends on their collection and treatment manners. As mentioned before, only 6.5 Mt of the 41.8 Mt of e-waste are documented and recycled with the highest standards. "
27 young men = billions of kilos, billions of Euros?
These are some specific numbers.  Six point five million tons of e-waste are recycled at "the highest standards".   In Europe, that usually means running used electronics through an automobile shredder. So, what exactly is the evidence that the 6.5M tons management is superior to the "non-EU" management?  Difficult for the report to say, since it claims to know little or nothing about the balance.  But like the UNEP Report, the UNU Report seems confident that pictures of kids surrounded by evidence of 0.0015% of the 41.8M tons - oh, wait, that's too high, that's the total amount allegedly dumped in Ghana.  What the PICTURES show is a site that we demonstrated handles just a few thousand pounds of electronics per week, collected in wheelbarrows by hand from African generators.

Some might still doubt our first hand accounts, or others, of Agbogbloshie.  But in the paragraph above, there is prima facia evidence that the writers don't have any expertise at all in scrap recycling.  Let me point out a couple of blatantly obvious things.

If the reports defending Jim Puckett prove he's in denial about the export statistics, what have they in essence agreed on?
  1. The export is paid for by Africans and Chinese.  They are buying the "wastes" and are the ones paying the estimated 48 billion Euros (which may or may not include transportation and customs fees).
  2. The material value is certainly not dominated by gold, copper and plastics.   That is certainly an indefensible, wrong statement.  The largest volumes of exports during the periods described are white goods and display devices (mostly CRTs), neither of which can pay for its own transport without reuse value being the primary contributor.
  3. Defining your own country's "documented" processes as being "highest standards" when the report admits it does not know what happens to the other stuff, and demonstrates it does not know (see #2 above) by making wildly false statements about gold content in CRTs and refrigerators, proves nothing except your bias.

Gee, I wonder who is funding the essays which deny the 85%-91% reuse studies?  Could it be European shredders and precious metals companies?  Could it be Original Equipment manufacturers who have a stake in stopping the secondary market sales ("market cannibalization"), via planned obsolescence?  Could the very system which taxes European and American consumers to shred their own retained commodity value, hiring full time professionals to oversee that process, somehow overlook that Africans sell printed circuit boards to Dowa in Japan, and do NOT, ever, in any documented or even anecdotal way, use acid baths for those circuit boards?

Hey, Europe.  You are nice guys and mean well.  But your povertyporn photojournalists (Bellini, McElvaney, Fedele, Dannoritzer) are following a disavowed, false lie.  You have no interviews with the accused.  And your imprisonment of Joe Benson is the result of racial profiling.  You seriously need a course in #blacklivesmatter, #whiteprivilege, #whitesaviorco
mplex, #parasitesofthepoor, #charitableindustrialcomplex.

Who is your friend?  The supporter who is loading your ship with lies about Africans?  Our your humble blogger, pointing to the gaping hole in the side of your boat?

The guy you are following, who is propping up your ewaste WEEE jobs, is in a knotted rope of his own denials, lies, ad hominem attacks, false accusations, false convictions, and general deceit.   Cut your losses.  Do not go down with the EWaste Hoax Ship.

Now, I realize I've been accused of being less than diplomatic since 2010, when BAN put Pieter Hugo photos of African kids who had nothing at all to do with the imports on their Form 990.  But that was following 6 months of California Compromise diplomacy, assistance to BAN with CRT Glass Tests, and deference to BAN's suggestions in the NIH Report.  I was too diplomatic during the lynching of Africa's Tech Sector, and now I'm all Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven.

But look at Joe Benson.  How Europe is treating him is disgusting, it is vile, it is horrific.  And Jim's calling him "collateral damage" and saying he has nothing to do with it leaves the habeus corpus at Interpol and CWIT and UNEP and UNU's doorstep.

Save the women and children first.

And count them.  Count the number of them.  Look at all the photos of the sad ewaste burning children, and count.  Ask them the real ages.  Start with the facts, and you can do that with the very photos that launched the Ewaste Armada.

Coming soon:  Our Report on Agbogbloshie, and CWIT's Report on Project Eden.  I think we are reaching an understanding, and that Jim's Op Ed is doing something desperate - not ignoring us.  He has broken with the silent treatment.   EWaste Hoax is now "a thing", and denial is on the table, in spades.

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