Refining the Fair Trade Recycling Mission Statement

"Recycling needs to be materials science, not a belief system. Collecting during bad markets is smart, shows reliable long term supply grid."

Fair Trade Recycling is pro recycling.  But we are not exactly defined as part of "Zero Waste" movements.  We are somewhat resistant to "producer responsibility", at least as a solution for secondhand goods markets - planned obsolescence and right to repair are opposing forces (if producer implies mining and virgin material extraction, we are all ears). If any group has a close affinity to Fair Trade Recycling, it's probably USA's "Net Impact"... young professionals in the business sector who are agents of conscience, making the world better by participating in, rather than reacting to, global markets.  The worst recycling is better than the best mining.

At the same time, while we defend and participate in the overseas recycling and repair and reuse sector, we are confronted with the eventual waste and unplanned obsolescence of goods we once exported.  Our vision is to turn this into an opportunity, a circular economy, rather than reversing course on the international trade which is clearly benefiting standards of living and information and education in emerging markets.

Our primary incentive is to create a transitional economy for Africa's Tech Sector, the reuse and repair markets for used electronics, which we project will face increasing pressure from new affordable devices (seen in Asia in the past decade).  We believe the value of the sector is in the minds and education and ingenuity of the repair market 

The "Tinkerer's Blessing" is the working title of a book I'm writing about development and "savior complex" and "charitable industrial complex".  It's actually very optimistic, a defense of trade and free market activity in Africa, Asia and other emerging markets.  Terry Gou, Simon Lin, Steve Wozniak, etc. were tinkerers very much like the laptop and cell phone repair shop gurus from Tamale and Accra, we want to pitch them as a functional distribution and maintenance market for inevitable growth of solar power models in Africa.

Where will Africa's Wosniak emerge?  Who will monetize the "good enough market" in a way that is scaleable (like Foxconn and Wistron), creative like Apple, and sustainable as Microsoft?

It will probably be in the energy sector.  Which brings us back to Solar power.  Can SolarCity (Elon Musk's transformational solar panel financing scheme) scale solar power in a cash-based economy like urban Africa?  Or do we need other innovative financing models, like cell phone plans, to secure investments?

We will need people.  Africa's Geeks of Color.  Africa's repairers, tinkerers, fixers.  We need to stop arresting the people who buy and sell teledensity equipment in Cairo and Lagos and Accra and Nairobi, we need to silence the charitable industrial complex which defines its goodness in misleading photojournalism depicting Africa as a "victim".  We need to push out of the closet the NGOs who use pictures of African kids at dumps to raise money which is never, ever spent on Africans.

Photojournalism without data journalism jails and fails.  Our mission will outlive me, because it's rooted in the same scientific method and inspired conscience which has made the world's best practices.

- Robin Ingenthron 11/9/2015

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