Eight EWaste Facts For 2016

What we know about the "e-waste crisis"?  Every point below has been documented and footnoted in this blog in 2015, with photographic evidence (see photoessay in National Geographic YourShot).  Documenting it takes a lot of time, but I've done it.  In 2016, let's ask anyone who makes a living protesting "e-waste" to refute or respond to the following points.

If you are a data journalist working on the story, there is definitely one here, and it hasn't really been reported.  Most of what's been repeated about "e-waste exports" in the Western press is a hoax.

Resolve to end the Boycott of Geeks of Color ...  Eight Ewaste Facts for 2016

1. Pollution source misattribution:  Sites like Agbogbloshie and Guiyu are very polluted, but the pollution primarily comes from industries located upstream, not from imported "e-waste".  In Guiyu water samples indicate textile mills are upstream.  In Agbogbloshie, the wood industry and stormwater runoff contaminate the Odaw River more than the automobile scrap market, which itself dwarfs toxics from e-scrap management.  This is scientifically proven.

2. Breakage and spoilage is incidental and common in all trade:  While "toxics along for the ride" or unrepairable junk electronics may piggyback on loads sent for reuse, they seldom explain the economics behind the transactions, or the motives for the shipments.  Particularly in Africa, nearly 100% of imports are arranged by Africa's Tech Sector, which has little tolerance for the cost of shipping junk.  It is also not confined to used goods; World Bank and WTO track "spoilage and breakage" in all types of commodities.  When imported goods - apples, rice, new computers, cars - are unloaded in customs yards, the spoiled ones are disposed of and the good ones are distributed to millions of consumers.  Photographing the spoilage is not grounds for banning trade.

3. Self-Interested Funders for anti-trade Propaganda Repeat Disproven Claims:   Beneficiaries of the "Charitable Industrial Complex" are the same as the industries financially contributing to it.  Anti gray market companies which oppose reuse and refurbishing, domestic scrap metal processors, and white savior NGOs continue to repeat false statistics about exports of used electronics and do not respond to academic research which clearly falsify the "80% dumping" or "80% export" claims.  Even when the source of the statistic publicly denies having any information at all to support it, the statistically reappears in quotes and press releases by the same organization.  The  beneficiaries of the alarmism are called "parasites of the poor" by bloggers in Africa.

4.  Jobs and Talent in Repair and Refurbishment Drive Import/Export Market: Repair and refurbishing and recycling of used electronics is a much more prestigious and well-paying job in emerging markets than it is in more "developed" countries.  Valedictorians rarely become TV or laptop repairpeople in the USA or EU.  In contrast, buying an appliance for the price of scrap and rewiring it to sell as a working television creates several times average monthly income per item in places like Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Philippines, etc.  #freehurricanebenson

5. So-Called "High Tech" Shredding Often Pollutes More than Hand-disassembly:  The recycling companies in "rich" OECD nations do not always have environmentally superior practices. Running CRT televisions through shredders in the UK results in lead dust contaminating all the  plastic and metals that come out from magnets.  Many pieces become too small to sort, or are shipped overseas to be hand sorted in the very countries shredders impugn.  Spending energy to chop and shred devices is a labor saving process, not a value-adding process.  See #4 - rich country scrappers can't compete with repair and reuse, and develop "tested working" standards as a non-tariff trade barrier.

6. Most of the Arrests in "Project Eden" Fall on Talented Tech Sector in Emerging Markets:  While simplified documentaries like "The Story of Stuff: Electronics" show fat white businessmen caricatures in black top hats throwing "waste" into "externalized" poor dumps, the people being arrested or paying fines or losing money from goods seizures are African expats and other people whose trade is tied with family connections in overseas Tech Sector.

7.  Many Photojournalists and Reporters are Lazy:  While European and American photographers visiting scrapyards like Agbogbloshie in Africa sell photos at auction or win press rewards for brave reporting, the story is actually incredibly easy to (miss-) report.  Reports calling Agbogbloshie the "largest e-waste dump on earth" in major mainstream periodicals, has not been fact checked, even desk audited by editors.  A simple internet search for the coordinates shows it 9 minutes from Accra's finest hotel, 20 minutes from the airport.   Interviews with propagandists making claims about the site being a "lush green fishing village" a decade earlier pass as investigation, when multiple reports from the 1970s, 80s, and 1990s show the site was always the city dump and a slum for migrants arriving from rural Africa.  Several newspapers even state the statistics of 80% dumping despite the fact that the source of the claim has publicly denied ever saying it.  It is among the worst journalism ever performed, yet wins Polk and Pelly awards because journalists believe the "3rd World' doesn't have cars and TVs, and repeatedly represents it in 1960s terms.  (This has been documented by Hans Rosling, journalists score lower than chimpanzees when quizzed about emerging market economies and development).

8. Banning Trade Makes it worse:  African and Asian importers maintain that the propaganda about "e-waste" makes it harder for them to purchase used goods, drives up prices, and forces them to buy from less conscientious sellers.

That's it for this morning.  Let's kill the Ewastehoax in 2016.

Oh by the way, the new claim is that I'm making money and am doing this for profit.  That's just bullshit.  Very little of what my company collects - less than 10% - is of any interest to the Tech Sector overseas, and I earned far less money during the past decade than the pay of the "non-profit" sector or European policy regulators who fan the flames of this hoax.   I'm doing this because I'm seeing the best and brightest in Africa and Asia Tech Sector impugned, defamed, and disparaged by a bunch of self-congratulating liberals who believe that because liberals believe something that it is true.  I'm a liberal (at least everyone in my family and high school would identify me as such) but repeating misinformation disproven by science to fit racial stereotypes of Africa doesn't seem like something we should stand behind.   Pisses me off.

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