NGO Needle In Haystack Part 2: Methodology is "Base Rate Fallacy" Bingo

Part 2 in response to the Basel Action Network and E-Stewards public disparagement of Hong Kong LCD display refurbishing market.

This is being edited now that the PBS Report is available on live internet. Additions will be highlighted in Yellow, deletions in Gray.  

FAIR USE - Response to Criticism
We do not know exactly what Total Reclaim sent to Hong Kong, or the condition that it was in.  But it sure wasn't a console TV, a microwave, a copy machine, CRT monitor, or printer.

The methodology used by the NGO behind the story appears intended to prop up misinformation about refurbish and repair markets overseas.  The NGOs know that if they put a tracking device in a CRT television, it will wind up domestically recycled.  But by planting it in a smaller device with high repair potential and high reuse demand, they have once again ensured "collateral damage" - this time to their own Top Shelf E-Steward.

It is not an accident that the #trackingewaste demonstration caught one of the best-in-class Recyclers. And it's no mystery what would likely find its way back to the cradle of LCD manufacturing, warranty takeback, refurbishing and repair.  The highest percentage of display device engineers on the planet live in a triangle between Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Kunming, China, and if you know what someone will buy from that area, and what someone would track if they wanted to land there, you can guarantee a BINGO.  The game is rigged to obscure 2 key facts:

- Total Reclaim exported almost nothing, as a percentage of Seattle e-Waste.
- Hong Kong imports next to nothing, as a percentage of intact Seattle e-Waste

Here are 373 Companies which sell PARTS and COMPONENTS of digital displays in the area.

Given these obvious facts, how can an NGO makes "news" and show their "certification" fees to be relevant?  Bring on the "BASE RATE FALLACY" (from website for book "Logically Fallacious" by Bo Bennett, Ph.D.):
Description: Ignoring statistical information in favor of using irrelevant information, that one incorrectly believes to be relevant, to make a judgment.  This usually stems from the irrational belief that statistics don’t apply in a situation, for one reason or another when, in fact, they do.  Example:
Only 6% of applicants make it into this school, but my son is brilliant!  They are certainly going to accept him!
Explanation: Statistically speaking, there is a 6% chance they will accept him.  The school is for brilliant kids, so the fact that her son is brilliant is a necessary condition to be part of the 6% who do make it.
By analogy, if Hong Kong only refurbishes 6% of the types of e-waste, guess which type the NGO put GPS tracking devices inside?

According to the Report at KCTS9, BAN did randomly put tracking devices in several types of products.  But there were only 200 total, so it's doubtful that any one recycler got all types of devices.  Total Reclaim may have just had the bad luck to get flat displays, while another recycler may have gotten something that can go in a shredder, or which Hong Kong would never import.

The conclusions the NGO wants PBS to reach demands an even worse logic.  The NGO is implying that ALL students are likely to get in, because they show SOME that did get it.  What Hong Kong LCD refurbishers actually import is less than 1% of the volume of e-waste Total Reclaim processes.

Funny how this keeps coming up from an NGO that makes MILLIONS of dollar off of the #ewastehoax.  See last December's editorial from Professor Josh Lepawsky "Trading on Distortion" - which earned him a similar attack by the same NGO).

NGO lying about Geeks in order to raise money to tell more lies about more geeks

Correlation and Causation:   If an NGO aims to raise millions of dollars to solve a "problem", but donations are going down as more and more people realize your statistics are a hoax (following your own retraction), how do you convince the press your NGO certification is necessary?  Answer:  Deliberately insert GPS tracking devices only in a small percentage of items in demand by the export for repair market, then announce it's symptomatic of all e-waste.

It's ironic is that the first victim of the fallacy was the NGO's own preferred vendor, a very forthright and honest company in their home town of Seattle.  Now, I don't like that the company donates to a campaign which promotes bigoted profiling, misleading statistics, and racial propaganda, but we have to defend them the same as we do Joe Benson, because it proves the #ewastehoax fallacy, #whitesaviorcomplex, and is the prime example of #charitableindustrialcomplex we can all learn something from.

Here's how the fallacy works ... Take true statements and untrue statements, and spell BINGO.

What IS true:

B -    Ewaste is produced by every country with electricity, including Seattle.
I -     Hong Kong is one of the richest places on earth, 12th largest generator of e-waste per capita
N -    The percentage of Seattle-Portland's e-waste that's in demand in Hong Kong is tiny, specialized
G -    A portion of material refurbished in Hong Kong (from domestic or imported) is scrapped.
O -    Of the portion scrapped, a portion of that is mismanaged.

What ISN'T true:

B  - It's not true that significant percentages of waste are exported
I   - It's not true that of what is exported, a significant amount is recycled without reuse
N  - It's not true that of what is recycled without reuse, that significant amount was imported
G  - It's not true that of what is recycled without reuse, most is poorly recycled.
O -  It's not true that the NGO certification program significantly reduces the slight risk

Given these facts, how do you raise client concern of a significant risk of USA material being dumped or poorly recycled?  Base Rate Fallacy Bingo.

If you put a tracking device specifically in the used electronics in demand in Hong Kong, and then tell people it proves most waste produced in the USA is shipped overseas, and that most of the waste in a dump overseas came from the USA.  But when the report comes out, lets see how @KCTS9 figures out that everything they find scrapped there is the same specialty item - LCD displays?  Lets see if they ask the NGO "where are the CRT TVs? Where are the VCRs? Where are the microwaves? Where are the printers?...

If only 30% of all the tracking devices got exported, what was the percentage of those devices which have a refurbishing and repair market?  KCTS9 Reports that they visually "observe" other types of electronics at one of the Hong Kong facilities, including "a CRT television with a USA plug",  But that device they didn't GPS-track there... and it seems Jim didn't tell them that Taiwan, Japan, parts of the Philippines, and even parts of mainland China use the same plugs as the USA and are much closer to Hong Kong.  Mexico, central America, northern South America do as well.  I do not believe Total Reclaim could ship an old CRT TV to Hong Kong even if they wanted to, no one would buy it or take it through customs.

Base Rate Fallacy Bingo, cont.

The way it works in Agbogbloshie (previous victim of NGO fallacy) is that Nigerian expat and TV Repair expert Joe Benson selected about 5% of UK's WEEE and exported it to Africa.  The NGO went to the dump in Africa and said that Joe Benson is the source of the material in the dump and that the "vast majority" of what Joe Benson shipped is for primitive recycling.

- Describe in text the "e-waste" was sent to a place
- Show a photo of "waste" at the place

See 2013 blog, Nice but Wrong.   There is no way that Joe Benson or any African would take the dirty mixed obsolete electronics as is, as they arrive in Seattle.

BAN did apparently tag "junky" devices, but we don't know if any of those were in the 30% that got shipped overseas.  If it's only nice office equipment, that indicates reuse and repair.

Back in 2006, BAN told everyone that China was importing the mixed junk ewaste above, 80% of which was scrap.  But when I went there (bringing Craig of Total Reclaim along to see), we found this:  all the same size, uniform, intact, CRTs for refurbishing.

Or, if you prefer Africa "e-waste", here's a screenshot of what Greenpeace described as TVs sent to Africa for "primitive" recycling.  All the same size, modern (image is from 10 years ago)

Now, the NGO is apparently using the same bait-and-switch of images to impugn Hong Kong geeks and refurbishers, whom they also label "primitive".   But the photo they show (see larger version at bottom) is such a tiny fraction of 28 million pounds managed by Total Reclaim, and isn't even all Total Reclaim's stuff (it includes Hong Kong generated e-waste), and it is AFTER the refurbishing plant... the portion of the portion of the portion.

The photo of the recycling table shows an absurdly, insignificant portion of material.  (The yard is a little bigger than the image showed for the LCDs, but still fairly small - seem to be under 10 employees.  Asian generation - for that matter bad manufacturing runs in nearby Shenzhen - could account for far more than all the scrap in the yard).  Even if 100% of the stuff in the photo came from Total Reclaim (highly unlikely), it's a tiny a percentage of Total Reclaim's 28M lbs per year, much less as a proportion of USA waste, or USA PLUS Hong Kong waste.

If the NGO had placed Geo-Tracking Devices in a randomized proportion of CRTs, printers, fridges,  etc. that are representative of "e-waste" in Total Reclaim's collection box, Total Reclaim would have had less than 1% show up in #trackingewaste.  If the NGO is deliberately selecting devices it knows a refurbishing market exists for, and then it is impugning the geeks who buy and refurbish those products, too often in bigoted, condescending, and racially-profiled terms.  Every device in the container below, if it had a tracker, would have been recycled at Total Reclaim... there's nothing visible that Hong Kong would want.  But if you specifically sneak in something Hong Kong would repair, and track just that...

The methodology being used by the NGO is the same that framed #FreeJoeBenson for 16 months in prison.  They are deliberately inserting geo-tracking devices in the nicest and most likely devices in high reuse demand, and are deliberately implying that few of those devices are repaired and reused.

They know that these "selective" reuse items are NOT a general sample of e-waste and if they tracked junky items as well, they need to say if those were equally likely to be found overseas.  If the Hong Kong and other markets show a desire for newer devices, that's important.  They know that their claim that 80% of e-waste is exported is completely false.  They know the derivative claim, that of the small percentage that IS exported, 80% is "primitively recycled" or "dumped" is false.

PBS AND BBC AND CNN are part of a defamatory and racially and culturally divisive injustice.  
There is an ABSURD amount of publicly available data to discredit claims made against Total Reclaim, Hong Kong refurbishing markets, Agbogbloshie, Guiyu, SKD remanufacturers, etc. And there is clear evidence that the root cause of the atrocious and libelous claim is FUNDRAISING by the NGO.

IN PART 3, We'll look at just SOME of the data to support the Base Rate Fallacy Bingo Rebuttal.  For a preview, what's 1 percent of 28 million pounds?  280,000 lbs.   Let's watch on Monday and see if we can find any evidence that - even if 100% of the material PBS Films in Hong Kong is from Seattle - that BAN can show 280,000 lbs in the photos.

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