Geography Baiting 3: Retribution Strikes Press Release from BAN

While we wait patiently for answers from MIT about the ethics questions we have on Senseable City's "joint project" with Basel Action Network, BAN strikes.
"40% of  e-Waste given to Recyclers gets Shipped Illegally to Polluting Operations Overseas" - Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network
Since we have sent multiple letters to MIT and emails to BAN, offering to meet to show our processes and all downstream information, we know that BAN is conscious of the false and derogatory information embedded in this statement, explained below.  The question is, do they do it purposefully to cause harm?

1.  It is NOT 40% of e-Waste given to Recyclers.

BAN never tracked 65% of the weight (CRT and projection TVs that practically never get exported).  They sample tracked 3 types of device (printers, CRT monitors, LCDs) and found - of those - that about 36% were exported.   36% of 35% is not 40%.

2.  Most of the 40% tracked was NOT shipped illegally.

We showed here on the blog devices tracked to reuse and refurbishing operations.  Also, Hong Kong doesn't consider printers hazardous waste and BAN attacks them for classifying them as non-hazardous waste even as BAN calls them "clearly" hazardous waste in their report.

3. Most Overseas Operations are NOT Polluting.

The one BAN focuses all their attention on - Mr. Lai's Printer Farm - is visually concerning, and it was NOT identified as a destination on our downstream tracking.  So kudos on that.  But to say it is representative of the 40% of 35% is racist and insulting.  Other devices went to places overseas anyone should be PROUD to work with.

But the point of BAN's report is clear.  They do not go after companies that pack and export.  They do not track most of the destinations.  They track my company in several pages.  It's because I spoke out about them.  I believe that is the message here, to make other recyclers afraid to speak up on behalf of the geeks of color, to intimidate those of us who object to racial profiling, who do NOT pay them tribute money via E-Stewards (using an E-Steward company shows prominently on the press release, though the GPS tracking didn't show that to be determinate).

My company baled 95% of the printers we received for shredding - some by E-Stewards, all by R2 certified companies.  Of the FIVE (5%)* our crew found potentially reuse and repairable, we either tested them ourselves or more likely sent them to another R2 company which listed reuse as a potential outcome (not 100% shredder).   It was one of those 5% nice-looking ones that we sent to a USA company, which had listed certified Hong Kong destinations as their partners.  And, notably, one of those BAN and MIT chose to send to us.

When BAN and MIT hide the data we requested since last May, it just makes it hard for us to respond.  BAN plays the Bilbo Baggins Riddle "What (data) have I got in my pocket?"   We did find some of the tracked devices DID go to the Hong Kong EcoPark. If ours did not - and I accept that now - we have to find out who misdirected it (the USA company or the Hong Kong certified company).  Even if it was legal, it may not be acceptable.

For all we know, the device WOULD have been reused and repaired if not but FOR BAN's Sabotage.  I don't open all the halloween candy I buy to make sure no one sabotaged it.  Until now, I doubt anyone has opened a repairable printer and cut up the guts to make it unrepairable.  There's a word for that, but it's not a polite one.

The point is that BAN is a bully and directs its Reports and Press Releases not to enlighten, but to casuse people to fear them, and to pay them tribute.  It is because I read the Report, studied it, tracked devices to different places, made 14 pages of comment and critique, that my company is profiled in the report.  What I want to know is why people at MIT would not see this for what it is.

We did not, NOT export the device.  We send printers we have DETERMINED to be unusable to a shredder, and that is MOST of the printers.  If BAN intended to show we export, they'd choose a printer that sells for ten times scrap value on ebay and Amazon, and they'd make it unrepairable with internal damage.  We did not export even THAT (Jim stated we "exported to Chicago" in his email).  This is a spray-paint job by BAN.  And while our Chicago partner has offered to just let me "push him under the bus" (and claim it wasn't us), I prefer to out this Senator Joe McCarthy.

At long last, NGO, have you no sense of decency?  Have you no shame?

(Ed correction -. first edition of blog mistakenly reported on 95% not repairable by omitting the word "not". Only 5% of printers at my company have been set aside for potential reuse in 5 years)

Press Release Below.

Secret Tracking Project Finds that Your Old Electronic Waste Gets Exported to Developing Countries
40% of  e-Waste given to Recyclers gets Shipped Illegally to Polluting Operations Overseas
September 15, 2016. Seattle, WA. Utilizing high-tech methods to track high-tech wastes, the environmental watchdog, Basel Action Network (BAN) as part of their e-Trash Transparency Project, funded by the Body Shop Foundation, planted GPS trackers into 205 old printers and monitors and then delivered them to charities and recyclers. The new report, entitled Scam Recycling: e-Dumping on Asia by US Recyclers, revealed that of those that were handed over to American electronics recyclers, 40 percent did not get recycled in the US as expected by customers, but were instead exported to highly-polluting and unsafe operations in developing countries -- mostly in Asia.  

"The American public continues to be scammed by unethical companies greenwashing themselves as 'recyclers'," said BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett.
"The toxic chemicals released by the crude breakdown of our old electronics in the junkyards in Hong Kong not only harms workers and communities abroad, but comes back to hurt us as well. We are the only developed country in the world that ignores this problem. It's time to stop say 'enough is enough'."
Among the findings of the report, BAN found that:
  • 40% of the 152 deliveries to US electronics recyclers went offshore -- mostly to China
  • 96% of the exports are likely to be illegal under international or US law 
  • 93% of the US e-waste exports moved to developing countries
  • 75 companies were involved in a chain of transactions that led to export of e-waste.*
  • Many recyclers involved in export made website claims of never exporting
  • "R2" Certified Recyclers exported at greater than average rates, e-Stewards
    Certified Recyclers at less than average
  • Hong Kong electronics junkyards expose workers and the environment to dangerous toxins such as mercury. 
The exported tracked devices, travelled to Hong Kong (37), Mainland China (11), Taiwan (5), Pakistan (4), Mexico (3), Thailand (2), Canada (2), and one each in United Arab Emirates, Togo, Kenya, Cambodia, and the Dominican Republic. MIT's Sensable City Labs worked in partnership with BAN to produce an interactive online map
 to show the pathways of all of the 205 trackers.
Most of BAN's trackers had found their way via ship and truck to 48 different sites in a semi-rural part of Hong Kong known as New Territories. BAN travelled there and visited the precise locations where the trackers ended up. They found massive volumes of LCD monitors, printers and other electronics being smashed each day and broken apart by hand in hidden junkyards, allowing the release of printer toners, and mercury phosphors easily inhaled by workers both unprotected from, and unaware of, the hazards.  
BAN also looked at the electronics certification programs designed to improve ensure recycling management. The "R2" certification program created as a result of an EPA convened multi-stakeholder process has about 5 times more certified recyclers than the e-Stewards program (a more rigorous standard), but it was found that "R2" members had a higher rate of being associated with export than even uncertified recyclers. Recyclers certified to the e-Stewards Standard had the lowest export rate. The e-Stewards Standard was created by the Basel Action Network together with industry leaders. It is designed to be fully consistent with international law and is the only e-recycling program that utilizes tracker technology to verify conformity with the standard.
The BAN report calls for the following key recommendations:
  • All consumers and businesses concerned about preventing pollution of the global environment should make exclusive use of e-Stewards Certified Recyclers
  • President Obama should sign an executive order to prevent US government e-waste from being exported overseas.  All others can sign petition for this
  • Manufacturers, governments and recyclers should commit to full transparency of where they send all of their hazardous electronic waste.
Hong Kong government should ban all imports of hazardous e-waste and close the informal New Territories junkyards.

Download the report here:

For more information:

Jim Puckett, Executive Director, Basel Action Network

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