Geography Baiting 5: How Can You Say No?

You are approached by an R2 Certified Chicago Recycler, who has decades of experience in copy machine refurbishing.  You have seen and photographed copy machine refurbishing, overseas, yourself.

The Chicago company has news about a state-of-the-art recycling facility in Hong Kong.  Hong Kong is wealthier, per capita, than the USA.  You know it's near the center of printer parts repurposing, and demand for recycled plastic - the plastic that you know is being lost in big shredding operation.

You check the downstream.  Hong Kong Environmental Department considers printers non-hazardous waste.  The facility identified in Hong Kong is also R2 certified.  You request verification of where the focus materials (circuit boards) go, and track them to Dowa and Umicore...

"You should have refused to ship there".

Really?  Why exactly, given the information above, should we have said "no"?

Deflection Option:  You can say you sent it to Chicago, not overseas.  But the fact is that you knew it could have gone overseas.  You just don't believe what BAN tells us about "primitives" in Hong Kong.

If you were to say no based on the Hong Kong facility, advertised as being state of the art, able to make the highest and best end use of the printers, how would you justify boycotting them?  How can you say no?  On what basis?

I could think of only one reason.  Bigotry. Racial profiling of Hong Kong as a place with "hundreds of junkyards" and "rice paddies".   Fear of the other.

The Mr. Lai's Printer Farm (MLPF) is a huge disappointment.  Apparently the R2 facility in Hong Kong wasn't finished, and brought in too much material, and put the non-hazardous material overflow to an outside scrapper.  

But not knowing that, I still don't understand the basis of "no".  

The information about "rice paddies" and "shantytowns" and "cowboy land" are racial smears.  And the math is bogus - 36% of 25% isn't 80% of all e-waste.  When the people smearing the overseas markets are making prima facia falsehoods the center of their presentation, you can only say "no" based on fear of being associated with the boogeyman they are trying to create.  If that's what you want, I guess find another recycler (or give us "destroy" instructions).   

MIT needs to disavow this campaign.

We are proud of our long history with the Tech Sector on several continents. I am proud to have welcomed them into my home, and am proud my children are friends with their children.   94% of the printers BAN could have sent us would have been scrapped.  99.9% of the CRTs are scrapped in Vermont. How then did BAN choose us to focus on in their report?

BAN knows our position and knows some geeks we trade with.  In 2010 (California Compromise) Jim met some of our friends in Asia, via Skype, to negotiate selling to them directly, through E-Stewards or California SB20.  In the end, he refused business because of their nationality.  That is his loss, and his children's loss. 

He could not say "yes".  We could not say "no".  

It's been faced before. By Atticus Finch, by Huck Finn, by Hester Prinn.  It is faced by all of us who try to hire handicapped or inner city employees.  If you try to make things better, by giving someone a chance, you expose yourself to risk.  Someone might get inside your device and scramble the wires and put in a tracker.

BAN needs a Willie Horton.  They need a scary place to "stand in" for Hong Kong Eco Park.  We were premature, it turns out, in relying on that market.  But I can't honestly see how we were supposed to say "no."

BAN has to smear the yes, they need to portray any disappointing outcome as likely, based on the "racial profile" they've created in Asia.  BAN need to make the $550M Hong Kong Eco Park unacceptable... on behalf of their funders.

We are all sinners.  I am more chagrined by the mined virgin metal - coltan, tin, copper, gold, aluminum, etc - in new devices I buy than I am of the hard working recyclers in Africa, Asia and Latin America who recycle those materials.

Growing up in the headwaters of America's Hillbilly Highway, I was called things you can't print, things I can't repeat  (It ends in "*lover"). I wear that with pride.  Any bigot who tries to shame me from trading with other cultures can go to hell with me.

This is a modern day Huckleberry Finn.  It's a To Kill a Mockingbird trial.  We need not apologize for trading with the Tech Sector in a color-blind mode.  

At no point does BAN say or imply that Good Point Recycling or our clients upstream or downstream knew that printers were being diverted from EcoPark to Mr. Lai's "printer farm". Had we known that, and misrepresented the downstream, that would be a legitimate story.  

Screening and hiding end points and bringing photographers to one that totally misrepresents Hong Kong is bad koolaid.  Most of the overseas technicians and recyclers we trade with would be proud to demonstrate their work on camera.  

We can't sit by and let this NGO smear them on behalf of their donors.  Maybe this is a risk on my part.  I just don't see how to push the southern continents under the bus.

Basel Action Network is in the business of calling out sinners, asking us to repent, and passing the coffer. As far as I'm concerned, he can take his bigoted sermon back to Seattle pulpit and leave my African and Asian friends alone.

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