2016 - Particularly Hoppy Bourne Brew of Ewaste Blogs

This year, the average readership per blog has doubled.  That's no doubt thanks to the interest in #ewaste generated by the Basel Action Networks claims, and academic links to MIT Senseable City Lab.  I thought perhaps the links to Hong Kong (specific geographies, like Tin Shui Wai) may have had something to do with the readership, but actually the hits were greater in the Pakistan Faisalabad blog (which tracked the 3 CRT monitors that BAN said were exported, 2 of which wound up at a TV remanufacturing operation a few blocks from a major urban university - a far more interesting story than the dystopia described by BAN).

Or is it something else entirely that attracts readers?  Jim Puckett, the speakers on TED about #ewaste, EU policy makers, publish-or-perish researchers, the regulators, and myself, are all looking for the right background for the movie we are making in our heads, about ourselves, and our role in discarded items generated by consumers.  We all perceive ourselves in a defensive position.  EU folks I interviewed seem absolutely dumbfounded that the African Tech Sector I work with saw them in a completely "offensive" light.

Pictures of kids at dumps, and Halloween ghoulish rice-paddy language, make our jobs - and our blogs - seem more exciting, more worthy of a Moby Soundtrack (bottom).  Activists perceive ourselves as heroes, academics as judges or historians, and commercial interests are in some ways the most honest - getting food on the table for families by providing what the marketplace asks for.

Some of us have more than one role to play.   Blogging got messy when I had to change hats, between academic waste policy and free and fair trade analyst to specific recycling plant owner.  It's hard enough for any recycling factory owner to know for sure what staff does with a specific $350 laser printer, but I had a lot of data.  Was able to show that over 90% of our printers went to domestic shredding, and this turned up the curious emails from a year ago where a Chicago area E-Steward cancelled several appointments to deliver printer scrap during the exact period when, unbeknownst to us, a tracker was in a printer in our plant.  So the tracker was both in a higher end printer, potentially reuseable, and coincides with cancellations by an E-Steward.  Another e-Steward (not the same one) definitively told me that BAN shared information about trackers being out there in 2015.

BAN is both "watchdog" and advisor to big shred, I'm both rebellious fair trade advocate and CEO of a small Vermont e-waste recycler.  Actors in more than one role...

How our self interest explains, determines, influences, or distracts from our policy recommendations is for the academics to assess... not because they are immune from it, but because they are SO aware of potential for bias to influence research that they have entire ethics committees, legal departments, and scientific research methods to filter them out.   I raised questions about the methodology and ethics and involvement of interested parties in the MoniTour research, and MIT sent the inquiry to their legal office, and information has been pretty constipated from there.  The main takeaway is that if you speak up about the methodology questions and profiling of geographic destinations, that you get singled out by BAN (despite not exporting).  Which kind of proves my point about the interested NGO (whose funded by Big Shred) I think.

The role of money in recycling contracts isn't just the subject of the Sopranos.  The very laws described in Takedown are being enacted in Vermont.  And the Vermont contracting process was a kill shot in 2013 which I'm trying to put behind me, without forgetting about it.

Recent blogs are change of subject posts, one about primary smelters using their ability (if not desire) to use CRT glass as a fluxing agent or sintering feedstock as a "closure plan" to support secondary smelters (like NuLife).  The other is about states loosening their winner-take-all electoral college systems to create "magnet" electoral college counties to stir investment.

Going forward, it's time to do more outside the box big picture credibility blogging, and less tit-for-tat minute by minute with Jim at BAN or VT ANR.  Jim is going after rather lazy journalists, the ones that Hans Rosling identifies in his TED Talk (the ones who believe 1970s depictions of emerging markets, and write stories to the stereotype).  I'm going after younger professors and students of e-waste policy, and regulators who have enough time and desire to sharpen their instruments.  As a former regulator, I understand what it's like to be in constant "reaction" mode.  Even the government folks in the Bourne movies were trying to cover something up, not planning for personal profit.

What's on my desk?  That's often the source of blogs... stuff I'm avoiding.  The other things I'm working on are opening a new facility, tidying up loose ends at Retroworks de Mexico, and the very exciting fair trade recycling and "ewaste offset model" project in Ghana.  I spoke on the weekend at PLAN Conference (Post Landfill Action Network) in Durham, and had an interview online with a Ghana Tech and researcher.  I've also been very busy HIRING new staff as Good Point Recycling tries to grow its way back from a near death Bourne Conspiracy movie directed from Montpelier.

This is the music playing in my office this year.  Moby's Jason Bourne soundtrack.

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