2002 Article In Recycling Today Foreshadows WR3A, IFixIT, E-Stewards

While looking to upload some papers in Academia.edu, I ran across an article published by Recycling Today magazine in 2002 - by yours truly.  "Setting a Higher Standard" explained that boycotting the export market would be a "war on drugs" approach, forcing legit oversees reuse and recycling operations to meet demand via "back alleys".

Here are 3 conclusions about e-waste export policy at the end of the article (edited by Brian Taylor).

Looks sound.

1) Send Quality.  Meet the customers and find out what they want.  Just export that.  Don't throw a piece of junk on the container that you don't know what to do with.  This would become the foundation of WR3A.org and Fair Trade Recycling.

2) Support Reuse and Repair.  This forshadowed Ifixit.org, was influenced by repairfaq.org's Silicon Sam.  I'd used Sam's repair instructions while reviewing Chinese purchase orders, and found the Chinese buyers were giving instructions that would eliminate non-repairable units.  This led to the realization that China was not buying ANY CRT Televisions, only specific 15" and 17" CRTs, which meant the trade was not driven by cost externalization.  California SB20 went off a cliff that year.

3) Support Reputable USA companies.  This forshadowed R2 and E-Stewards.

Basel Action Network attacked me for writing the article, personally, and that is how I met Jim Puckett.  He blasted a response to the article via "Microsoft Outlook" and cc'd dozens of people whom I'd never met, but with whom I'd become acquainted over the years.

The article was sent to some folks at US EPA, who later hired me as a consultant for the 2006 Federal Register CRT Rule, which funded my second trip to Asia - this time bringing Craig Lorch of Total Reclaim and Lin King of UC Davis, to visit some of the "Big Secret Factories" that BAN was racially profiling as "primitive rice paddies".  (If you are researching MIT Senseable City Lab and BAN's Monitour project, there's a chestnut about this at the bottom of this blog).

So I guess I'm a little disappointed that 10 years after this article was published, Project Eden and Greenpeace and BAN and UK Environmental Agency and UNEP would all be dogpiling on a Nigerian TV repairman, Joseph Benson, accusing him of exporting 80-90% waste, and sharing Jim Puckett's "place called away" article.

Most shocking is that the defamation and racial profiling of the Overseas Tech Sector would be embraced, above all others, by Obama and Gina McCarthy's "Environmental Justice" representatives in Washington DC.

This serving of "victimhood kool-aid" gave me insights into human nature, the "nurture instinct", and caused me to read a lot more mass commmunication and psychology books (having nothing to do with E-Waste).   It didn't really make me more successful in getting across these ideas from 2002, but helped me understand why attempts to crowd-source or garner public opinion are generally funded by economically interested parties (Big Shred, Planned Obsolescence, Charitable Industrial Complex).

"Accidental Racism" and "Friendly Fire"

The blog is for new students researching these deeper issues, and the unintended consequences predicted in the 2002 article.  It's for policy people who want to learn from our mistakes.  And it's "holding the mirror", as German photojournalist Kevin McElvaney puts it, back to journalists and reporters who consistently fail GapMinder's multiple choice quizes (Hans Rosling TED Talk).

The most important audience, to me, are the increasing number of graduate students from South Asia and Africa who are studying WEEE/E-Waste and "circular economies".  Those grad students - most of whom were in grade school in 2002, are finding the blog, and citing it in more nuanced papers.  The English in these papers isn't always outstanding, but the nuance captured by these best and brightest minds is forcing their older department heads to revisit the 2005-2015 "Project Eden E-waste Massacre" of tech sector importers.

How did people base billions of dollars of policy on photographs rather than experienced analysis?  "KONY2010 style" e-waste do-gooders were afraid to sign the Free Joe Benson petition I circulated at a college because they apparently valued being in the comfort zone of their liberal group than they cared about Africans sent to prison for repairing TVs.  Watching people decline to sign a petition to free an innocent black man from prison is fascinating.

That's a little harsh.  But this has always been a tough-love blog.  Because if you really care about a problem, you must insist on truth and scientific method.

2002's Recycling Today's article, "Setting a Higher Standard", was written when I was the sole employee of Good Point Recycling / American Retroworks, and was aimed to do more consulting and less truck driving.  It resulted in my invitation to Guandong, and my tour of Foshan refurbishers, the same year that Adam Minter and Jim Puckett began writing about China's recycling.  One of the Foshan SKD factories appears in BAN's original MIT Monitour data (GPS tracking device) but was omitted from the published report - the line of data on that GPS device was deleted.  If there is anyone at MIT researching last years GPS report, and the apparent collusion between BAN and interested financial backers, they may want to look for Foshan in the original data, and try to figure out why it disappeared from the data published by BAN last August.  I hope there is a federal investigation of this, since the testimony for SEERA and RERA (anti-export bills submitted by Green of Texas) would make this a potential felony.

Joe Benson didn't deserve to be in jail.  Someone else probably does.

This is what it looks like from Siddhartha's ferryboat. To have the policy chops, but work with blue collar junk dealers around the world.  The humbleness of Hesse's title character (eventually) came from going through good times and rough times. To reach nirvana, you can't be proud of nirvana, and you can't desire it.

Here is a cool how-to video on soukous guitar.  I was fascinated by the electric guitar and bass players in Congo when I spent a few weeks in Bukavu, Kivu, then Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1984.  That's how long I've been thinking about this.  I still love the old school soukous, and I didn't initially like it... it took a long repetitious experience of listening to fall in love.  It's kind of like "wisdom" in that way.

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