Poison Apples 4: BAN Report on Canadian Export - 9% Export Despite Rigged Sampling!

Nine Percent!?!?
Nine Percent is a nine-member Chinese boy group formed by the survival show Idol Producer by iQiyi in 2018.

Nine percent is also the result of BAN's E-Stewards new report  on a rigged process to show illegal ewaste export is still a thing to pay them money about.

Rigged as in 14% of all the devices BAN tracked were sent to one company (which BAN has engaged in a lawsuit against). And BAN didn't track things they knew would not likely be exported.

Basel Action Network, the owner of the "E-Stewards" authority program, is still using GPS trackers to try to ramp up business.  In a new report distributed by email, BAN has given a subject headline that "Canada still Exporting e-Waste to Developing Countries"... Using a clever but well trod journalism trick, "still" is meant to imply something significant is contained in the report.

Let's boil the information down from page 1.

1) Zero CRT televisions tracked, despite being 60% of Canada's e-waste stream.  That's a major sampling bias if your claim is about "Canadian e-Waste".

2) The devices "chosen" for export tracking - LCD monitors, CRT desktop monitors, and printers - were identified in BAN's 2016 report as the most likely items purchased by export markets.

3) BAN "Poisons the Apples" again, claiming to have secretly "rendered the devices economically unrepairable".  Like the 2016 report, the sabotage is not visible, it's hidden (and not competently done - in 2016 several devices were found repaired and in use anyway). Why do that, other than defeat screening and quality control procedures by the accused Canadian exporter?

4) BAN again conflates the Basel Convention - which explicitly allows reuse and repair and even recycling exports to developing countries - with their proposed AMENDMENT, which they admit has not been passed or ratified by either the Convention or Canada. So their claims of "illegal" activity by Canadians are clearly false and defamatory.

Despite all this spin, the result of the GPS study is   9 %

And if CRT TVs had been tracked, it would have been less than 3 percent!!!  This report shows an NGO flailing its fingers on the keyboard!!!



Poison Apples 3: Uptick in Lithium Battery Fires & GPS Ewaste Tracking Devices

Our company sends about 30% of the used electronics we receive to "big shred"... companies that invested in labor-saving mechanical shredders with eddy-current-separators, magnets, optic sorters, etc., to turn things like printers (notoriously low reuse value because the dollars are in the ink cartridges, not the device) into streams of raw material.

Those shredding companies are our friends.

We offer to take back stuff they can't shred responsibly - like display devices.  Ideally, we'd be taking back, ton-for-ton, the 30% stuff that should be hand-managed, like CRTs and LCDs, Plasmas, OLEDs, etc, for every ton of shreddable e-waste we send.

Our friends at the shredders have a problem. One friend, ECS of California, went out of business this year. I've known the owner, Jim Taggart, since my Massachusetts DEP days in the 1990s. He was not the first "big shred" investor to get sucked  under.

This video doesn't show you any specifics about why, but it does show a big, big problem for Big Shred.  It features our old pal Scott Pelly of CBS 60 Minutes (the guy who impugned our geek pals based on Jim Puckett ewaste statistic "fakenews").



Poison Apples 2: Profiting from Ewaste Cures

Things that seemed very important to write about 6 years ago (about things like desktop CRT monitor remanufacturing in Asia, and California SB20) now seem less vital.  But while public discussion of the topics in this blog has quieted, and some wins (like Mr. "Fishing as a Boy" Anane being actively edited out of certain documentaries) institutionalized, individual cases of racial profiling of the emerging market's tech sector continue. I receive a lot of thank yous "under the table".

What I have learned over the 11 years of writing this blog is that being passionate about environmentalism is like being passionate about cures for human sickness and disease. It is a hot topic until the disease is cured, but that different populations struggle with different levels of risk.

And the importance of being green is not passeĆ©.  The theme is to improve environmental health the way we improved human health. Sometimes, that means standing up to the liar wearing the doctor's white coat, promising to end suffering by selling a cure they've barely tested....


E-Waste Policy looks a great deal, through the lens of history, like 1960s infant formula sales.  My mom recently recalled that when she was breastfeeding me at the hospital in Harrison Arkansas in 1962, a nurse in the room asked her, "What are you trying to prove?"  Mom was only 19... but thank god she could see past the nurse's labcoat.

Poison Apples Blog: 18 Questions for Research on GPS Tracking of E-Waste

Poison Apples Blog #1 - Labor Day Weekend 2018

It's September, the beginning of a new Academic Year.  Environmental studies and public policy and geography and business majors are arriving on campus, ready to launch hundreds of term papers, thesis, class essays, etc. on lots of topics.

Usually, there are dozens of students researching the topics of the Basel Convention, EPA policy, exports, and externalization of pollution.  And there are quite a few papers that will be written on racial profiling, and environmental justice.

So far, I haven't seen many papers on the thesis that Geeks of Color, the Tech Sector in emerging markets, is being improperly profiled as "primitive", "informal", and "illegal". But if I were to write such a paper, for an A+, I might begin with another paper that had been published that reached a conclusion in its title...

"How does e-waste travel across the world after disposal?" was a hot publication in 2016, and was covered on PBS national evening news broadcast before many of us had a chance to peer-review it. The title of the report asks a question... and has a cover photo at top which clearly shows the plastic casings of CRT televisions.  This raised a question to me... why was there not even a single CRT television tracked among the sample of 205 devices, which MIT's partner claims are a representative sample of "ewaste".

The 30% or so of "stuff" in e-waste collections that does indeed "travel across the world" is the only stuff they tracked. But the paper claims to answers the question "How" without asking the question, "Why"?  And the answer to why would come from the buyers, the black, brown, Asian, African, Latino and Islanders who are never offered a chance to show what they CAN do with your "elective upgraded" so-called "waste"...

Because the NGO knows this, they had to take an extra step. No one is selling spoiled apples in the marketplace, if they tracked the spoiled ones, it would show little export. But if they tracked the statistically good ones, they'd likely find their GPS in a reuse shop (in fact, they did despite efforts to sabotage).

The method, I call "poisoning the Apples"... And its time some people publish some term papers on the obvious errors in scientific method that should have been vetted before PBS was sent the paper.




The Thorny Distraction of Environmental Police / Malaysia Rhino Horn

It has been a couple of years now since WR3A's last meeting with INTERPOL in Lyon, France. After our first and second visit to Agbogbloshie, laughingling labelled the "world's largest e-waste dump", INTERPOL officials let me know that "Project Eden" was a misfire. They would sunset it silently.  This is what grown up environmentalists do.

The #ewastehoax launched by Jim Puckett of Seattle almost two decades ago has distracted environmental regulators, and has diluted their enforcement, from much more important concerns.  Like this.


Fifty rhino horns, worth $12M, seized by Malaysian environmental officials in Kuala Lumpur. This is a big news story. Yet it's been distracted from and diluted by Basel Action Network, and there's been no country more so distracted by BAN's war on repair than Malaysia DOE.

Everyone Misunderstands China / Global Recycling Chains (#WSJ)

Wall Street Journal and others are running stories about the crash in recycling prices due to China's new import restrictions.  There is a grain of truth to the story, but there is so much more going on that I have to issue a quick explanation [US Recycling Companies Face Upheaval from China Scrap Ban].

It has little to do with the sentiment in China over "western garbage". That trite little meme is everywhere on Twitter.  It's something else entirely.

"IT'S THE MINING STUPID"


(AND FORESTRY, OCEAN BED EXTRACTION, AND CRUDE OIL REFINING)


Nuance Delivery 4: Correcting Our Aim

Having trouble with the video editing software to get Oluu Orga's excellent video-bio on his years in Agbogbloshie up for view.  I had been using Picasa for the previous videos I edited. Alphabet (Google) is kind of the popular boyfriend/girlfriend that only dates you for a couple of years and then loses interest... Love their free products but they wind up dropping support and pulling the plug-ins.



While I keep working on it, I'm also getting ready to receive a bunch of African Fair Trade Recycling members. Wahab "Ghana Tech" is arriving in Boston. Emmanuel Nyaletey arrives tomorrow from Georgia Tech. Evans Quaye of Accra is networking in South Africa.  Web Element is completing their Fair Trade Recycling Waste Offset (re-export) paperwork at Ghana EPA. Our newest Fair Trade Recycling staffer, John Sumani of Wa (far Northwest), a Ph.D in environmental studies, has a good network at Ghana EPA. The Techs of Chendiba Enterprises check in politely now and then. And the "three musketeers of Agbo", Awal, Yaro and Razak, have their Whatsapp credits ready to spend (at all hours of day and night).

Nuance Delivery 3: Eyewitnesses To Hell - Oluu Orga

The Agbogbloshie waste site has really become a crucible for examination of the charitable industrial complex. The richer the African city, the more consumer electronic waste it generates.  When I go to Agbogbloshie, I don't see anything I didn't see in Mobile, Alabama.

But once, I thought did.  When Westerners go to unfamiliar places, something happens. We photograph something that seems exotic, and the more shocking and unfamiliar, the more valuable the photo.  It's interesting to contrast our Western photos of Agbogbloshie to those taken by an African who lived and worked at the place. Western photojournalists (e.g. Kevin McElvaney) earn a better living selling their photos if there's a nice Biblical Halloween Titled Hyperbole around them.

In Nuance 1 and 2, we focused again on Awal Muhammed of Savelugu, Ghana, the guy in his mid-20s who figured out that adding more gasoline - literally - to the ewaste (and tires, mostly) burning fire was a recipe for handouts. On my first visit to Agbo in 2015, he certainly stood out. (And he video calls me too often ever since, see last night).

Today, let's focus on an authority, Oluu Orga, who is everything Awal is not. He also came to Agbogbloshie from the North, he also pushed a cart around the city, but he didn't ever learn to perform fire tricks for the Photojournalist convention (which started in earnest a year after Oluu left).

Oluu Orga didn't have much to spend on film, but he took pictures of his friends doing different jobs.

In the mid 1980s, I returned from 30 months in Africa with 7 undeveloped rolls of film. When they were all developed at once, I could see where my priorities had been.  Excited to be in remote Africa, the place I had heard about as primitive and natural and exotic.. many photos apparently were intended to "validate" my time there. More shots of grass roofs than corrugated steel, no pictures of paved roads.  When I went through Oluu's photos of his time there, Agbogbloshie finally got real.


Nuance Delivery 2: Awal is BlackboxMedia's Tire Burning Boy

Well, I was working on a different Nuance #2 - the upcoming release of Juan Solera / Palm and Play's documentary "Blame Game" (former working title Clean Hands).

But before I could make an announcement, another German White Savior documentary has just been released!  "Welcome to Sodom" makes Awal Muhammed (and perhaps fellow Musketeers Yaro and Razak? Didn't see them in the trailer) return for another one of his tire-burning-circus acts.

In fairness, I have only been able to see the trailer.  But hey, here's the same theme.  Agbogbloshie in Ghana is presented as "Europe's Ewaste Dump". Shots of girls with water baskets on their heads. Shots of garbage being dumped (not even electronics) through a frame of a 1970 television husk.  But if the trailer and website is any indication, our hero is, once again, Awal Muhammed of Savelugu (north of Tamale) Ghana.

Here he is with his gasoline-filled-tire-burning-act (previously seen on Placebo's MTV video last year).  This is not something they do - use this much fuel to make this big a fire - except when European camerapeople are present. Awal is credited with figuring out that it's the fire that brings the cameras for your close up (a hint for Hollywood Extra Wannabees, perhaps).



Nuance Delivery 1: Awal is Sasha Rainbow's Tire Burning Boy

Another reminder from the Placebo "Life's What You Make It" controversy a year ago... Sasha Rainbow, who made the Placebo music video in Agbogbloshie, didn't ever - even once- respond to me or talk to me.  She said I was a liar.



Here (in Pidgin English) is an interview with Awal Muhammed of Savelugu (village north of Tamale).  Oh, he's also featured in BBC reporter Reggie Yates feature on Agbogbloshie.

Sasha's documentary is coming out soon, I've been told.  Good for her that she spent more time down there.  I've heard nice things about Sasha Rainbow from people I know in Accra. 

Trying to be Logically Hyper-Empathetic


Being logically hyper-empathetic (able to consider any point of view as a puzzle to how a reasonable person could hold that view) has ups and downs. 

Being able to imagine my hardest opponents as NOT Nazis, NOT Spoiled, NOT Privileged, NOT labels of the worst possible assumption, has helped me sharpen my own views. But surprisingly, it does not appear to make me more persuasive. 

NGO "#EarthEye" Gets OEM Cash for GPS Trackers: Do It Right Dell

Summary:  We applaud the next generation GPS Tracking study - if it's a truly random distribution and random sampling of end points.  It's not the tracking that was bad in 2016, it was the opportunity for bias distribution and biased sampling of end points.  Dell should ask MIT Ethics Review Panel (via legal department) how to do a reputable GPS used electronics tracking study.
  1. Randomly track and place all used electronics inputs. That means putting some trackers in 25 year old CRT TV junk that no one imports, some in working product that should be reused, not selectively sabotaging good enough looking stuff internally. 
  2.  Randomly distribute the randomly selected used electronics. That means blindly send the goods so you don't send specific selected stuff to a specific recycler.  
  3.  Randomly select end point export markets. That means you don't "obscure" good repair markets (cringeworthy 2016 study hid best and brightest in Hong Kong). 
What Dell can Learn from MIT Senseable City Lab "Partnership" with Basel Action Network.

In 2016, Basel Action Network sent GPS Trackers out in the field and provided MIT with a textbook study of how to do it wrong.  Sampling bias, financially involved research team, etc.

In 2018, BAN has announced they have a new partner - Dell.  Above the fold are the steps Dell can take to avoid MIT's mistakes, and do this study right.  I will applaud the tracking if the samples are done fairly, because then they will tell just as many stories about good Tech Sector outcomes overseas, as well as good stuff that got destroyed - not just bad stuff that didn't get fixed.  I'm all for science.

2010 Flashback to Europe's Decade of Racial Profiling E-Waste

Back in November 2010, I used a cover photo on a blog to convey how Europe was relying on photojournalism to set waste policy. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG was one of my most visited blogs that year - the year Interpol launched "Project Eden", an approach to Africa and Asian geeks that was as cringeworthy as the Eurotrash Art.



Grasping At Straws: The Net Liability of Extraction

Let's assume that people without a sense of environmental conscience don't spend time on this blog. Longtime readers know that I'm in recycling because of "religious" or "philosophical" experiences I had in the 1970s. In distilling the ethos of hippies and hillbillies (elderly god-fearing folks I also admire), I might have coined a term "Agent of Conscience".


Time to "recalculate the route" of environmental strategy. We know that we need people who care, and we know that it needs to be science based. We hope to develop cures for planet health the way western medicine cured smallpox and polio. And borrowing from the March of Dimes polio strategy, we aren't above using poster children if the timing is right.

First, we need a personal end point or destination, a true north. At least, that's where I started. Without history and accountability and scientific method, Environmentalists will be left Grasping for Straws.  In the big math, the net cost of extraction vs. reuse/repair/recycling, finding novel things to make people to feel guilty about isn't going to get us to our sustainable destination.

Grasping at Straws.... 

Why we need to press pause on the plastic straw ban | The Big Issue

Rumors Update 3: Deauville, Normandy, Film Festival

This is just a sneak peak. Leapfrogs #2 because it's so hot off the press...




The collateral damage to geeks of color over the past 2 decades has left scores of witnesses.


Breaking: Raid on Thailand's Largest Used Flat Monitor Reuse/Recycling Operation

Hopefully non-Facebook viewers can see the CarmaFi LIVE from Bright TV in Thailand, I am looking for other hosts (Youtube).


This is fascinating because it's very rare to have 60 minutes of live video of an Asian E-waste recycling and refurbishing facility.  I was aware that Thailand has become the largest buyer of desktop LCDs, and as my company expands its own USA flat TV recycling operation, I confess I was worried this would be our competition.

https://www.facebook.com/BrightTV20/videos/2143410722606242/

Wow. I see things that look really bad. I see things that look really good.  I see modern air separation equipment, and I see Asian women sorting things on the table, and men sorting things on the floor. Lots of green circuit boards. I don't see any smoke or acid (promised by BAN).  I see aluminum heat sinks being sorted for reuse. I see downdraft tables where chips are being pulled and sorted from circuit boards for reuse.  I see 50 tubs with 50 different grades of copper.

The dreaded aluminum heat sink sorting table

Basel Action Network has pronounced judgement, of course. And I have to reserve judgement - even BAN isn't wrong all of the time. But they (BAN) sure do make it hard to see people for what they can do, positively, when they introduce them as "primitives" and "polluters".  I am just watching this video for the first time, and hope to learn what these processes are.  My hunch is that it is environmentally safer than mining, refining, and new manufacturing.  But that could be my own bias.

Bias is not all bad. My pre-disposition is largely framed by my knowledge of the complete history of electronic displays, from blinking-lights to tab cards to VGA, SVGA, digital, etc. I learned most of this from a guy who arrived as a child in Tawain during Mao's takeover of PRC, who wore rice sacks as clothes, but went to engineering school in Taipei... where he developed the first-ever display of Chinese characters on a CRT electron gun screen.

Rumors Updated Part 1: Status of the Joe "Hurricane" Benson E-Waste Witchhunt

Finally getting ready to release some major developments in the case of Joseph "Hurricane" Benson, who was first interviewed for THIS BLOG back in 2013.  Unconfirmed rumors are that Benson was released some time ago, on a condition that he not speak to the press.

Benson's Ewaste Export case was profiled a series of blogs, Titled BULLYBOYS.



The term "BULLYBOYS" was Joe Benson's.  His friends, Jacques and Amadou, had contacted me through the blog. They arranged a meetings - before he was sentenced to 5 years in prison by the United Kingdom.

Combat and Competition and Hope in Age of Universal Electronic Social Media (Thesis)



[Due to a sacroiliac injury and siatic nerve pain it has been several weeks since I've had good REM sleep.  This has made it difficult for me to concentrate and finish longer blogs, and I've turned to shorter statements via Twitter and news content.  Got some different nerve meds and had a long vivid dream last night.  Woke up with these thoughts, which I want to record in over 280 characters]

Universal Electronic Social Media [notification beeps on Facebook comments, or prolonged internet time on Reddit, etc] has created an impression of increasing conflict.  A lot of pundits are concluding that the internet is becoming more hostile, people less reserved or nuanced in their commentary -- or withdrawing altogether, or reserving comment for tighter social circles with less conflict (but also less exposure to genuine dialectic disagreement).





Better Solution to Eric Lundgren's Microsoft Operating System Reload: Spare Tire Licenses

1928 Wolseley Spare Wheel - 16 hp - 4 cyl - WRT 792 - Kolkata 2018-01-28 0551


Multiple pals on Facebook and Email sent me last weekend's article about Eric Lundgren, spectacled and lightly bearded electronics reuse guru.  Friend of Kyle at IFIXIT and other TechSoup sorts, Lundgren has made a colorful career doing press-catchy projects, like building electric cars out of e-waste, and other tinkerer tricks.

I have nothing against Eric and think it sucks he has been sentenced to jail for importing Microsoft Operating System licenses from China.  Whether he was going to give them away to poor people without computers, or sell them (as alleged by Microsoft and FBI informants), jail seems like overkill.  Here was Microsoft's side of the story, which sounds truthy as well.  And here is the view at IFIXIT.

Oh, and here is the petition circulated by PIRG... with a photo at the top looking very Agbogbloshie-like (reminding us that PIRG and Greenpeace still have not corrected their 80-90% primitive ewaste export hoax that put #FREEJOEBENSON in prison for much longer than Eric Lundgren is scheduled to serve).

Ok, I can fix this.  Have been trying for 20 years.  Had the solution in 1998. Tried to implement it in Massachusetts.

Spoiler in yellow.  I solved this over a decade ago.  Why can't I get traction?

THE SOLUTION IS FOR GOVERNMENT AND INSTITUTIONAL VOLUME PURCHASERS TO PROCURE ONE "SPARE TIRE" LICENSE ON EVERY PC THEY ORDER. 

THE "SPARE" LICENSE KEY WOULD BE GLUED ON THE BACK, AND USED FOR A CLEAN REINSTALL AFTER THE HARD DRIVE WAS WIPED.  

THIS WOULD ELIMINATE E-WASTE AND MAKE THE PCS AFFORDABLE.  

WHEN I PITCHED THE IDEA TO MICHAEL DELL IN AUSTIN TEXAS, HIS FOLKS ESTIMATED THEIR COST FOR SUCH A LICENSE WOULD BE ABOUT $1.   

I made a short career of this when another Operating System company, NewDeal Inc., hired me as a consultant to promote THEIR Operating System as the backup.  New Deal collapsed during the "dotcom" crash, and my Spare Tire licensing idea never got off the ground.

More about Lundgren's case and how OEM Operating licenses work below.  Wouldn't surprise me if that's Lundgren using Accra's slum as a backdrop.




Driverless Used Car and Electronics Imports to Africa

Follow up to the new "Driverless" UNU 2018 Person In Port Report


The headline, “Thousands of tons of e-waste shipped illegally to Nigeria inside used vehicles” was familiar. In my last blog, I gave readers "the fine print".

Almost everything documented by the 2018 UNU's "Person in the Port Project" (2018) report on used electronics imports to Nigeria corresponds with our 4 years of research in Ghana. Bottom line, the importers are presumed innocent. Most purchases are normal and good. The headline focuses on a statistic that 15,000 tons of 60,000 tons “didn’t work”. Put another way, 75% of the imported used electronics are fully functional. More importantly, the report tells us that of the 25% of electronics needing repair, Nigeria's Tech Sector is the best on earth at fixing them. 
"The high skill level of Nigeria’s refurbishing sector, with the ability to fix many technical defects in UEEE at reasonable service cost, also motivates importers to import both functioning and non-functioning electronic equipment to Nigeria." 
- 5.8.1 PIP Report 2018
The 2018 report avoids the “poverty porn” - pics of kids posed on old TVs, etc. - that marred its 2015 report. In almost every respect, the report shows a fairer image of Africa’s Tech Sector. And the most important concession Europe has now made is to concede the 2015 Report's KEY FINDING - motives of "drivers" to export "waste" - has been disproven. Joseph "Hurricane" Benson had no "driver" to put waste into his export containers. The only financial motive that can explain these shipments are intent to reuse and repair.

So the "driverless" waste export theory is busted. Let’s focus first on Ten Things the report gets right.

UNU Gets Closer To Ewaste Truth (B-): But it is LEGAL not ILLEGAL

I T    I S   L E G A L

See video of African Reuse

The "fine print" behind in the UNEP / UNU headline.  75% of the imported used electronics work, and are preferred by African consumers because they perform better than affordable new ones. Of the 25% that require repair, Nigeria's Tech Sector is the best on earth at repairing them. 

First the Good News about United Nations University's "Person in the Port Project" (2018).  "Assessing Import of Used Electrical and Electronic Equipment Into Nigeria"...

  1. The 2018 PiP report avoids the pitfall of poverty porn  photos (its 2015 report was cringeworthy)
  2. The report correctly describes the use of otherwise "unused space" in automobiles (West Africa's #1 used goods import) to move laptops, computers, and other household electronics (and clothes, and jacuzzis, etc).
  3. They involved 2 African authors, Olusegun Odeyingbo (UNU), and Dr. Innocent Nnorom, BCCC Africa (along with Dr. Olmar Desozer of UNU - ViE SCYCLE)
For a really excellent description of what "drives" the export trade, see section 5.8.1 Economic Relevance of UEEE Trade, Refurbishment and Recycling (complete quote at bottom, in blue).
"The high skill level of Nigeria’s refurbishing sector, with the ability to fix many technical defects in UEEE at reasonable service cost, also motivates importers to import both functioning and non-functioning electronic equipment to Nigeria." 
Well done.

The problem is in the press release, and the headline.  They claim something that is rational and environmentally sound is nevertheless illegal.  And the press release (apparently written by a freaked out white Starbucks barista) calls for law enforcement... without quoting or interviewing the black people who loaded and unloaded the containers.

Africans are in control of this whole trade.  This report does a lot to document that, reversing the narrative that unethical OECD sham recyclers are responsible.

So it doesn't get an "F".  It correctly describes the loading and unloading, and the financial transactions.  Better dressed, better facts, and with credible African co-authors.  But where is the crime?  Where is the waste dumping?

Recalling Booker T. Washington - the report reads like a compromise.  It describes the good outcomes in Africa, but still extends a sturdy olive branch to the WEEE policy hawks who constantly impugn trade with geeks of color in rapidly emerging markets like Nigeria.  A sturdy branch for the European E-Wastes lynch mob, who continue hunting down African technicians.

Vermont #RightToRepair S.180 Bill - Wall Chargers, Ink Cartridges in Chamber 35

The session on Vermont S.180 was crammed into one hour and fifteen minutes. I sat on a cushioned wall shelf in chamber room number 35.  Twelve committee members and staff. Three witnesses in favor of the Right To Repair Bill (VPIRG's Dan Brown, EFF's Kit Walsh by phone, and Michael Duplessis, of SunCommon, Apple repair guru). I was a wallflower.



You wouldn't think that the most important e-waste legislation in the United States was being discussed here, unless you counted the manufacturing lobbyists.  Not that the 3 anti-S.180 witnesses were over the top. They'd travelled to talk against a bill that was already defanged. Neutered. Eviscerated.  VPIRG told me it was effectively killed in the previous chamber.

The remaining "debate" is whether the Vermont Legislature should even form a task force or committee to further review the Right To Repair.  The lobbyists were there to strongly advocate not to have any discussions about it.

A lobbyist for the medical equipment manufacturers seemed to insinuate that people could die if finely tuned medical instruments are improperly reused.  A lobbyist for farm equipment dealerships said the line had to be drawn below dealerships.  His members were currently satisfied. (One legislator correctly pointed out the Ag Dealerships were protected by similar legislation when manufacturers prevented them from servicing multiple brands some years ago.... the lobbyist nodded, yes, that's where to draw the line)


The strategy of industry in opposition to discussion of the Fair Repair Act is obfuscation.  They left the impression that the Task Force would have to cover a pandora's box of questions.  The House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development Chairman, Bill Botzow (D-Bennington), was genuinely daunted.  "Which bite of the cake do we eat first?"

How about the icing?   15 U.S.C. § 2301  Because this cake was already baked 40 years ago.  The debate was held between 1972 and 1975, all the cautions were weighed and balanced.  This is an act to establish a Task Force to review an old law and see how it can be updated.  Easy peasy...

Ask about the wall chargers.  Europe already passed rules making them universal, and no airplanes fell out of the sky.



By Evan-Amos - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16128583



CryptoCurrencyBall: Tinkerer's Blessing Moneyball Takes on E-Waste

The previous post basically took MIT SustainAble City Labs and E-Stewards to task for the ill-conceived GPS tracking study that succeeded, mostly, in elevating negative stereotypes about both scrappers and tech sector workers in emerging markets. 

Basel Action Network is trying to monetize tracking of unwitting, unwilling subjects.  I just hope MIT will eventually do the right thing and apologize for its role in using undergraduate students to place tracked devices, disguised as repairable (and in some cases WERE repaired), and associating legitimate overseas technicians with "rice paddies" and "shantytowns".

Now for the positive, forward looking alternative, the Fair Trade Recycling vision.
"Your goal shouldn't be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins... I believe there is a championship team that we can afford, because everyone else undervalues them." Peter Brand, Moneyball
We are working to fly 2 of the brightest LED/LCD/Plasma display techincians I have met in Ghana over the past 4 years to Middlebury, Vermont, to train and interract with Good Point Recycling staff. We sent 2 student interns to work with one of those technicians under the Fair Trade Recycling "e-Waste Ambassadors" program last summer (Middlebury College and U of Florida).

We are going to be card counters at the blackjack table...

And here is a paid Fair Trade Recycling Internship post to bring us there (please repost).

I call it CryptoCurrencyBall...

FRAMED: GPS Tracking System For Ca$h!! Non-Profit For Hire Egg Hunt!

[April 1, 2018] FRAMED:   "HOW TO" USE GPS TO MAKE SOMEONE LOOK BAD. 


Environmental NGO Basel Action Network released an Opinion piece in E-Scrap News that may have put too fine a point on their offer to shakedown competitors.
"Responsible recycling companies can be plagued with downstream vendors that cheat on their no-export commitments. For this reason, BAN encourages all electronics recyclers to contact BAN to privately contract for our tracking services. We are ready and willing to help all recyclers and enterprise companies to audit their downstream partners."

"Responsible"... You'll be "responsible" all right.  Because if you read the agreement disclaimer, you'll find you could be held responsible if the NGO gets sued for defamation.

Here's our April Fool's Day Prank - How to use an MIT-inspired GPS tracker to make ANYONE look bad.  And the fun part is, you can do it for Ca$h!




Reversing ER#3: J-School Background Checks on E-Waste - Benson Released, Rowe Fired?



Here's an interesting statistic on "e-waste" (like most, made up on the spot).  Four out of five journalists who contact me beforehand decide not to run the story on "e-waste" at all.

Reporters are initially attracted to the Basel Action Network's press release or photo opportunity (exotic brown child perched on familiar looking old electronics).  That BAN press release has, for 15 years, triggered interest in reporters and college researchers. An easy story to write, as BAN served "facts" up on a platter.

But Jim Puckett is no Upton Sinclair. He wrote about Agbogbloshie in chilling text - before admitting to me he had never been there at all. He had never even read a peer reviewed article.

The "ewastehoax" says junk in cities across the globe is the fault of "sham recyclers"... if only we use a USA recycling company that pays dividends to Jim Puckett, we will quickly clean these places up.

The Ewastehoax promises a moral lesson of "environmental injustice", and triggers three Steven Pinker-esque cognitive biases:

1. Nurture. We actually care about the poor child.
2. Greed. We suspect someone else's actions were driven by it.
3. Fear.  We are afraid of our own liability for our "stuff".

It's an easy recipe.  BAN isn't the only organization to use it. Annie Leonard, Blacksmith Institute, StEP, R2 (SERI), E-Stewards, CBS 60 Minutes, The Guardian, etc. all followed the trail on these instincts.

If you are a good photographer, that is all you need to put some guy like Joseph "Hurricane" Benson of BJ Electronics behind prison bars.  You can be the reporter that made him sell his house, that cost him his business and his retirement.



You are so cool.  You no doubt picked up all kinds of dates interested in your brave reporting.  Did you tell them about Joe Benson, the Nigerian TV repairman who shipped a TV with a GPS tracker to Ghana? Did you describe the satisfaction of Benson going to jail, like Raphael Rowe of BBC's Panorama did?

Oh, wait.  News flash.  Raphael Rowe got fired? (According to this article, "Pushed Out", but there's still some uncertainty as I research this, he's still on BBC 2 local).  And Interpol has pulled the plug on Project Eden.  All since Fair Trade Recycling's 2015 trip to Agbogbloshie, where we saw a city slum near a dump full of tires, cars, and junk appliances - all once owned by Africans, from a thriving city of millions of consumers.  Even the dozens (not thousands) of (adult) orphans there all carry cell phones, and can send photos of where they collected the scrap... at Accra homes and businesses, which had millions of TVs in the mid 1990s.



Benson may have the last laugh on Raphael Rowe. Though he has suffered, journalism students once attracted to "environmental justice" stories are increasingly documenting "environmental malpractice", "friendly fire", and "collateral damage" to Africa's Tech Sector.

Whether or not Raphael Rowe stays on at BBC, he's still know for having been racially profiled.  As will be Joseph "Hurricane" Benson.  As Rowe said in an interview "bitterness never leaves you".


Dell Global Recycling Video by Von Wong, Theory of God

While I would love to sit down with Von Wong and correct some of his statistics about ewaste (to put a more heroic face on the overseas Tech Sector, described as "landfills across the globe" in the intro), I have to hand it to him, the artwork is great.



Can't resist sharing this.  Thanks to my pal in Malaysia, Nancy Poh, for sharing it.

But this is a two part blog. The next is about my theory of knowledge, and knowledge of God.

Reversing Environmental Racism #2



This Good Point Ideas Blog has a dandelion in the background.  The wind is blowing the seeds. The image isn't random.

Some people consider the dandelion to be flower. Some consider it a salad green. But many consider it a weed.  Some of my earliest memories of "ethics" were my parents and great aunt's explanations of why I should be careful about blowing on mature dandelions, the "controversy" or "ethics" of spreading the seeds of a flower that will blow onto other peoples' lawns. My parents told me they don't mind dandelions on their own lawn, but others felt differently.  The issue, my dad said, was whose property the dandelion seeds landed upon.

On the first year anniversary of the passing of my dad, William J. Ingenthron, professor of Mass Communications and Journalism at the University of Arkansas (and Fresno State), I find myself reflecting on the dandelion discussion.  I was probably 3 and a half years old at the time, standing on the lawn at Auntie Maude's home in Columbia, Missouri, where my dad was to earn his J-School degree (I do have memories of 2 and a half as well, and possibly earlier).

"That is frowned upon here."

That "frowned upon" expression was expressed to me about 18 years later, when I had just thrown a lit firecracker out of a Carleton College dorm window.  And I did feel a little chagrin about that, though my friend and future Co-RA Peggy shrugged just afterwards, saying "I smile on it".  Using social consensus to define ethics is an interesting tool. Juries do it.  And consensus forms the crucible of the most important theme of this blog - Environmental Racism.  Accidental environmental injustice. Collateral damage. Friendly Fire...

It matters who we ask.  And after about 10 years, the chief "Authority" - Secretariat of the Basel Convention - has recognized that its first foray into screening used electronics sales had not asked enough people about the ethics and effects of used electronics exports. A little pat on the back here - I never attended a PACE meeting. But we were recognized for our contributions by SBC's Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE)...


The primary comment we submitted ten years ago was that Emerging Markets Technicians (not just regulators) had to be consulted in the drafting of the PACE Guidelines.  If OEMs (Planned Obsolescence), Secondary Smelters (Big Shred), and NGOs (White Saviors) were drafting the rules without consulting Africa, Asia and Latin America's Tech Sector, they were likely to do more harm than good.  As Emmanuel Nyaletey told the IERC conference in Salzburg, Austria, last month (my paraphrase) "writing rules for used electronics repair without consulting with African technicians is like writing a health manual without ever talking to a doctor."  The buyers know what they want, thank you.

Some consider used electronics to be a weed that must be kept on our own lawn.  Some consider them a flower.  And some consider them a source of income, a way to put food on the family table.

Here's an interview with a man, Olu Orga, who started in Agbogbloshie, and worked his way into Ghana's Tech Sector. If the Secretariat or the Basel Convention has something to thank American Retroworks Inc for, it's for keeping the doors and windows open during an echo-chamber of false claims and ewaste hyperbole.  As everyone sought to prove they weren't dumping on the poor, they became ashamed to admit friendships like this, if they were even brave enough to have them.

False Fears

"That's All I Need to Know" - Confirmation Bias For Sale

"Eighty Percent of  African Eggs are Poisonous"

"If you disagree with me about gun control, that’s all I need to know about your opinion."

"If you disagree with me about abortion, that’s all I need to know about your opinion."

"If you disagree with me about sex, that’s all I need to know about your opinion."


Nine times out of ten, you were probably right, anyway, about them. Because in all probability, you met someone whose opinions are just like yours.

Some things (facts) really are right and wrong. The sun doesn’t revolve around the earth. Lead weighs more than oxygen. There are certain things you really don’t need to listen to alternative opinions about. Most of us know that.

But we are built, or evolved, to take short cuts.

Our brain is efficient. We know to stop listening to false broadcasts. “Bananas are poisonous” fails evolution when believers starve. We evolved to filter out nonsense.  And when we are surrounded by a tribe with the same opinion, we've evolved to agree with it.

But “confirmation bias” also means we prefer simple decisions or explanations to complicated ones. We naturally prefer an opinion that confirms the one we already have, and have less comfort or willingness to accept an opinion that is very different.


"Eighty Percent of African Motorcycles explode in the sunshine"

That is dangerous, because it can filter out NEW information. Diversity of opinions and dialectic and reason around opinions that face conflicting facts, all of this "western philosophy" and "scientific methodology" really beats the heck out of "play theory".

Plato and Aristotle applied mathematical methods and proofs to ideas, and called it logic. The dialectic theory says that the one person out of the ten who disagrees with you is the most valuable opinion you have available.  It gives you something to test out.

The opinions we hear that agree with our own don’t really seem to merit time to challenge. Why double check a lottery ticket you’ve already been paid for?

Confirmation bias is normal. If you have followed a path home every day for ten years, information that says your path home is the fastest, most efficient way, is more welcome than information about a short-cut.

When you are in a tribe, or social group, you benefit from the shared knowledge of your team. And when the team’s bias is correct, you benefit, too.

But realize that confirmation bias means you will amplify groups who give bias to “shared knowledge”....

Opinions snowball.

The most dangerous opinions are those spouted to reinforce doubt about diversity of ideas.  The most dangerous opinions are those which try to get the group to ignore or punish dissent.

"Eighty percent of lug nuts are primitively burned"

And someone who offers to impugn and shiv opponents with sabotaged used electronics, in order to "prove" that the exports were not really repairable (because the one they sabotaged wasn't), are the worst people in the tribe.

That is what a 501 c(3) NGO did to Joseph "Hurricane" Benson.  They slipped a GPS device into a lot of repairable TVs and cut a hidden cord.  Nevermind that Benson could patch the cord in two minutes with electric tape.  The very purpose of "spiking" Joseph Benson (BJ Electronics of Essex) load was to benefit SWEEEP Kuusakoski, according to Benson's friends I interviewed. SWEEP had over-built a shredder in England and wanted more "strategic materials" to run through it.

The "charity" built a false, racial profiling based image of Africa's Tech Sector, invented completely false and fictious "statisitics" about the trade.  The company they got money from abandoned 48M lbs of leaded CRT glass - diverted from buyers like Joe Benson - in a Columbus Ohio warehouse which is likely to wind up a Superfund site.

"Eighty Percent of Muslim Pottery has bombs in it"


Now a charity NGO is offering, for cash, to do the same thing to other recyclers competitors.  Pay them and they will take a used computer that meets the specifications of the repair market and they will sabotage it somehow to pass as a reuse device - as BBC Panorama reporters David Reid and Raphael Rowe did to Joseph Benson, the Nigerian born TV repairman who had zero financial incentive to "externalize" waste (he got rid of bad ones for free, paid for and paid to ship the good ones).  

Ready to help firms with downstream tracking

BAN continues to find that the use of GPS trackers to expose illegal and unethical exports of electronic waste is a powerful tool and motivator. Our first commitment in this regard is to conduct such tracking within our own e-Stewards certification program. But it is our goal also to ensure that the entire industry and all standards respect human rights and the environment and comply fully with the Basel Convention and its decisions.
Responsible recycling companies can be plagued with downstream vendors that cheat on their no-export commitments. For this reason, BAN encourages all electronics recyclers to contact BAN to privately contract for our tracking services. We are ready and willing to help all recyclers and enterprise companies to audit their downstream partners.
The NGO won't hide the GPS in a junky 30 year old expensive to recycle CRT television.  While those are over 50% of the e-waste delivered to USA ewaste drop offs, mysteriously the NGO (working shockingly enough with MIT's Senseable City Lab) didn't put a single GPS tracker in any CRT television.  But, if you pay them to, they have announced they are willing to try to do to any competitor of yours what they did to poor Joe Benson.

"Eighty percent of African Tomatoes are blood-filled"

When I asked the Executive Director why they hadn't put any GPS in any heavy ubiquitously scrapped CRT or projection television, he said that the GPS devices were expensive.  He only recommends putting them in devices that will be exported, and then tells people that the percentage that were (about 1/3 of the selected ones) is representative of e-waste as a whole. 

They are hiding bad eggs in the bushels of the poor, like poison chocolates to scare us from sending children out on Halloween.  They are trying to scare our clients and our friends from selling to geeks of color.  They are selling racial profiling as a litmus test for who can repair a computer.  This must be stopped.

You heard it from me first.  Environmentalists have to stand up to our own bullyboys.  We cannot allow our science hide wolves among the sheep.  We have to call out this atrocious behavior before one of our opponents on the right does so.  And the people who should object first are the professors frum the University of Washington that sit on the Board of Directors of this "hit man" NGO, who describes my pals in the Tech Sector as "primitives" and "informal" and "ghoulish", and describes the laptops and computers they buy as "skeletal" and "toxic" and "debris".

Racism does not belong in the green movement.  Purge this idea of paid tracking.  Now.

Who do you see in Africa's Tech Sector? The next Joe Benson?

Fair Trade Recycling Launching Ewaste Offset - Countdown in Ghana 2018

Ghana's Tech Sector abandons Environmental NGO "Missionary Position" on imports, launches shipments of junk back to OECD, ton for ton, to offset imports for reuse.

Emmanuel Nyaletey gave an excellent 30 minute presentation to IERC 2018 in Salzburg, Austria 2 weeks ago, where he documented the growth and use and consumption of household electronics since construction of the Okosombo (Volta) dam in the early 1960s (and 4 subsequent dams have failed to keep up with demand since then - see draft presentation on google).

Rather than treat Africa's Tech Sector as "competition for strategic metals", Fair Trade Recycling proposed to organize Africa's Tech Sector to send back one ton of decades-old e-scrap for every ton of equipment they buy for import.

We are now 2 weeks into our interviews with Tech Sector repairers in Ghana, who are enthusiastic about sending decades old waste back rather than "prove" they have the skills to use, sell, or fix the "Stuff" that they buy. We have learned perhaps the most from surviving mentors (original TV repair trainers) from the 1970s and 80s, who shed light on the market for 'home used' electronics, and how it has evolved over 50 years.

5 years of CRTs (imported 10-30 yrs ago) abandoned at Tamale TV Shop

Smoke Screen in Africa: German Photography Needs Self-Ctrl-X

WR3A Photo January 2018
One of the most tiresome themes in the "eyewitness" reporting on African recycling are accounts of smoke from burning wire.  It's definitely one of the most photogenic activities at Agbogbloshie.

Sure, Sasha. Agbogbloshie e-waste oft goes unmentioned - for minutes at a time.

The anecdotal wire burning in Agbogbloshie is a product of underemployment and boredom. But if you ask people in the recycling community how much e-waste wire burning contributes to African urban air pollution (smog), you find it gets mentioned a wee too often.

Where smoke comes from:
  • Cars and Trucks
  • Diesel Generators
  • Charcoal Stoves
  • Smelters
  • Tire Burning
I asked German photographer Kai Loeffelbein a polite question on twitter about the photo below - from Agbogbloshie.  No response.  I presume he has done just a little bit of background research, enough to know not to climb in the ring.  He's going to ring the bell and get his cash from the publisher for a titillating expose, and let's see if a dime goes to Ibrahim, Muhammed, Awal, Razaq, Yaro and their pals.


Kai, notice how everyone at the largest dump on Earth is on first name basis?
So let's talk about smoke.  The photographers like to tell us that's how their work is benefitting the Africans - by saving them from health effects of burning electronics.

Fair Trade Recycling invited to present at IERC Conference in Salzburg, Austria

"Writing export rules for used electronics without consulting Africa's Tech Sector is like writing health rules without ever talking to a doctor." - Emmanuel Nyaletey, 2018 IERC Congress


One week ago, one of Fair Trade Recycling's representatives and board member, Emmanuel Nyaletey, presented on a panel to address European Union representatives on their e-waste export policies, especially the ones directed at Africa.

Lessons from EWaste: Listening to "Others" Perspectives

Happy New Year. 

The E-Waste Export Controversy died in 2017.  All around, I see people leaving the bandwagon, addressing new emergencies (piles of CRT glass abandoned domestically), addressing new waste concerns (markets for plastics, mattress processing)

It took 5 more years after the key proponent of the "shocking" statistic about 80% e-waste dumping overseas basically admitted to making it up while soliciting donations (no proceeds of which went to the children in their "e-waste" photos) for the press to stop breathing new life into the ewaste export hoax.

Here and there, a few neophytes still refer to the E-Waste Export Controversy, recalling Annie Leonard's Story of Stuff cartoon or a poorly written UNEP press release.  UNEP for too long used photos to imply widespread dumping, working "90%" into release with pictures of kids standing on junk, despite chart after chart that disproved the 2010 narrative.  Self promoting "Ewaste Tech" fundraisers claim to have eyewitnessed thousands of orphans burning circuit boards in Agbogbloshie.  And wanna-comeback glam-rockers like Placebo's Brian Molko film scrappers holding burning rubber tires over their heads, paying them for a nice dinner... paying scrappers to monkey around with fire that otherwise fails to support itself (adding little if any value to wire).

The game is over.  Today, most reporters following up on a BAN press release find plenty of studies and articles, from numerous sources, debunking the NGO's past "reports".  BAN's executive leader often writes an op-ed attacking the credentials of the critic, but that has shown diminishing returns.  We said it here ten years ago:  "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain".

Taking a page from Scott Adams Dilbert blog, I'll take a minute to boast about my forecast of the defeat of the e-waste hoax, predictions of the ties that would emerge from the NGO's IRS990s, the involvement of "Big Shred" and "Planned Obsolescence" funding, and the shadow of racial profiling.  In 2010's Blog "Slums and Recycling and Environmental Justice"  diagnosed and foreshadowed the ailment.  In future blogs, I will tell you my secrets, with which you too may win bigly. 

"Out of the hottest fire comes the strongest steel." Chinese Proverb