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.

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.

Still watching the video.  So much is just in storage sacks, you really don't know what we are seeing. But there is a lot of e-scrap processing equipment, machines I've looked at buying for our operations in the USA.  Not ready to call this a #freejoebenson accusation, but not ready to judge what I'm looking at, either.

At 20 minutes, they apparently tell us about "cadmium and chromium" in this circuit board

At 15 minutes, there's a rather odd 60 seconds of military officer, wearing dust mask, trying to pull on rubber gloves... so that he can touch a circuit board in a gaylord.  The view of uniformed officers wearing face masks and TV cameras creates a lot of theater. But picking up a hand disassembled circuit board... would that appear "primitive" at my own operation in Vermont?  Are we reacting to actual evidence of malfeasance? Or reacting to racial profiling and innuendo?  Is the facility legal?  Is it a legal facility that is cutting corners and polluting, making it difficult for my USA workers to compete against it?  Or is it a buyer of the parts we save and sell?

By the time the video reaches 50 minutes, it appears the officers are kind of just asking the owner questions. What is this? What's that guy doing?

This is what we hope to do at Fair Trade Recycling.  Give a fair and level playing field, so that recyclers don't cut corners and recycle improperly.  But also give them a fair and unbiased, anti-defamation, view in the press. Give them a chance to explain what they are doing, and perhaps be presumed innocent.  Environmental Justice means justice, not malpractice, or conclusion-jumping.

My hunch is that there's a lot of value here, and that shutting it down to erect shredders in the USA would be a huge environmental mistake.  But when GPS trackers make people ashamed to engage with large new markets, those recyclers are driven into "dark alleys" and forced to buy from people who are not afraid to sell to them because they do not care.  If Dell, HP, Samsung, Sony, etc. signed a contract with the factory here to take back and properly manage the used products, would they still get attacked by Basel Action Network?

By the end of the video, the look on the faces of the enforcement and press almost seems to hint that they realize the awful truth. No "wire burning".  No "acid baths". No dioxin evident. Have the Thai Authorities been "RickRolled"?

Let's see people for what they can do, not for what we say they cannot.

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