Panel Discussion - How to Address 4 Weaknesses as a Business Owner

In a couple of hours, I will be sitting on a panel at the 2018 Electronics Reuse Conference. Topic - How to Address Weaknesses as a Business Owner - was the first to tempt me for 5 years.

Good Point Recycling opened in April 2001.  I bought a used truck with a $15k bathroom improvement budget, and didn't hire the first full time employee for 3 years. The first 3 years, I was mostly doing consulting gigs between truck runs. If your weakness is "talking too much", charge by the hour.

I used to speak at conferences pretty often 20 years ago, 15, 10 years ago. But one of the weaknesses I found that we all have is this - speaking to your peers, to other businesspeople, to competitors, etc, sucks. We are all weak when our audience consists of people who know or think they know as much as we do. If they agree, then they sat in a session to hear the obvious. If they disagree, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."  Generally, don't do it. I generally try to refer invitations to WR3A to Tech Sector people from Mexico, Ghana, Malaysia, etc, who really can tell an American audience something they don't know.

This topic, however, is about weaknesses. About addressing my own weaknesses. So I accepted. It should be an opportunity to self-deprecate and tell some funny stories about near-death experiences.
I'll start by acknowledging my survival. We will have a moment of silence for some late, great, fates.  In alphabetical order, here is a list of companies which I'm pretty sure were at one point part of the 10 largest electronics recyclers in the world (or claimed to so be).

Allied - 2006
DMC - 2006
HMR - 2006
Creative - 2014
CRTR - 2015
Eco International - 2013
EWSI / 2TRG / CLRR - 2016
Intercon Solutions - 2013
MPC - 2015
WeRecycle - 2015

Right To Repair in Nashville: Red Light, Green Light, Purple Light

Here in Nashville for Electronics Reuse Conference.  Formerly the TechSoup conference, which had mostly NGOs engaged in the Digital Divide, the conference is now managed by a private Chicago company. I was proud to receive a "Jim Lynch Lifetime Achievement Award" last year, when the conference was in New Orleans. Jim Lynch himself nominated me - and said he had done so every year since the award was established in his name, a something that really touches me.

Jim and I shared a 5 hour drive from the Retroworks de Mexico plant in Fronteras, Sonora, a few years ago. We shared a rather romanticized concept of India in our youth.  I didn't go there to meditate, as Jim did for a year.  Perhaps because when I said I intended to, my chum Sri Chatrathi from Fayetteville High School remarked "Go smoke pot in your own country, we don't need any more white hippies in India."

This week, Nashville is about the Right to Repair. A lot has been happening, and more of us are realizing that a Right To Repair is simply an invitation to Manufacturers to restrain their own speed. Once the government has a chair at the table, look what happens.

Feds say Hacking DRM to fix your owned phone is LEGAL.

Consumer Reports Magazine covers this as well.

The Spiraling Economy: Double Regulations of A Circular Economy

Here is the recycler's recurring nightmare...
"We'd love to keep using 1,000 tons per day of your recycled material instead of mining and extracting it from forests and mountains. But EPA says we'd need a Waste Facility Perimit in addition to our clean air and water permits.  If we mine from the mountain, we just need 2 permits, not 3"
No good deed goes unpunished. Regulators of city waste insist on tracking processed recyclables in the industrial mineral market, even when they compete as "furnace ready" feedstocks with materials mined from mountainsides.

The best hard rock mining is worse than the worst recycling. And this week, the Wall Street Journal's reporters Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin and Joe Parkinson show us what some of the worst (gold) mining looks like.

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").