Basel Convention: The Next Chapter

I am working on the promised post on the Basel Convention and Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative. First a recap of where the dialogue between BAN (and the supporting cast of E-waste export fear-mongers) and WR3A (and founder and export apologists) stand on where international law sees exports of used electronics assets for reuse and repair. This is the debate over "big secret factories", which are not a small or anecdotal demand, but rather the economic engine for CRT export markets.

Several times along the way, BAN asked or demanded that I stop characterizing BAN's positions. But if they are saying you have to hire a USA repairman to remove the non-working part before it is exported for repair, that is not very far from "tested working" and not very far from BAN's past position that export for repair is illegal.
Here, to the best of my patience, is the blow-by-blow on the Basel Convention, setting the context for tomorrow's post, a powerpoint on MPPI and the Basel Convention.

* WR3A identifies Reuse as the economic engine of the export business and offers to reform “asset exports” in a fair trade manner.
* BAN states that export for repair, however noble an idea, is illegal under the Basel Convention.
* WR3A reads the Basel Convention, and cites Annex IX as explicitly allowing CRTs exported for reuse and repair “considered as commodities.”
* BAN states WR3A has misread and misinterpreted the Basel Convention.
* WR3A consults with USA EPA, which agrees that reuse is allowed under the Basel Convention.
* BAN blasts EPA as "apologists" for ewaste dumping who are not in tune with the rest of the world.
* WR3A consults with foreign EPA, other attendees of the Basel Convention, and sponsors an attorney from Africa to study the trade for six months, all who verify the export for reuse "asset" clause of the Basel Convention.
* BAN responds that the material is not really being reused.
* WR3A brings E-Steward and University of CA Recycling Director to see reuse market.
* BAN responds that even if it is actual reuse, it is not allowed in China.
* WR3A sees that there are Chinese permits, but that the more they are asked for, the more they are taken away by protectionist Chinese officials. WR3A leaves the China CRT market and finds Asset Markets in countries which allow it, and negotiates full permits.
* BAN responds that some of the items are not really repairable and that “tested working” should be the standard.
* WR3A arranges for full downstream audits and actual recycling of any replaced or upgraded parts.
* BAN responds that health and safety practices are substandard in these factories (which made the monitors originally).
* WR3A negotiates a discount (better price) for buyer in return for ISO14001 and ISO9000 status.
* BAN responds that the parts removed are not being recycled properly.
* WR3A brings an external auditor, accompanied by an E-Steward, to verify that the parts removed are properly recycled and that circuit boards are exported to OECD countries.
* BAN state that there is no process to properly vet and audit these markets, and states no one interprets exports as WR3A does.
* WR3A offers film and evidence of audits to EPA's R2 Committee.
* BAN votes for a "tested working" standard in R2.
* R2 committee votes to leave the door open to vetted, legal, audited reuse markets who have import permits and which verify "key functions" are intact; WR3A drafts purchase orders and contracts based on these R2 Standards.
* BAN withdraws from R2 Stakeholder group and forms their own "Certification" policy with no other voters, and publicly criticizes R2 as an inferior process.
* WR3A writes an editorial questioning whether the BAN Certification can fulfill the legitimate demands of the export market for working and repairable product.
* BAN cites (yours truly) Ingenthron's personal interest, saying he is self-serving, promoting illegal activity for personal profit.
* The WR3A author cites his background as a former Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, with a degree in International Relations, former director of a digital divide non-profit, and former recycling director for MA DEP.
* BAN responds that the MPPI letter of the Basel Secretariat is issuing new clarifications in February 2010 which will make export for repair illegal unless any non-working part which might be replaced is removed prior export.

Next: our critique of the MPPI letter, and why it agrees with WR3A's position more than it does with BAN's position.... We have already hinted that a CRT is not a mobile phone, and that an anticipated 2010 statement on cell phones does not explain a 2007 rejection of SKD markets, but the legalese inside the Chairman's letter from MPPI is a real smoking gun.

The question I'm asked most frequently is, "WHY DO YOU BOTHER TALKING TO THESE PEOPLE?", followed by whispered advice that I am going to be made an example out of. The fact is, Jim and Sarah and Donald at BAN have moments of lucidity, they mean well, and they have used their earnestness to position themselves as the Ayatollahs of E-Waste when it comes to the Basel Convention. I don't think Jim actually believes that I am an agent of Satan. We need to keep constructive dialogue going.

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