Blog has Widget Fever

I added some cool new widgets to the blog, like view counts and re-tweet buttons and more pictures.

Then I accessed it. U G H.  S l o w !

These wigjies slow the page download intolerably.  This is what creates "e-waste"... media which uses up lots of central processor unit (CPU) chip space and RAM space without adding significantly to the user experience.  Our readers in Egypt, Ghana, South Africa etc. will be better off if I disable and remove some of these frills.

I didn't mean to create ewaste.  But the blogger widgets serve a lesson about Moore's law - capacity of the chip is just an opportunity, it's how the media uses up that capacity which obsoletes the product.

When I first met Paul Roszel, of Recycle.Net, I introduced myself and complimented him on how his site remained very accessible to people in low-bandwidth countries.   Compared to Alibaba, RecycleInMe,, and other sites I use, Recycle.Net is not the flashiest, but the lack of javascript is something appreciated by the same folks in Africa who buy working, repairable and "good enough" reuse products.  Craigslist follows the same philosophy, reader-friendly regardless of bandwidth or chip speed.

Where there is no Regulator: EPA Carbon Regulation Jan 2.

Hey Doc,

Let's talk about this.  I know how you must feel.  You didn't ask to do this surgery.  Heck, you begged out of it.  The judges said someone has to regulate carbon emissions, and it fell you to you.

The best thing you can do right now is to confront the mistakes of the past.  Go over the records of patients who died under your knife.

First, let's remember that you've had some successes before.  Like with the Clean Water Act of 1972...   When you regulated water pollution, it had a positive effect on the paper industry.  The chemicals they used to bleach virgin tree pulp white were now more expensive to use.  And the office paper that was already bleached white was more valuable.  Small recycling based tissue paper mills, like the Erving Mill in central Massachusetts suddenly had advantages over larger tissue mills that were bleaching tree fiber white.  They were closer to the source of recycled paper, and used less chlorine.

Yeah, it was kind of an accidental success.  You didn't plan on the Clean Water Act increasing office paper recycling.  But take credit, ok?   Lots of cool inventions come from accidental Freakonomics.

Now.  About copper...

TEFL Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Looking outside, getting ready to leave the folks here in rural Arkansas, heading back to Vermont, packing up.  Every year I have to deal with southern Ozark stereotypes of New England, and New England stereotypes of my (7 generation hillbilly) background.

In 1984, when I arrived in Ngaoundal, Cameroon, a village of 1200 people on a train and highway crossroads, it was after 10PM.  I've written in more detail about how there was no one expecting me, the new English teacher at CES Ngaoundal in Adamoua.  No housing, no post office, no bank.

I remember a rumor which circulated in the town.  People were concerned that I was teaching the kids "American English", and that they would not be prepared for the brevet exam, which was in British English.  I thought that was poppycock, though I did run across bizarre words like "lorry" and "flat" in the textbooks.  I was fluent in Fawlty Towers and Monty Python.

At one point, the mayor (sous-prefet) of the town called me in, with the principle, for a meeting to confront the rumors in town that I was preparing the kids in the wrong language.  I promised I was fluent in proper English and capable of teaching it, despite my USA passport, and my lack of certification.

Anyway... an unprecedented number of my CES 3e class passed with flying colors.  Several told me that they thought the English part of the test was "a breeze" ("Sir, I was surprised.  It was very easy").  This was admittedly a brilliant, hard working, sharp bunch of kids who get all the credit.  But I'd arrived as a pioneer post, no previous English teacher (a military doctor had given some classes a couple of days per week), so I can't help but feel it was the decade's crowning achievement.

Just thinking about how consensus that someone is not capable, is a problem, formed so quickly among French, Fulfulde, and Hausa speakers about my English speaking ability.

When I get home, I think I'll transfer some photos.

The Finite World - NYT Paul Krugman

Excellent editorial in the NYTimes by Paul Krugman, titled The Finite World.

He describes how copper and cotton are hitting record highs, and oil prices are peculating upwards, despite an under-heated USA economy.  Rapidly emerging economies - What I describe as Korea-zation - is having a dramatic effect on climate, mining, extraction, habitat loss, extinction and resource consumption.

Krugman writes:
[T]he big problem with those blaming the Fed for rising commodity prices is that they’re suffering from delusions of U.S. economic grandeur. For commodity prices are set globally, and what America does just isn’t that important a factor.
In particular, today, as in 2007-2008, the primary driving force behind rising commodity prices isn’t demand from the United States. It’s demand from China and other emerging economies. As more and more people in formerly poor nations are entering the global middle class, they’re beginning to drive cars and eat meat, placing growing pressure on world oil and food supplies.
And those supplies aren’t keeping pace. Conventional oil production has been flat for four years; in that sense, at least, peak oil has arrived. True, alternative sources, like oil from Canada’s tar sands, have continued to grow. But these alternative sources come at relatively high cost, both monetary and environmental.
The same demand for our recyclables is pressuring Brazil's rain forests, Congo's watersheds, and Papua New Guinea's coral reefs.

Secret "E-Waste" Formula

Let us explore the "dirty little secrets" of the used electronics, surplus electronics, e-scrap and "e-waste" disposal businesses. 

Let Z = bad "ewaste".  e.g.  burning a TV or monitor for copper retrieved from ashes, disposal of junk CRT glass, or aqua regia acid baths for printed circuit boards.

Let Y = Legitimate raw material recycling based on hand-disassembly (plastic, steel, copper) or equivalent high-tech shredding technology.
  • SCRAP, 
  • ABS, 
  • HIPS, 

Let X = Legitimate repair (or plug-and-play working) electronics.

  • REUSE, 
  • REPAIR, 

Now, let's test two polar opposite hypotheses.  First, test the assumption that USA and EU exports equal 80% Z waste, and only 20% (Y + X).  Investigate if this is economically viable, to ship loads which are 80% bad and illegal...  Second, compare that analysis to the contrary hypothesis that Z waste = 20%, i.e. simply represents "toxics along for the ride".  Even if the worst material (Z) is only 20%, that would not be an acceptable amount of pollution - but the data might support prospects of e-waste trade reform, rather than throwing the sustainability baby out with the bathwater.

Live Interviews: Innocent Techs of Color, Not E-waste Criminals

We have raw footage film of the individuals who work in the "Big Secret Factories".  Just join WR3A's Group on   (Viddler is a high-def Youtube service, and individual memberships are free).

Most of these shots were taken in 2008, with a grant from CEA. The main video was shown at the CES show in Las Vegas in January 2009 (between keynote addresses by Cisco and Intel CEOs). 

We ran out of budget to have these WR3A videos translated.  But since the international audience for this blog has grown significantly (225 reads per day, with India, EU, Indonesia, Ukraine, China, Russia, Turkey etc. the fastest-growing readerships), I thought I'd put the appeal.

   (Interview with Peru tech to the left).

Many clips from Indonesia and Malaysia remain untranslated.  These are face-to-face interviews with individual Techs of Color whose jobs have been called "illegal" by some "E-Waste" NGOs.  If Interpol cannot afford to fly and visit the disputed Annex IX reuse factories, they should at least view these videos and collect  more.  

Oliver Typewriter NO.9, Eminem Xmas

In the Ozarks, with my family for the holidays, I look around and find many obsolete items which have memories associated with them.  In view, an Oliver Typewriter No. 9, manufactured in Chicago.

My great Grandfather, William Freeland, owned the Taney County Republican when I was a child.  He took over the paper after serving a couple of decades in the Indian service, was friends with Robert Niehardt (Black Elk Speaks).

As a boy, I remember he would be in his office, typing editorials.  Sometimes his daughters, Maude Freeland (a journalist / photographer) and Frieda Freeland Ingenthron (an English teacher) guest-wrote the editorials, and when he passed away, the two daughters, their mother Minnie, and my father would write editorials in the office room of the house, tap tapping on several typewriters they owned, including the Oliver typewriter.

Pareto Principle in Recycling - Eighty Percent ≠ 80%?

cold statistics
In his interview with NPR Radio's "Fresh Air",  Jim reinforced BAN's view of the world.  First, that 80% of USA's "e-waste" is exported to very crude ends.  Second, that 80% of USA recyclers export there.   The Law of the Vital Few makes it sound reasonable that just 20% of people, the e-Stewards, are good actors making 80% of the difference.

The abundance of used electronics heralds a shortage of pencils.

On an agreeable day, I can say BAN is correct.   Here's why:  Good Point Recycling domestically scraps 78% of the used electronics we accept for recycling.   That means that roughly 80% is not even worthy of repair (we domestically reuse about 2-4%).  The 22% we export should be about right.  We may disagree on the definition of testing (we follow instructions from our overseas buyers, frequently eliminating units of the same metals value as they accept, and we get a reconciliation report back to see how well we did).  But that just means sitting down and defining "tested"... we agree on 80% of the non-exported waste product.  Emphasizing agreement with BAN is common in my industry, because BAN makes a terrifying enemy, and disagreeing with them puts you on the same side as bad actors.

Hmmm.. Under this agreement, however, 80% did not wind up exported.   There are too many other companies, larger than Good Point Recycling (6 M lbs per year), which are exporting even less equipment.  Many, like ERI and URT and SIMS and Creative and Intercon, export far less than 22% (i.e. not enough, creating shortages)... and all of California, and the whole Dell-Goodwill Program (not many people realize the no-reuse-at-Goodwill Industries deal).  Twenty percent of the recyclers handle about 80 percent of the volume, and few of those are wholesale exporting 100%, as we hear Jim tell on Fresh Air..

[Update 2012 - UN Squashes BAN % Claim #eWaste Hoax, 85% of exports reused]

NPR Fresh Air Interviews Jim Puckett of BAN

Like the Futurama Episode, I expect the Fresh Air with Terry Gross will be a crystalline description of Guiyu in 1999, the last time the scrap yards there were undeniably fed primarily from imports.

Fair Trade and WR3A, its messenger, have failed to gain any sort of elevation in comparison to the "e-waste" alarm stories circulated from the other northern coast.   BAN has tremendous power.  Congratulations on the coverage on one of my favorite NPR programs.  Our Fair Trade Recycling coverage last year, on NPR's Marketplace, has been one-upped.

I feel personally that Basel Action Network has washed their hands of responsibility for the over-reactive rules now issued in China, Egypt, Kenya, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, etc... countries where "4 year old rules" predominate, or (in the case of Kenya) no personal computers at all may be imported, working or not.  The shortages impact the middle class of those countries - those with electricity, like university students - but does not impact the hyper-rich in resource curse countries.

If there is an import law which not even E-Stewards can meet, and a demand which can never afford better than "good enough" product, then BAN and WR3A could reach an agreement about where the pendulum has swung too far.

Recommended holiday viewing:  Robots.

Guest Post Dude (robin on break)


What Robin is saying here is that environmentalists have, for a long time, been totally freaked out by the destruction of coral reefs, rain forest habitat, extinction and stuff.

Not even me, man
Then the ones who got all serious about protecting against that stuff started trying out businesses which preserve the rain forests and oceans and stuff.  Like fair trade coffee farms, sustainable fisheries, and recycling.  The recycling thing, that was huge, because it turned all of us into, like, this big urban forest, this urban mine, and we could reduce the consumption of natural resources and energy, like.   I mean, compared to building incinerators which then had to be fed more and more junk, that bunch of guy dudes and girl dudes doing the recycling thing in the 80s and 90s, man, that was totally respectful.

Then when recycling got mainstream (boring to activists), these guys started looking at toxics.  Like, if we are the source of raw materials like fiber and copper and aluminum and steel, from our mining houses, then let's also look at our toxics, man.  Totally awesome.  We got these budgets based on diverting toxics from these landfills and incinerators, and we made even more jobs.

Cadmium Phosphors in Outcast CRTs? Really?

    Hey Ya!  

   One of the most oft-repeated claims about cast-out "e-Waste" is that the CRTs are full of cadmium phosphors.

Some time ago, I was researching MSDS sheets for our recycling facility's Environmental Health and Safety manual, and to answer questions for one of our monthy plantwide safety meetings.  

Here is some interesting correspondence from an expert in Cadmium phosphors, retired professor Robert Dodds of University California San Diego.

"I don’t know why they would be worried about the Cadmium in the phosphor because I doubt there are any TVs that are 40 years old that haven’t been scrapped by now. At most, there might be a total of 4 to 5 grams of green phosphor on the tube. The tubes are also easy to tell because the they don’t have the carbon matrix around the phosphor and the phosphor is in a “dot matrix” rather than the “block matrix”. Besides that the Cadmium is present in a low energy crystalline structure, hexagonal sulfide, that can only be released by strong acid which would also result in the generation of hydrogen sulfide which is a much greater health problem than cadmium."

"E-Waste" Cell Phone (HTC Evo) Final SALE!

Six Two hours to go, the "e-waste" HTC Evo phone has been bid up to $137.50   $167.50


Remember, depending on who wins this bid, I could be arrested by Interpol for violating the MPPI (a working paper drafted by some people who go to Basel Secretariat meetings.  Evidently the working paper trumps the actual text of the Basel Convention, which allows export for repair and refurbishment).

I have not removed all the non-working parts that I expect will be replaced - which in the case of this cell phone, means removing a screen which still works for 80% of the screen, allowing the buyer to confirm other functions before undergoing the repair.

Another Study: OECD Prices of "Triple Play" Broadband Access

Here's another big topic:  Triple Play broadband services.  Those are data pipes which provide residential consumers with (A) Internet + (B) Landline + (C) Television (and movies).

This paper by Technology Policy Institute's Scott Wallsten and James L. Riso compares spending and price trends in OECD nations... where homes may be large enough and discretionary spending loose enough for people to own very large display devices, as well as hand held, laptop, and desktop in the same house... without having to prioritize.

It is a very different market from what I've described as "3B3K", the three billion people who live in countries earning average incomes of $3,000 per year.   Those nations are gaining internet access at 10x the rate of growth of OECD nations - but they are not getting triple-play access.  They choose whether to own hand-held OR big screen OR desktop, etc..  These consumers need technology which is "good enough" to accomplish what they need.  Many rely on internet cafes, or access at work.

101 What's the Truth about "E-waste"?

Foxconn in China
Where do computers and cell phones get made?

Most are made or assembled in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan.

Where are used computers sold?

The biggest used PC buyers are contract manufacturers, usually subcontractors to Foxconn, Wistron, Proview, BenQ etc. Those factories are in turn contract manufacturers for companies like Dell, Sony, HP.  The names on the computer don't tell you where they are made.  (Lenovo is a Chinese factory which was making all the IBM laptops... IBM and Lenovo finally cut a deal a few years ago to transfer ownership, and credit, to Lenovo).

Why are there so many junk computers in places like Guiyu, China?

There are four reasons.  First, China is rapidly growing.  There are about 400,000 employees just at one factory (Foxconn in Shenzhen), which isn't far from either Hong Kong or Guiyu (two extremes in living standards in a very large nation).  Foxconn employees alone generate enough "e-waste" to keep Guiyu busy, without any imports.  And Hong Kong is a city of 7 million, which could be producing 30 million pounds of "ewaste" a year without importing anything.

Cell Phone E-Waste Update

Less than 48 hours after posting my HTC Evo E-scrap phone (the broken LCD which is still 80% readable), the  ebay bids are up to $130.   That's just $69 less than the new HTC EVO 4G I can get at Sprint, if I upgrade one of the company's older phones.  The replacement LCD, if I do the IFIXIT repair myself, is about $65.  Plus I need tools, shipping, etc.  The ebay method seems to be proving the efficiencies of free-flowing commerce.

But will pollution result?   I have allowed international bidders to place ebay bids on this auction, which was listed for 5 days.  By the end of the week, we may know whether I am to be arrested by Interpol for violating the MPPI Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative.  You might recall it, BAN has publicly stated the white paper MPPI diagram (which calls for non-working parts, like the LCD, to be removed prior to export) not only applies to cell phones, but the text of the Guidance Document actually trumps the Basel Convention Annex IX explicit description of CRTs.

First HP, Now Sims

"Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity

To seize everything you ever wanted-One moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip..."

Just being right won't make me rich like Eminem.  But all you people who stopped exporting to be "All USA" should look at your leaders.  This is SIMS people!   Two days ago it was HP.  It's over.  You believed HP and SIMS were all USA, anti-export.  Smart people listen to their critics.

This is not a criticism of SIMS.   I think they are smart.  Smarter than me, perhaps, because they invest in the foreign opportunity market without talking about it.  Like HP.  It takes a home mortgage for me to open the Retroworks de Mexico plant, I can only defend via blog the Techs of Color in India, such as Intarvo and Rajeev Gupta and now SIMS.  I wish I was more successful in raising investments for these people.  All my time is tied up resisting friendly fire from BAN, SVTC, ETBC, and NRDC.

You get one shot.

Music restarts if you click "read more"...

Imagine Animal Farm at Basel Debate

Is it possible to imagine that an engineer with several patents, who operates a CRT manufacturing factory for the past 2 decades, whose purchase orders range in the hundreds of thousands of units, whose factory buys 5,000 CRT units per day, who oversaw the design of the CRT monitor the American is recycling, and who designed the converter boxes for the HDTV transition...

Is it possible to imagine that this engineer has ISO14001, ISO9000, a downstream CRT glass-to-glass market....

The "E-Waste" word, Mis-legally Used

It's a terrible word.  I've been admonished for using it.  I should always use "quotations".  Some tell me I should pretend it's not there, as if people never search or research the term.

Here's a suggestion.  "E-waste is to electronics as Litter is to newspaper."   Litter is bad.  But banning newspaper is overkill.

Waste Management, Recycle America, & Asset Recovery Group
Some of us have tried definining "E-WASTE" to mean, specifically, the electronics which really did actually get thrown in a landfill.  "ewaste residue" is redundant.  You don't call a sick person a cadaver... and you shouldn't call something which will be recycled or repaired a "waste".  A bale of newspaper is not called "litter".  Banning used computers to people who cannot afford new ones is like the communists accusing newspaperboys of being litterbugs.

ISRI and others struggled with the words "waste paper" in the late 80's and early 90's, saying it left an opening for waste regulators to over-reguate commodities.  I agreed... but I also noted that the people who most re-used the "waste paper" words were the people in the scrap paper business.  Why?

Good: Rain Forest and Recycling

Let's return to the 1990s focus on rain forests.   

They are most threatened by major extraction.   Mining exposes the forests to bushmeat hunting and toxic effluent.  Timber and pulp mills replant, but may replace native diversity with homogenous crop trees.  Hamburger demand causes deforestation.

Rain forest depletion is a major contributor to global warming .  Plants eat carbon and release oxygen.

If you can't Join Me? HP's Beats Me to African E-waste

Electronic waste gives investors chance to make cash from trash

Kudos to HP? (Story below)  I was concerned this would be an anti-reuse operation.  To some extent it may be, I'm sure they are not making "white box" machines for the export market.  But let's look into this.  If they have beaten me to the punch, or stolen my game plan, I'm a happier dude.

If they are collecting it all to prevent reuse and white-box manufacturing (which the Taiwanese are already bringing into Africa), then it's a compromise measure.  But one thing is for sure, the article sees Africans for what they can do, not for what they cannot do, and recognizes that e-waste recycling is a business they can create value in and make money from.

Hopefully they will accept junk from WR3A partners in Africa, and sell replacement parts to us.  READ ARTICLE BELOW

A Computer for Schools technician dismantles a central processing unit to enable easy disposal of the various parts. Components that cannot be recycled locally are shipped to the country of origin for disposal. Photo/FILE

A Computer for Schools technician dismantles a central processing unit to enable easy disposal of the various parts. Components that cannot be recycled locally are shipped to the country of origin for disposal. Photo/FILE 
By RAWLINGS OTINI   Posted Friday, December 10 2010 at 00:00

The growing volume of e-waste in the region is creating new opportunities for local entrepreneurs and multinationals, who hope to tap into the $14 billion global market.

As the government ups pressure on technology firms and other large-scale importers to manage their electronic waste more efficiently, industrialists are hoping the environmental threat can translate to increased job opportunities and income generating activities.

Meltwater in Accra Ghana

A slightly different image of Ghana Techs of Color.

I needed them as inspiration to teach me how to use "jumpbreak" in the blogspot posts (showing posts as summary

Illegal 4G Smart Phones E-Waste Export Crisis!

I did it!   I broke down and upgraded to the nowest, wowest, HTC EVO 4g slim smart android google phone!  I was the coolest Dad at the Vermont High School for about 11 days.

Gently abused (the phone, not the kids)
I did it!   I broke the smart phone.  Threw it in the coat pocket, along with my car keys.  It still works but the top 20% of the screen is cracked and unreadable.  That's the newest email message, the most recent missed call, the selected phone number.  ("I'm not just the e-scrap company owner, I'm also a client")

I did it...  I looked up how to repair my cell phone on, the next 4G generation "Silicon Sam", which is infusing a ton of energy into supporting the "right to repair".  Here it is, IFIXIT article on how to do this very LCD repair.  Impressed, much.

But it would be so much easier for me to buy another phone and send this one (for $100 cash in my pocket) to a repair team I know overseas (not this one, but you get the point).  I know the repair team has all the tools in the IFIXIT how-to diagram.  I know they will be able to wipe the info and resell the phone, creating jobs for eager techs and selling affordable phones to eager geeks.  From Vermont to China to Cairo... North America to Asia to Africa.  A white guy sends the phone to a yellow guy who refurbishes and resells it to a black guy.  I've now listed the phone on ebay for $130.  High bidder for a similar item was from Hong Kong...!

Women Should be (an environmental) Priority

My theory is that limits on women's rights lead to the worst environmental harms, including mining harms and worst e-waste recycling practices.

In nations where women do not inherit land, jewelry demand is very high, per capita... if you love your daughter, it's the normal wealth you can give her.  Unfortunately, Gold mining is the worst environmental activity invented.   Gold mining releases more mercury into the environment than mercury mining!

O Prison "e-waste" Recycling Truce: Where Art Thou?

Let's End the Feud with Prison Industries over "E-Waste" Recycling.

I've made this proposal before.  But I recently read another company's blog about "e-waste recycling", and noticed they had several posts dedicated to bashing Unicor, the Federal Prison Industries program which makes electronics recycling cheap by using USA prison labor to take apart computer scrap.  That is "kinda now, kinda wow, kinda 2003."

There are two arguments against Unicor's prison recycling program.

The first issue is that the workers are somehow poisoned and endangered.  This is false.  False false false.  I don't even want to get into this, except to say that if private USA recyclers want to start a bidding war with the federal government's prison system about who can make a safer facility, they are shortsighted to be kind.  The Unicor facilities I have visited have waxed floors which may well have been cleaned with toothbrushes and tweezers.   These places are stone cold ISO rule-abiding recycling joints, and the only toxics problems they've had were from early years, when e-waste recycling was new.  Comparing a modern private facility to a decade-old Unicor operation just isn't a fair comparison, and it's stupid to make it.  It's typical of an immature industry to promote false rumors about competitors.

Malthus e-waste Commentary: Certainty Trade Offs

I believe that certainty is best achieved with enforceable civil law contracts, purchase orders, and audits.  The post below was clipped out of a previous post, as someone thought it was about a paper it had nothing to do with and which I hadn't even read yet.

This is about what might be sacrificed if you increase certainty by decreasing trade with poor nations.

There is more uncertainty about the outcome of exporting mixed loads.  A single Mercedes Benz or Harley Davidson hidden under piles of junk TVs can go a long way to paying for a load.  But using materials to hide other materials from customs is not a problem unique to recycling - it exists in food aid, malaria medicine, school books, and corn shipments.  The Egyptian market was virtually shut down in 2008 by discovery of an operation in Toronto area which was putting generic viagra into used computer monitors.

There are 3 tragedies in the continued simplification, and denigration, of the refurbishing complex...

California Compromise Sopranos "e-Waste" Episode

Ok, I blew the California Compromise.  
Here is the dialogue I was middleman to.  What should I say?

In fairness, Jim Puckett of BAN was the most engaged of anyone in the discussions, and put the most time into making it work.  But it's hard to convince the partners overseas that the men who created the stereotype about their technical abilities can be trusted to change message.  At this point, I think, too much money has been invested in the fake story, which is that all, not some, Asians use primitive practices.

California:  Exports are bad.  We require breaking stuff.

Export Market:  We used to buy the good stuff from you guys.  Now we buy from Sopranos. Let's talk.

Basel Action Network - Power and Responsibility

UPDATE:  Phone conversation with Jim Puckett says not to give up on this yet.  Overseas factories remain skeptical, but if the monitors show up, I think they will buy them.  If BAN can provide them from E-Stewards, in quantity, WR3A is willing to give first refusal (first priority) to these.  We shall see..

The Pledge of True Stewardship RIP post could be read by some as as return to pot-shots and pissing matches with  After a promising set of agreements over the "California Compromise" - where BAN and WR3A agreed to support an export-for-reuse regime in California which would meet BAN's narrow interpretation of Basel Convention Annex IX - some may wonder why take the risk of a setback?

Source of Narcissus flowers...How we see ourselves
In all fairness, Jim Puckett at did make a legitimate effort to get the California Compromise off of the ground, and did more to move it forward than the Californians who would benefit from it.  But given the amount of criticism which has been heaped upon legitimate electronics refurbishers, it would take more than encouraging emails to change the distrustful dynamic between the Pacific coasts.  Below is the blow-by-blow explaining why I'm giving up.  Willing to carry water if someone calls me... but I'm signing my own contracts now, California can do what it wants. 

Blind Kids Singing

I was humbled on Slashdot for using analogies which some folks didn't get.  And I also saw people drawing conclusions about the RIP story which questioned environmentalism altogether, certainly not my point.

Some folks do see the beauty I see in Techs of Color, people in poor countries with nothing but their knowledge creating value from what someone else threw away.  Perhaps it comes down to a taste for bittersweet.  I like the video embedded below, from the Sibonile School for the Blind in Africa.

RIP: The Pledge of True Stewardship 2002-2010

[Middlebury, Vermont  12/2/2010]  The Pledge of True Environmental Stewardship, conceived in Seattle Washington in 2002, was laid to rest today.  The Pledge was designed to create a list of good, green companies which "promised" to do the right thing with "e-waste". After fighting a fierce battle with skeptics and true believers, too many good companies refused to sign, and too many eager companies signed (good or not).  The Pledge wasted away.
In 2002, the Pledge was released by Basel Action Network and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition as a vehicle to shame electronics recyclers into abandoning bad exports.  It is recognized as the primary force stopping all kinds of exports from some companies, bad or not.   Other companies did whatever they wanted after signing the Pledge, and it eventually became meaningless.  Death was pronounced when the largest Pledge company admitted to being the largest exporter... to the same export avenue BAN accused in 2010.  
Certification services are being offered to the survivors.  The (estranged) family members are R2, E-Stewards, and people  you trust to do the right thing with your used electronics.  Enforceable civil contracts have accepted all outstanding liabilities.
For more information, visit 
"Monkeys Running the Environmental Zoo"

Mutual Admiration Society - DiaBlogs

Well gosh, I was as close as I come to "speechless" when a friend forwarded me Adam Minter's post in "ShanghaiScrap" yesterday.  I  posted a link to Shanghai Scrap after reading it last winter.

His post yesterday was titled, "The best scrap blogger in the world", and it directed... Here!

Truth about "E-Waste" Globalization

1)  What do developed countries do better than emerging economies?

They have a population which cares immediately about the environment, and which reacts politically when the environment is harmed or their health is endangered.  This creates a stronger regulatory environment.  A point I have made in past academic blogs is that regulatory enforcement is proportionate to property values, which is the actual key to "environmental justice" (low income populations generate low property values, which demand less civil law focus, which is an indicator of other law focus).

2)  What do emerging nations do better than developed countries?

The lifecycle of most devices is much longer, because it is worth it to maintain and repair and reuse an item when its value represents a high percentage of your income.   This is also true of parts (chips, capacitors, RAM sticks) and also recyclables, which are typically sorted and graded into higher [reuse] value categories.  This spreads the carbon and other pollution impacts over a greater usage and benefit, and should be recognized as a positive environmental contribution by Geeks of Color.

3)  What are the practical limits of reuse exports?

For direct reuse, there is a point where the value of the item is worth the repair labor, but the user at that level does not have electricity... there are diminishing (bummer) returns.  Eventually black and white, 40 year old TVs may still be fully functioning ---  but dudes the used 10 year old color TVs will be so cheap that there won't be a market for the black and white even.   People who are in need of food, medicines, and tools will not spend any portion of their income on a device which they cannot aspire to use. 

4)  What are the practical limits of e-scrap recycling exports?

The practical limits of recycling copper, aluminum, and other value items is limited only by the unemployment level.  Compared to mining the same amount of "hard rock" metal, it's practically, like, limitless.  Because it's not limited by electricity, fuel, etc... A human scavenger is competing with a huge frickin' machine.

Proper dismantling and recycling jobs could be open to the poorest people, if they were paid well and trained - at least, the idea should not be dismissed.  The point is that the recycling value added is not bound by the same "electricity" and other practical limits of reuse.  If you export a copper bearing item, even working, to a region without electricity in homes, they may well cash out the raw material value by recycling it.  Functionality does not bring value to a community without electricity. 

The issue with export-for-recycling is to compensate the factories to allow for transport of difficult-to-manage materials (CRTs and other "focus materials) to a place where they will get recycled. This is why I chose a place in Mexico close to a mine and smelter, and our reuse factory is close to a CRT glass furnace.  It's not that hand disassembly is bad, or that shipping CRT glass to an African lead mine is impossible, it's just that those costs need to be covered. We have demonstrated that in many cases, they can be covered by the value of the repairable items, but only if the ratio of repairable/working is at around 70%.  Below that, the materials can still be managed well, but may need to be paid for if the trade is to be "fair".

5)  Who is most likely to be a good trading partner to an African entrepreneur?

Certainly not someone who refuses to trade with the African entrepreneur, or who calls for it to be illegal for anyone at all to trade with him/her.  That person is worse than worthless.

6) What does Adam Smith have to do with this?

Adam Smith demonstrated that if there are two tribes, and one makes arrowheads twice as well as the other, and the same one makes arrow shanks THREE times as well as the other, that more wealth is created if the faster tribe stops making arrowheads and only makes shafts.  Even though the slower trip is half as fast at making the arrowheads, more wealth is created if the first society does what it does BEST and leaves the poorer tribe to do what the first tribe does second best.

This is pretty mathematically sound.  If you watch History channel, you can also see how the copper mines of Eritrea demonstrated this 3000 years ago.

Emerging nations repair, reuse, and recycle well.   Allowing them to build on that is not abusing them unless you underpay them and fail to give them financial incentives to do as much as should be done.  Shutting down a factory in Indonesia because it replaces capacitors, making a computer look and work like new, without mining or remelting or refining, because the factory PROPERLY recycles the removed capacitor, and you have defined proper recycling as a "form of disposal".... ugghhh.  

A serious crime was committed last February, when someone at a "no export" e-waste company told BAN that the Indonesian factory was importing hazardous E-Waste, and BAN informed the Indonesian government that the containers contained "waste" and "hazardous waste".

A serious crime was committed when BAN and NRDC and ETB publicly led people to believe the factory was primitive and backwards and polluting.   But this week something new came to light.  The exact same export container shipper to the SKD factory, Gordon Chui, is the same one that ERI exported 6.9M pounds of 'breakage' to.

Yes, it's the same guy.  And if I defended  him in February as someone who was being wrongly accused of dumping purely because of his ethnicity, I don't see how I can now accuse Fresno of doing something wrong by exporting through the same guy.

What I can object to is the way they abandoned him, just like they abandoned the glass pile in Yuma.  If it was my container that was held up to my face, I would not say "I've seen the light".  I would say that my export partner is a good man.  "Touche Pas a Mon Pote."

The most avid followers of this messed up, perfect is the enemy of the good, anti-export philosophy are people who have never even been out of the USA and who think laptops and tablets are being made in Silicon Valley, and who have never even heard of "Shenzhen".  I am not saying that all recycling overseas is clean and wonderful.  I'm just saying it is not that complicated, and given a few simple fair trade incentives, we can build R2 recycling factories with friends in other countries which we can be proud of.  I dream that my grandchildren will have more loyalty to their dot-com address than to their passports, and that national boundaries will mean little because the standard of living will be no more different crossing from USA to Mexico than it is crossing from Switzerland to Austria.