Red Metals, Yellow Women, White Guilt

This week I'm working on a year-end letter to tell all our clients, friends, regulators (and competitors) about what Good Point Recycling accomplished in 2010 - jobs, recycling, value, diversion, reuse, etc.

Meanwhile, here is a harmonious post from professional author / journalist / blogger Adam Minter.  He has taken a week off of to blog for The Atlantic.  Today's post is a gem (The Motor Breakers of China).  As usual, he says more than enough in fewer words.

Ethiopia Digital Project - Geeks of Color Sighting

The International Business Leaders Forum (cool title) is associated with the "Fair Trade" Electronics Recycling endeavorr which EPA Director Lisa P. Jackson toured this week in Ethiopia.   A leader from the IBLF with a role in Ethiopia Digital Project sent this message:
"We are pleased to have the support of the US EPA and feel it will go a long way to support our endeavors to mitigate Ewaste while supporting digital access.   I often quote Victor Hugo "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come"  "the Idea of a quality refurbisher/recyler in an emerging country supplemented with  market knowledge and oversite is  an "Idea whose time has come" 
- Chris Frasier Supply Chain Developer  Digital Partnership
More about the EPA's support for the "fair trade recycling" endeavor can be found at this press release. Information on the Ethiopian Ministry of ICT, can be found at the linkThis project came through World Bank ICT funding.

Just in - Video Link

The idea of "Fair Trade Recycling", the empowerment of Geeks in developing world to properly recycle whatever they cannot repair, and to take back and recycle product from their own country's residents, is an idea whose time has obviously come.

AARP or AAPR Ewaste Survey

Here's an extremely short survey - two questions.  You may agree with both, or neither, but indicate the one agree with more strongly.  Both questions pertain to attitudes about "e-waste" exports.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Americans Are Racist People (AARP) will be ranked by responses to both questions (AAPR - Asians and Africans are Primitive Recyclers may be a more telling indication of AARP in other nations).

I've got several friends who are African, who married Americans and immigrated to our country.  All of them, every one, was warned before they left their country that America is racist, or has a lot of racist people.   After living here for decades, all agree that the danger is present, but was overstated.  Not one believes in a ban on interracial marriage.

I've also got several friends who import used electronics from the USA.   When I export to them, a lot of people tell me that I should beware, that Africans, Asians and Latinos are Primitive recyclers.   After doing it for a decade, I am certain that the danger is present, but that it has been overstated.  I do not believe in a ban on "e-waste" exports.

Psst.. it's a head trip.  

News Flash! EPA's Lisa Jackson sees PROPER E-Waste Recycling in Ethiopia

Just got Lisa Jackson's TWEET via Twitter...

 Lisa P. Jackson, EPA Visited a Computer Refurbishment Training Center and De-manufacturing Facility in Ethiopia, saw their methods of safely handling e-waste7 minutes ago Favorite Undo Retweet Reply
This could bring a lot of hope to WR3A's "Fair Trade Recycling" Partners!

- IN PERU, where Jinex has a women-owned electronics shop selling computers and televisions she sources from WR3A partners in the USA, only buying from recyclers who remove the JUNK.

- IN EGYPT, where I've been describing the four-story SHOPPING MALLS of used computers which the Egyptians put to good use tweeting last month (Oh, you thought people earning $3k per year use IPhones?)

Click Me To See Dozens of Geeks of Color
- IN MEXICO, where Las Chicas Bravas women are now going it alone, having lost a grant to get them electricity and training, but knowing how to work and reuse and properly recycle, they vow to continue.

In Indonesia, in Malaysia, in Angola, in Senegal, in Singapore, in Cameroon - people are learning how to properly recycle, not BURN product.  And they create jobs, more affordable recycling,  and create internet access.  We don't need them or want them to adapt our 2-year throwaway culture.

Fair Trade Recycling, it's a win- win- win.  But it is not just any exporter... You need to use a FAIR TRADE EXPORTER.  Someone who pays people to remove junk here in the USA, who properly compensate importers for incidental breakage, who fly the buyers to the USA to meet the American recycling crew face to face.

Documentary on Egyptian Zabaleen Recyclers

Look, I'm not alone.   Here is a clip from a documentary, Garbage Dreams, by Mai Iskander, on how Egyptian Recyclers perceived the efforts to bring "modern Western formal recycling practices" into the "informal market".  Rebroadcast on PBS, the film "Garbage Dreams" could in my opinion have been done in the Philippines, in Mumbai, in Columbia, Venezuela, or Accra.

When you see people eating stale bread, just how proud can you be to start a non-profit to raise a million dollars to stop them from getting stale bread?  Like stopping their recycling trade is the answer?  I'm sorry to use a mallet you guys, but it stopped being stupid two years ago and started being evil when they stepped on the white box refurbishing market. 

Made to Export: E-Non-Waste Laptop

Here's the perfect response to Jaime Guittierez song, "Clean the Fan", posted ten days ago.  I found this on Twitter, posted by  A good idea.

"Students from Stanford and Finland's Aalto University have developed a prototype laptop that can be disassembled in less than three minutes without the use of any tools. Once it's taken apart, the laptop's materials can easily be recycled. SmartPlanet talks to the inventors about their design concept and gets a hands-on demo of the process."
 When I trolled around at NESDA (National Electronics Service Dealers Association - the TV repairman guild here in the USA), I found the most popular brand was one never mentioned in "e-waste" press.  Hitachi was the first television company to bend over backwards to make maintenance and repair easy.  They published repair schematics for free, online in the early 1990s, when other original manufacturers charged TV repairpeople $65 for manuals by mail. They identified which of their parts wore out (there is a weak link in every assembled electronic device), and put drawers in to service those areas.

When Wistron goes ahead with the one-laptop-per-child production (or one-smart-phone per child, it may turn out by the time it actually gains traction), I hope it's built with this philosophy in mind.

Should Vermont ANR Make this Illegal?

I think I can be forgiven for being really, really upset by Vermont Agency of Natural Resources' draft "e-waste" regulations.   We've put tens of thousands of dollars into the "fair trade recycling" model.  I can't believe they'd take this program (profiled here on PBS) away from us.  I realize that the agency doesn't have bad intentions.  But people who work on regulations think they have worked really, really hard and have earned praise for doing the best they can do... And we feel like they have no idea what working really, really, really hard for a really, really, really long time even looks like.

Here is a link to the NPR Marketplace story.

Newsflash! Mining Act of 1872 Reform?

Obama budget takes away big chunk of metal mining subsidy. Recycling will hit new high prices if measure passes. Senator Reid will have trouble removing (stay tuned)...

Primitive Backyard E-waste Image Pollution

A couple of days ago, I had another long interiew with a reporter.  She was trying to figure out how the pictures she saw on 60 Minutes Wasteland fit with the picture I was trying to paint of "Fair Trade Recycling".  At one point, in frustration, she asked if everyone was just supposed to constantly tour their service providers, playing cat and mouse whether something bad was happening?  That's what her local supplier had done visiting Good Point Recycling, and that's what I had done (showing photos) in Mexico, Egypt, etc.

It's a legitimate concern.  I've written about how misleading even photographic evidence can be.  I supply statistics and records of our reuse and recycling, but people ask how do I know it's true when it goes overseas.

It would have been very easy to just tell the reporter "We don't Export", or "no intact units"... that we are the good white men, who do not dump upon the primitives.  It is much harder to defend the small portion we do export, and to do so without declaring "open season" for other competitors to export "toxics along for the ride".  In that context, I don't blame companies who pledge not to export but do, and it is frustrating when "fans" of this blog are complained about by folks overseas as being junk-along-for-the-ride shippers.

The foundation of the reporter's concerns are the following "mistakes" (untruths).
  1. Most of the waste shown burned in China came from wealthy nations.  FALSE
  2. 80% the "e-waste" recycling in the USA is shipped as unsorted waste. FALSE
  3. Most of the proper recycling operations in Asia are "tidy little fascades" which cover up the truth, which is #1 and #2 above. FALSE
  4. Most of the people employed by the export market are primitive wire burning people who will be better off if we simply export less and shred more.  FALSE
  5. Donations to people who show pictures of children on scrap piles benefit the children and their families a) more than trading clean material with them, or b) at all.  FALSE

Research Paper on Lead Battery Recycling

I have links today to a few more research papers. These are all on the topic of lead (pb) poisoning, specifically in the informal sector, but also from mining.  The first paper was published in March 2010.  It leads in a similar direction - certification - as R2 and E-Stewards landed in.
Lead Battery Manufacturing Certification in the Developing World:
Applying BEST Standards in India and Vietnam

Perry Gottesfeld, Executive Director, OK International
Christopher Cherry, University of Tennessee
Good Points:   It is well written and easy to follow.  What is great about the study of lead is that the poisoning is clearly and shockingly visible, the streams are uncomplicated by "added valiue" of reuse, and the quantities are large enough and visible enough to track without major fallacies being carried along for the ride.   I strongly recommend this paper.

Bad Points:  The paper is flawed in that it begins, as it should, with the documentation of lead poisoning as a world phenomenon the number of people poisoned or retarded by it, and how they are concentrated in the developing world.  But it never distinctly makes any connection with lead mining, or with lead by-product from other mining (such as gold, silver, and zinc).  The authors do not say that all poisoning comes from recycled, and none from virgin production.  Unfortunately, by claiming a broad scope of the problem, but only critically approaching the recycled content stream, the paper exposes laypeople and environmentalists to the idea that recycling is bad.  In providing a backdrop of human suffering, it fails to put recycling in its perspective of, at worst, better than mining.

Short Presentation on Growth of Internet

Slides describing 3B3K nations (three billion people earning three thousand dollars per capita).  If you label everything they need and will pay for as "universal waste" or "e-waste" or "hazardous waste", then the wealthy nations lose the export income and the importing nations lose the affordable computers. 

Which "E-Waste" Policy to Celebrate Today?

Two important things happened this week.  One happened in a city which would forever stop the export of used computers in developing countries, reported by CNET.   The other happened in the City which was the single biggest importer of used computers from Vermont in the past ten years. The buyers were the focus of a report by the New York Times, below.

The largest e-waste shredder on the continent is celebrated and twittered by the obsolescence class.  TONIGHT, I DON'T CELEBRATE THE SHREDDER.  THERE IS REASON TO CELEBRATE TEN YEARS OF USED COMPUTER EXPORTS, WITH THE REPAIR AND REUSE CLASS...

Look, a 1/2 inch capacitor
The self-declared newest "state of the art" "ewaste" facility arrived impressively, colored yellow and blue, like the US Cavalry.   The engineers are all reputable, good people.  The investors are driven by the need to service other good people who have no tolerance for accusation of pollution.  Millions of dollars to turn your asset liabilities into this shredded mess.

A Modern Marvel of Western technology.  Had a  tiny fraction of this investment been given to the Geeks of Color, the Las Chicas, the repairpeople in Senegal, to Accra, to Cairo, they would have produced cleaner scrap with hand disassembly.  They would have harvested the small parts like heat sinks and chips, as they do in Asia, and they would have gotten 30% tested working product, creating jobs and an affordable "e-waste" infrastructure in their home countries.


Sparta Vermont "e-Waste" Rap! 802 meets 300!

Inspired by both the movie "300" and the Vermont Rap Song "802".  This is my rap song slash  peace offer to the regulators whose draft means well, but creates a Catch-22 of unintended consequences in trying to "correct" EPA's 2007 CRT Rule using 1998 EPA UW Rules.   We have a year before February 2012.  Don't let the Perfect become the Enemy of the Good Point Recycling... take a year to make these changes, and look at the data closely.     
802 Meets 300 - Robin Ingenthron (2011)

Vermont has the right
To stop all reuse
Vermont has the right
To presume abuse

Vermont has the right
To stop our resale
Vermont has the right
To put recyclers in jail

TCLP Test does not make Reuse UWR, or even "E-waste"

Definition of Solid Waste (DSW): Before a material can be classified as a hazardous waste, it must first be a solid waste as defined under RCRA. Resources, including an interactive tool, are available to help.
USA EPA has an interesting interactive tool on its hazardous waste page which helps define how an object (such as a CRT television) can fail TCLP tests, yet not necessarily be considered either a hazardous or universal waste.

The Japanese Are Collecting E-Waste-Space-Junk

The search for e-scrap, rare earth metals, and obsolete electronics reaches new heights. reports that Japan is constructing space nets to haul in dead satellites.  Hopefully the alien dolphins will be safe.

Japanese Space Agency to Use Fishing Nets to Scoop Up Space Junk

by Cameron Scott, 02/07/11

Now, Here's My Plan...

by Shel Silverstein, 1930 - 1999
What is the right level of tests for a company planning to export for reuse, or export CRT tubes for proper recycling, etc?  There are no CRT glass markets left in the USA, and no secondary copper smelters, and the circuit board refining capacity is all in Europe and Japan.   If it's good to export for reuse, and necessary to export for recycling, how can regulators keep out "toxics along for the ride" (TAR)?

In a past post, I walked through the "decision tree" promoted by some watchdogs to restrict free trade... it shows how a "fully functional" philosophy designed by laymen results in as much or more waste than fair trade agreements.  WR3A and R2 do require standards and tests, and in many ways they are actually stronger than E-Stewards, because they require two-party participation (the overseas refurbisher gets to report that the units were indeed actually working, vs. a USA exporter simply maintaining they are all "tested working").

I've drafted some standards, some borrowed from WR3A, some from E-Stewards, some from R2, and would be interested in getting comments.

The most important thing, which is REQUIRED by EPA for CRT export (and can be applied to other items), is not simply "one time notification".  The exporter must ALSO keep records that the exported material was in fact reused,  and maintain those records for 3 years.  These are also in line with the Basel Convention, which allows exports of CRTs for refurbishment, and circuit boards for recycling, under Annex IX B1110 and B1115.

Universal Chicken E-Waste or EPA CRT Rule Egg E-Waste?

Swimming Pool? Drowning is dangerous!  Be prepared!
Is an "e-waste" device, such as a CRT computer monitor, hazardous to manage?  What is the safest way to handle a working computer monitor which you have replaced with a new flat screen?

What if you don't have time to read a long blog, and don't have time to edit it into a short one?  Time's up!  Choose your safety standard!

It all comes down  to who you trust, and in Vermont, you don't trust business.  Here is a short Q and A about exports... based on "fair trade recycling".   Another approach, in Vermont's draft regulations, will make reuse hardly worth the effort.

The CRT fails TCLP tests (designed to replicate landfill leaching).  So you should not landfill it.  Landfill  bans were first instituted in Massachusetts when I was recycling director in that state.   (They did not require legislation).  Vermont got around to banning disposal in January 2011.  Having caught up with the standard MA adapted 12 years ago, now Vermont is ready to classify "e-waste" (including used electronics which do not even fail TCLP) as "universal waste", though EPA has not classified them as such.  Not only that, but EPA wrote a long Rule explaining in detail why doing so would be a mistake, and would lead to worse environmental outcomes.

Definition of Solid Waste (DSW): Before a material can be classified as a hazardous waste, it must first be a solid waste as defined under RCRA. Resources, including an interactive tool, are available to help.
USA EPA has an interesting interactive tool on its hazardous waste page which helps define how an object (such as a CRT television) can fail TCLP tests, yet not necessarily be considered either a hazardous or universal waste.

A moon suit is more expensive than a swimsuit.  But "Which is the best standard" is not the same as "which is the most expensive standard".  Destroying reuse and printing meaningless universal waste labels do not make anyone safer.

Pos7ing on Fac3B00k Re: 3Gyp7

Everything ██is█████ ████ ████fine ███ █ ████ love. ████ █████ the ███ Egypt ███ ████ government ██#jan25 #Egypt #censorship

News is starting to come out from our contacts in 3gyp7 recently.   The most noticeable thing is that all the messages written to one another in Arabic and in English have numerals sprinkled into almost every word.   The Technocrati or Geeks of Color are assuming that the government will try to filter and censor the internet, but they realize it's a task that only a machine could do, and are using tricks to foil the machine.

(This NYTimes article, appearing a week later, seems written to describe exactly our techie friends)

Egyp7 has long been one of the most important markets for used and repairable computers.  There's a saying in the "e-waste" reuse trade, that if you find a discarded computer with Egyptian handwriting on it, don't bother trying to repair it, as it could not possibly have been discarded without good reason.

During the past ten years, I've directly or indirectly exported hundreds of thousands of used computers.  Pakistan, Dubai, Egyp7, Malaysia and Indonesia have been, taken together, the largest market (Dubai is a free trade zone used for Iran, Iraq, and other markets with high trade barriers).  If you consider Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and Cameroon as Islamic

Bluntly: BAN should get a real Job

In the next decade, environmentalists must learn to drop dogmas as fast as pharmacies pull bad medicine. Good intention buys finite trust. 

Not to put too fine a point on it... The self proclaimed "Stewards" have not done much good.  They have been too timid to abandon a half truth which brought income.  They are human.

Ms. Vicki pre-electricity
Retroworks de Mexico is a fair trade, women-owned, CRT glass Test passing, socially conscious operation creating jobs for Mexicans in Mexico, sending all toxics back north.  The Watchdogs gave some tepid praise, but never publicly.  And when an investor called them about RDM, we never heard from the interested investor again.  BAN later did imply that if I adjusted my stance, they could help to leverage future investments for us... Pay to play.

We needed an investor to give the ladies electricity.  

Try to imagine how I felt. I put my damn house on the line, sent reporters, put the Las Chicas Bravas up in my home, made sure it was OECD and legal.  I flew people from Mexico to Investors Circle, to meetings with EPA headquarters in Washington, to meet with recyclers at all the big conferences.

BAN did acknowledge that Mexico was OECD, and that reuse is better than recycling.  They said they could help, if we make the Chicas an "e-Stewards" Operation.  But BAN's offer of help began with the solicitation that we pay them money, coming out of Las Chicas investment, for a copy of the standard we'd have to meetWe had to pay money to see the rules????

"E-Waste" Recycling: Reseach Papers on Psychology

Look at an African holding a laptop.

Now close your eyes...

What did you see?
What did you see?
What did you see?

In the 1960s, university psychology research documented how prejudice and preconceptions affected testimony.   A photo was shown for X seconds of one person handing a purse (for example) to another person.  Then the photo was hidden, and then the surveyor asked the witness what they had observed.

The studies measured instances where a minority was one of the participants in the photo, and how often that correlated positively with witness recollection of a crime  (one person was snatching the other person's purse).  This research resulted in a consensus that "profiling" is tricky business.

What does an African repairing a computer look like to you?

WSJ: USA ReManufacturers Cry for Free Trade

original Wall St. Journal article, with pictures
retroworks file photo CRT tube polishing

From Trash Heap to Store Shelf

Refurbished-Goods Industry Seeks U.S. Support for Freer Global Trade, More R and D

Ray Mills unpacks and processes vacuums at Cleveland's Vacuum Systems International, which remanufactures commercial-grade vacuum cleaners. Executives from some of the largest U.S. manufacturers are gathering in Washington Monday and Tuesday to seek more government support for their efforts to refurbish and sell used products ranging from cell phones to railroad locomotives to medical scanners.

Remanufacturers—including Caterpillar Inc., General Electric Co., General Motors Co., Eastman Kodak Co. and Xerox Corp.—would like the government to push harder for free global trade in reconditioned products and to help fund research into better methods of remanufacturing, which involves restoring used products to like-new condition for resale.