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.


"This pile here is material which contains copper, a valuable commodity."
The shredding investment isn't a bad place for the 70% of electronics which cannot be reused, and its better than dumping in "informal" Guiyu (without fair trade incentives or training). But it's merely a labor saving investment; it does not add value.  No 30% reuse comes out of this dead end, engineered to turn living equipment into End of Life, and even the "contained copper" exits less pure than it does from hand dismantling.   

Our WR3A non-profit's philosophy is that it is easier, less expensive, more environmentally sound, and more rewarding to "formalize" or incentivize manual disassembly than it is to teach a shredder to identify value-added (or retained) parts.

John Henry, "You're fired"
Many other non-profits are feeding from the hand of these shredder investors now.   But there is not a nickel left to share with the families of the children whose photos they use to raise money.  We are investing there, trading there, getting our hands dirty.  And tonight is our night.

Last shipment, go leapfrog to a plasma
Open your eyes, look at the shredded equipment.   Is this recycling?  Does it capture reuse, rare earth metals, capacitors, and parts?  Does this stop mining?  Are the chips going to be sorted by hand?  If not, is the amount they could have recovered by hand going to come out in the fluff, like rare earth metals melted into steel?



Connect the dots!
NYTIMES    Egyptian "geek" class were the leaders!

WSJ    Most of the refurbish product was shipped from Malaysia to Egypt.  Dr. Nasr of RIT (quoted) is coincidentally from Cairo, a world expert of repair and refurb!

We even tried to move one of the computer refurb factories to these
techies in Egypt (one of hundreds of WR3A photos of the E-gypt e-geeks) but the government started getting uncomfortable with the twittering class and began to seize containers of used computers they labelled "e-waste" (all working).  TOO LATE!  (We brought in hundreds of thousands of refurbs instead, from fellow Muslim Geek Democratic Nations Indonesia and Malaysia).

The countries earning $3-4K per capita per year have about 3 billion population (countries poorer than that only take scrap and burn it).  But the 3B3K, like Egypt, got access to the internet at 10X the rate of growth of the developed world between 2001-2008.

If the West defines "donation, reuse, repair and recycling" as a form of "disposal", then the press may object to "disposal" on the poor.  Outrageous omissions by major journalists, like CBS 60 Minutes, oversimplify the story of used computer exports, and drive good equipment into shredders. I cannot understand how anyone could possibly think shredding equipment is helping the poor.  It's either stupid or corrupt. But tonight, we toast Nasr City, Alexandria, and Cairo!  Technology Mall Geeks, God Bless You!

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