INK: History of Patent Wars

How shows "Egypt"
Ok, this headline is a teaser for a book I would like to write.   If I were to be suddenly unemployed, rather than the CEO of a fast going (doubling in size every 3 years) environmental company, I'd have no problem occupying my time.   In the past quarter, I've written more and more and posted less and less because it's hard to make brief points that don't water down the body of work.

Here's the problem:

1.   Most CRTs are Waste
2.   Most CRTs are Exported
3.   Therefore, most waste CRTs are exported.

This sounds reasonable, whether you garnish it with poverty porn (pictures of kids with burning trash) or not.

Term Paper V (5): "E-waste" Export, Geog of Env Justice

Back to the "Term Paper" (for those following).   Here is how I overlay the "regulated areas" of "environmental justice" and "property value" on an actual case of "non-OECD".

(You may need to go back to "Term Paper 1-IV").  This is an academic post, which goes well with a video, but we also want these accessible in nations which csor videos, so here's a link to a "geographic" song, Rue St. Vincent, sung by Yves Montand.  Open and listen in another window...

Case Study:   Singapore and the Malay Peninsula

Malaysia, the nation, also includes huge rain forests in Borneo and Papua New Guinea - home to both the most biologically diverse and unstudied rain forests on the planet, disappearing orangutans, and the OK Tedi Copper and Gold mine (#evil).  Where it is green, Malaysia is very green.  But it's easier for the purpose of the case study to look just at the Malay peninsula, which Malaysia shares with the city-state of Singapore (at independence from the British empire, they were both part of Malaysia, but Singapore won independence fairly peacefully).

First, the "eyeballs diagrams" are NOT drawn to scale.  Singapore is 704 square kilometers, Malaysia has 338,550 square kilometers.  After a couple of years of co-governance, Singapore became independent in 1965;  it still had not rebuilt from Japanese occupation during WW2.  From Wikepedia 13.01.08:
Facing severe unemployment and a housing crisis, Singapore embarked on a modernisation programme that focused on establishing a manufacturing industry, developing large public housing estates and investing heavily on public education. Since independence, Singapore's economy has grown by an average of nine percent each year. By the 1990s, the country had become one of the world's most prosperous nations, with a highly developed free market economy, stronginternational trading links, and the highest per capita gross domestic product in Asia outside of Japan.[1]
Peninsular Malaysia has 131,598 square kilometers, so even eliminating the islands Borneo and PNG, it dwarfs Singapore.

Hobsons Choice For the "E-Waste" Market

Take it or leave it.

When an E-Steward company, or a state or enterprise influenced by its negative campaign, is approached by an Egyptian, Indonesian, or Nigerian who wants to set up the fastest growing cities in on the planet with affordable internet, they have one choice.

They can either replace the bad capacitors themselves, replace the hard drives themselves, buy new laptop batteries themselves... etc. etc.   Or they can destroy them.

The fastest growing, highest use, internet market in the world, is in the cities of emerging markets.  Cairo, Jakarta, Lagos... and dozens of others with billions of people clamoring to learn, to be entertained, informed, and connected to their family, friends, and associates.  They are starving for things like affordable display devices.

When a Nigerian, Egyptian, or Indonesian electronics repairperson (a terrific job choice in emerging markets) wants to buy a Dell, HP, or Samsung computer from the USA, they have once choice:  buy from someone willing to sell to them, or go without.

The Watchdog, the Gatekeeper, the certifier wants to change that choice.  The E-Steward Program charges YOU money to not attack you for selling junk.  This changes the choice for suppliers / sellers in the USA.  I used to decide based on the demand - what people wanted to buy.  Now that's changed by the requirement that I pre-repair it, and the risk that if I do sell it, I may be attacked.    The effect has been to constrain the supply - the buyers choice of goods.

The Watchdogs say this is to protect the buyers from getting "junk".   The test of whether something is junk?  In the marketplace, it's called "the marketplace"... what people are interested in buying.  The buyers, the Geeks of Color, the Technicians, the "Good Enough Market".   The Watchdog, having convinced everyone that 80% of these decisions are bad ones, intervenes, and places themselves between the buyer and the seller.   A referee can be good - if the ref understands scoring and other rules of the game.

Under E-Stewards, the ref has raised the stakes on any missed calls, and so they design a rule to be something much easier to measure than willingness to buy (repeatedly).  They can't be bothered by the background checks on buyers and fair contract language that Fair Trade Recycling pursues.   Keep it simple e-Stupid.  "Fully Functional", "Tested Working", "Plug and Play"...  E-Stewards and PACE gave up when we sent them 20 page purchase orders with quantities, tests, sizes, buyer qualification rules and other parameters.   Too long to read.   To difficult.  So they created "tested working" as a standard.  Sounds good.  The effect was to remove sellers unable to test and buyers who preferred buying newer goods for repair (rather than old ones "working").

1:  Take the highest demand in the world
2:   Restrict what they can buy
3.  Profit!!

They get applause from the Anti-Gray Market Alliance members who make brand new product, who restrict the right to repair and use patent trolls and copyright extension to squeeze the largest demand in the world into the tiny space of brand new product.  Profit.

Term Paper IV: "E-waste" Export, Geog of Env Justice

PhotoSitting in the exhibit hall of CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, at the World Trade Center (an enlightened name for an exhibit hall)  in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In part I, I mapped the toxics in the USA, contrasting the tonnage of serious toxics (remote areas, primarily from raw material extraction) to the number of 100 data points close to urban areas.  I used this to support my thesis that environmental enforcement correlates positively with property value.

In Part II, I put the USA map into a generic Venn-like diagram (below), with the bluer areas representing land with high property value, and the green areas representing forests, tundra, moutains - land not valuable except to minimalist living or raw material exploit or agriculture.   The remote areas, where:

THIS HAPPENS (Mexico primary lead smelter 1999)
THIS HAPPENS (Peru primary ore smelter 2009)
And THIS HAPPENS (Zambia primary ore mining 2007)
And THIS HAPPENS (China primary copper, zinc, lead smelting 2000-1010)

In Part III, I made analogies over 130 years, how mercury mining and Indian wars and extinction of bison in the big green wild USA parallels the mercury mining, conflict metal wars, and extinction of gorillas in the wild jungles.  And the tinker Irish laborers in Boston who made paper mills survive by switching to recycled feedstock were looked down on 130 years ago, and suffered in the "great stink" of flushing toilets in Baltimore, much like repairpeople in Accra are looked down upon by recyclers while the goods they fix are labelled toxic, and while rich flood the markets with used devices...  Accra repairman lives in an Irish ghetto in a USA eastern city, and Congo mercury miner lives in the wild green lands of Wounded Knee.

In Part 4, I want to explore how the miracle of transportation allows trade between different zip codes in different countries.

CRT Recycling Primer: Update

E-Waste Made Simple!
Taking a break on the "Term Paper" project which explains the "good enough" markets among the world's urban poor, I found some broken links on this 2010 post "CRT Recycling Primer".

I updated a broken link and added a few lines, and it occurred to me that this was kind of a gem in the light of recent buzz about CRT glass recycling stockpiles and glutted markets.

The ugly, the bad, and the Good Enough Market connect between bans on the West Coast, sellers markets on the East Coast, piles of CRT glass, and a surge in internet by young people in emerging markets, as profiled by EMarketer (covering research by Google and Booz)

O! What a tangled web we weive when first we practice to deceive!  It all started with a bogus, raunchy, cynical, made up statistic by Basel Action Network which said that 80-90% of CRTs exported were burned in primitive and polluting conditions.   Not only has BAN stopped distributing the stat, they have refused to ever say where it came up with it in the first place.  Combined with pictures of poster children, this stat sucked in CBS Scott Pelley, Terry Gross, Frontline, and entire "E-Steward" enterprises.

The outcome?  Shortages of monitors, dictator crackdowns on internet hardware, worse supply chains, high taxes, and a big stockpile of CRT glass cullet (and higher prices to recycle it).   Now California companies are asking for permission to landfill it, which means not only were California taxpayers asked to take the monitors taken from Egyptians, the CRT glass was not even recycled.

1.  California subsidizes companies to break CRT monitors.  This created a sellers market for working CRT exports on the East Coast, and created a simple "big shred" system of companies in California who live off the breaking subsidy (planned obsolescence in hindsight).

Term Paper #3: Environmental Justice, a Little Drop of Poison

I'm going to put this up temporarily with a Tom Waits song (a little drop of poison) and then delete it in a few days.  It's below the fold...

Well a rat always knows when he's in with weasels...

1) Mining and smelting investments are driven away from property values;  they create most of the poison, species and habitat loss, carbon, etc.  It's an ugly business.  Most of the "harm" your computer will ever commit to the earth was done before you brought it home from the store and opened the box.

2) Labor value is found in high density in ghettos (lighter blue) and "emerging" neighborhoods.  It is a resource, and it is agnostic... it does not recognize whether metal is "Mined ore" or "Recycled Ore", and putting a label of "waste" onto urban ores has had unintended consequences.   In the past few years, the term "waste" has been abusively applied to material which is "in surplus" in one geographic location (e.g. working CRT monitors) and sold, added value intact, to a market where the goods are not in surplus.  An alien would not understand how recycled metal is regulated differently from virgin metal, the wealth or nationality of the previous scrap metal owner would be undetectable.

But the alien de Tocqueville would be able to see material moving around, and see the economic value of the property that people were living in, and see the regulatory functions were associated with property value.

The Spock de Tocqueville would observe People trying to feed their siblings hungry kids will do a lot of things.  "Useless Lists of Jobs Beneath Wealthy People" and "E-Waste Poster Child" blogs were my attempts to treat people doing "e-waste", primitively or immaculately, in a position as an equal.

Below is a chart which I have trouble fitting here, but it's my attempt to show the jobs people have moving value and creating value out of the various land value areas.

If you follow the movement of material and value through the digestive system of adolescent nations, you learn that the free market has a lot of environmental credit.

Term Paper II: "e-Waste" Export, Geography of Environmental Justice

Yesterday's thesis about the relationship between land value, environmental enforcement, and pollution, used a map from,  showing toxic release sites on a map of the USA, and a chart from the same website showing the relative amount of toxics generated in specific localities.  When the releases are charted as "an occurance" and each release is given a single data point, the map shows the "superfund sites" to be concentrated in urban areas.

The sites, when weighted by actual tons of pollutions, are 83.75% in the top 20 / 100 sites (suggesting the 80/20 rule or Paretto Principle may apply).  The top 10 sites are in Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Missouri (Doe Run area), and Orange Florida.  Each of these sites has a "drilldown" function for data at  Orange County Florida, the one non-western, non-mining area on the top ten list, has a NASA, USA Department of Defense, WR Grace, Dupont, Department of Energy, Chevron industry, etc. on its list of "potentially responsible parties" for lagoon pollution.  The nine sites above it are raw material extraction industry sites, none of which, my thesis states, could function economically inside a high-property value area.

2.HUMBOLDT, NV350,591,683
3.PINAL, AZ248,792,746
4.SALT LAKE, UT138,824,328
5.ELKO, NV83,494,740
6.GILA, AZ57,220,938
7.EUREKA, NV43,572,135
8.OWYHEE, ID28,887,324
9.REYNOLDS, MO27,313,480
10.ORANGE, FL24,032,977

The enforcement and likelihood that a site is identified as a threat is proportionate to its proximity to a landholder complaining about it.  For this reason, the "superfund" target sites on the USA map above are concentrated around cities and population centers.  This "NIMBY" or "Not In My Back Yard" dynamic is part of a normal democracy.  The spotlight on "environmental justice" in the USA focused on the difference the likelihood of enforcement correlated to race of neighborhoods;  that's an overlyer, according to my thesis, for economics and property values.  As I pointed out in one of the Slums Blogs last spring, 5th Avenue in Manhattan had auto repair shops a hundred years ago... but these relocated to Queens because it's easier to do repair work on an area with lower property value.

The Diagram Below generalizes the relationship between property value, wealth, and awareness of pollution. People live in rural villages, forests, and plains, but their population density is lower, and enforcement of all types is less likely in these areas.

The difficulty or unlikelihood of an enforcement paradigm outside of a population center is why emerging market city-states like Hong Kong and Singapore are more likely to achieve OECD-like status sooner than an emerging market like Malaysia or Indonesia or Brazil... the most recent nations admitted entry into OECD have been small.   Large nations admitted to OECD tend to have gained entrance early on, because of their econmic power (like the USA).  The USA was admitted into OECD while the pollution in Orange County was occuring, but as one of the "founders" of the OECD, the USA benefitted from a simpler formula - wealthy and white.  Not even Japan was not on the first OECD list.

Term Paper on "e-Waste" Export and Geography of Environmental Justice

Thesis:   Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head... And wrote a thesis chapter in one sitting.

Regulatory burdens are primarily driven by property value.   People are mobile, but their investment in property is a non-liquid asset, and they will pay a lot to keep it from being polluted.  If it's federal land out west, or a jungle island like Borneo - not so much.    Borneo has more species and more "environment" to spoil, but the property values there make it easier to mine than a richer vein of ore on Long Island.

As wealthy neighborhoods have resources to worry about smaller and smaller cognitive risks, compliance with risk (e.g. toxics in air or wipe tests, employee safety standards) become more expensive in wealthy jurisdictions.  This provides incentives for markets to outsource, or purchase from, areas with lower property values and less regulatory oversight.

This phenomenon has been examined through a lens of "environmental justice" for two decades.  Groups of people who tend to live in less affluent neighborhoods tend to be less critical of local employers who tolerate these risks.  Whether the "disproportionate enforcement" of standards is based on race, income, or real estate value, it coincides with the opinions of neighbors.

In environmental risk, the "worst neighbors" are the industries with the highest toxics and workplace hazards. These are know to be metal mining.  Virgin ore extraction is strongly correlated with releases of mercury and lead.   The number one source of mercury in the USA is gold mining;  number two is silver mining.  The more valuable an end product, the higher the tolerance for pollution, but the farther the activity occurs from high property values.

During the past 50 years, this dynamic has led to the "most polluted places on earth" being located in the least accessible, lowest property values on earth.  Property value is known to be correlated with demand for the property, and remote property has less demand.

Kabwe Zambia has been named the most polluted place on earth (Time Magazine).

La Oroya, Peru is definitely in the running. (NY Times)

Even within the confines of the USA, the most toxic industries are found in the most remote places, usually on federally owned land (a private landowner is less likely to tolerate pollution than the public landowner).  Of the top ten most areas with the most toxic releases, the first eight are in remote areas.. and (according to TRI reports), the states with the most land covered by the General Mining Act of 1872 have the most toxic releases.

2.HUMBOLDT, NV350,591,683
3.PINAL, AZ248,792,746
4.SALT LAKE, UT138,824,328
5.ELKO, NV83,494,740
6.GILA, AZ57,220,938
7.EUREKA, NV43,572,135
8.OWYHEE, ID28,887,324
9.REYNOLDS, MO27,313,480
10.ORANGE, FL24,032,977

Calculated as a percent, the Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule) appears to apply.  The top twenty sites on the list of 100 are 83.75% of the total toxics:  The top 4 sites of the top 20 represent 73% of toxics.

Total Toxics Emitted (Top 10) 1,484,112,451

All Top 100 1,991,863,954
Top 10 of 100 74.51%
Top 4 of Top 20 73.11%
Top 20 of 100 83.75%

Yet spending on "Superfund Enforcement" is not correlated with the toxics... it's correlated to property value and population.  One has to wonder how many sites on federal lands haven't even been sampled... if a pound of mercury drops in the forest, and no regulator is there to detect it, it still makes pollution.

This data is USA only, but the trend (in my thesis) is that the more environmentally damaging or toxic a process (e.g. gold or silver mining), the further the extraction will be placed from property values and populations.   Property value correlates with population up to a certain point (Manhattan Apartment) and then declines (ghettos and slums) because the more income people have, the more personal space they can afford.

Fast income growth would be associated with increasing property values.

In this thesis, the "good enough market" will be a rapidly emerging city, with electricity and potential wifi (like 1990s Guangzhou and Lima Peru, Cairo and Jakarta in the 2000s).  There is a labor force here, but the percentage of that labor force engaged in scrap wouldn't account for the fact that nothing "e-waste" is being shipped to rural areas even lower on the evolutionary scale;  for that matter, the presence of e-waste in concentrations at Guiyu or Agbogbloshie (with proximity to Shenzhen or Accra, cities growing at a faster than average pace for their continents), and the absence of a proportionally similar concentration of E-waste in even poorer cities like Mogadishu or Port-au-Prince, would be best explained by the growth and value added and not by the economics of externalization of pollution.

Haiti is closer and poorer than Accra or Kuala Lumpur, but the prices offered for e-scrap are much higher in cities (see Alibaba or which are growing.

This establishes a reverse normal curve.  The demand for "used goods" and "cheap displays" like CRT monitors is very low in Manhattan, rises in middle income markets earning $3000 per year, and then drops precipitously again in very poor cities.    Mining, in comparison, grows in direct proportion to poverty, the lower the income level and property values, the greater the potential investments in raw material extraction.  You find coltan mining and gold mining investments in jungles.  A single mine like the OK Tedi Copper Mine, in a single day, dwarfs the toxics created by all the aqua regia and wire burning in all the cities of the world for a year.  If you want to find cataclysmic environmental damage, look in the opposite direction of recycling and repair.

According to my thesis, it is therefore the perception of "waste" formed by rich cities in areas with high environmental enforcement (driven by property value) which has been projected onto middle income cities which are actually buying used goods for "good enough" purposes.  It is true that the middle income cities have lower wage and environmental standards than the rich cities, but the correlation is exaggerated if you can't replicate the business in an even poorer city.  This is an example of "cognitive risk" which is marketed to by corporate interests in planned obsolescence, anti-gray markets, and competition from contract manufacturers scaling into good enough market economies.

It is the relative inexperience in rich nations with extreme forms of poverty which cause us to conflate "good enough markets" with images of suffering.   We create artificial groupings like "non-OECD" which basically mean "not as rich as us".   It's like creating a term "not forest" to describe everything that is not a forest, grouping deserts, meadows, swamps, and tundra together into a single term.

There are many types of snow.

End of Part 1.

Holy Slashdot! Look at the Certainty over Fake Data!

So sure of themselves.  Feel the righteous indignation peculating the internet...  It gives environmentalists super powers.   Enfused with the right amount of coffee, the enraged altruist can hurdle statistics and peer reviewed studies and protect Africa from the proven innocent.  In our latest episode, e-waste bans will protect Americans from a future "epidemic of cyber crime!"

Environmental waste!

Insert your cognitive risk here: ________________________

Below are responses to my post in ("news for nerds, stuff that matters") about the three studies (Kahhat/Williams, UNEP, and BAN's own adviced Kenya Study) which report that 80-90% of imported electronics goods (paid for by the importer, after all) are reused, while 85% of the "e-waste" filmed at Agbogbloshie, etc. is generated by Africans after decades of reuse.

Mon dieu!  The outrage!  People really sure that if it comes from developed nations, and is purchased by "backwards" Africa, that it's gotta be bad.   Lots of caffeine evident in discussions of e-waste.  The superpower of Certainty!  The power of Smug.

Seems (according to one self-identified ewaste pro) that I "have got a chip on my shoulder".  Or another quips that that I haven't read "customs reports", or I'm "missing the point", and that even if the imports are mostly good, that "it's still a useful myth to shame Westerners into doing the right thing" (that being... to boycott black people?).    My usual favorite shows up - that eventually working equipment will become e-waste.   ERGO... Egyptians shouldn't be allowed to purchase working equipment until they have e-waste processes established.  (Let's try applying that to the next i-Device sold in USA)...

Meanwhile, director Jim Puckett agreed with me, face to face, that there were no CRTs at the end of the Hong-Kong-CBS-Wasteland trail, and that the SKD factories he objects to are reusing and recycling the elective upgrades ... he just objects to the parts refurbished.  He hoped the poor will "leapfrog" us, he once told me.

Now, as good as those contract manufacturing factories may be, it's the principle of repairing and refurbishing them prior to export which BAN professes.  Puckett hopes he will create USA CRT monitor refurbishing jobs by requiring "pre -repair" facilities to remove bad capacitors (or working ones that may be upgraded by better ones), effectively eliminating any incentive for the sale to overseas repairpeople.  Banning the export, we'll repair them here!  Tell that to California, which didn't even TEST the working ones when exports were banned - they just shredded them, and now California companies have requested permission to landfill the shredded glass.  That's what created the sellers market, forcing Africans to buy from people willing to stoop to doing business with them.

Safer to stand back, and to clap when they are arrested.  Chains... prison bars... defamation...
Boycotts!! Boycott the poor dammit!!!  It's the only solution to globalization!!!