E-Waste Tragedy 10: The Crime is a Curiosity

This week, in one of my favorite magazines, The Atlantic, we get yet another "Gaze" on Agbogbloshie to finish the year.   Yepoka Yeebo recycles the story that suggest Africans like Emmanuel Nyaletey, Miguel Artur Aziz, Hamdy Moussa, Wahab Muhammed "Project Eden" comes to Africa's rescue, putting African Joseph Benson in prison.

The Tinkerer's Blessing is not "stuff".  The Blessing IS The Tinkerers themselves.  The reuse, repair, shangzhai, ifixit, repairers made Singapore, all the Asian Tiger economies, out of reuse.  They repaired for resale, harvested parts to build around.   Why don't we see that Africa's strongest economic growth is grown by GENIUSES in the same reuse/hacker mode?

The TRAGEDY is that we are putting Tinkerers in jail, accusing them of importing junk for burning (economically impossible), drafting Guidelines around "protecting Eden".  Bullets to the head of Africa's best and brightest, shot by green do-gooders, in a perverse friendly fire.

"The Crime is Curiosity" (1995's The Hackers)

In E-Waste Tragedy 1-6, we dug into the law - or rather "guidelines" for export of used electronics which BJ Electronics was accused of violating.  I believe Joe Benson pleaded guilty (in return for a reduced sentence) because he did not know how to argue that a "Guideline" is not a law.  The Guidelines were developed under the PACE committee, which was charged with reducing the alleged 80% bad exports.   A statistic which was a lie.

A lie supported by "Soddom and Gomorrah" images, and coverage by Scientific American of a fake, fudged, hoax claim mysteriously given credence by Blacksmith Institute a year ago (December 17, 2013).  The Atlantic, ironically, just treads safe ground in Agbogbloshie.

Something had to be done, and the Guidelines were something, therefore Joe Benson had to follow the Guidelines... even though the Guidelines never claim to be law, and the viable recommendations submitted to PACE by the geeks themselves ("elective upgrade") were ignored.  The Guidelines were drafted to provide "guidance" to environmental enforcement agencies, like Chris Smith's UK Environmental Agency, not as guidance for entrepreneurs like Souleymane, Wahab, or Hamdy.  Beat cops, like Cees Van Duijin of Interpol, needed something to tell them whether a sea containerload of used CRT televisions from a hotel LCD upgrade were evidence of #wastecrime.   PACE protected USA and EU refurbishing companies, allowing them to "determine" reuse, with no say from the expert buyers.

Stewardship's Hashtag Selfie  [Top 11 Parodies of "AID" in 2014]

E-Waste Tragedy 9: GUILTSTAINING

"Something Must Be Done.    
X is Something.  
...Therefore, X must be done."

Like the blacksmiths and coal miners of old, the scrap recycling and secondary products industries touch everyone.   Every consumer, in the lowest of middle classes, discards something, and the poorer the generator, the more concerned they are with the value of the material.

So far, that's pure economics, not ethical philosopy.  But because recycling saves trees, and preserves energy and resources for future generations, recycling companies attract more than our share of do-gooders.  I am one of those people who entered this field out of a desire that future generations would consider I made my best effort to be environmentally sustainable.

Little did this recycler realize what a social ethical economic puzzle it would turn out.

Chimpanzee Reading Newspaper SwitchArt™ Print
Who reads this junk?

The ethical scrapper and agent of conscience looks at social and environmental policy.  He finds and magnifies a crack in the morality play, using the commerce in used electronics as a lens.

The Ethical Scrapper coins new terms.  Environmental Malpractice, accidental racism, e-waste hoax, and so forth.

For 2015, here's the debut of "Guilt-Staining".   It is the polar opposite to "greenwashing":  when big corporations shout their environmentally contributions (using advertising budgets) to create green impressions. out of all proportion to their net environmental effects.  Guilt-staining is the allegation of "dirty little secrets".   It leverages already-activated "agents of conscience" (a term coined in high school) into anger, and threatens to take something ACTUALLY green, and stain it with guilt.

Like all recyclers, the ethical scrapper already does much for the world by saving energy, carbon, and finite resources... by reducing the toxic mining of rain forests and coral reef islands.

All recyclers do that, at all levels of a company.  An entire company contributes as a team to win one for the environment.   People running the payroll, or maintaining the fork trucks, or filling the balers all earn a moral share of diverting the burdens of man's consumption of finite resources on the planet.  The recyclers are a team of village blacksmiths, or blackleg miners, working far harder than any regulator or average consumer, in dirtier and more hazardous conditions.   We do much just by being focused on our jobs, collecting material, and recycling it.  Politics would seem to add as much value to recyclers as it adds to mining, agriculture, or laundry, or radio repair.
"Something attempted, something done, has earned a night's repose".

E-Waste Tragedy 8: Four Questions on Top 10 Pollution (Blacksmith Institute, Jack Caravanos)

The Tragedy of Agbogbloshie, the scrap neighborhood of Accra, Ghana, has been a "scene of the crime" which Joe Benson is in prison for.  Among the most credible sources for Benson's crime suspicions came a year ago this month, via Scientific American.  Ghana is not more polluted than any other emerging urban city.   So why, in 2014, is Ghana the  butt of the Scientific American headline?

"E-Waste Dump among Top 10 Most Polluted Sites

A list of the 10 most polluted places on Earth ranges from nuclear sites to e-waste dumps  

Dec 17, 2013 |By David Biello

Searching for #PovertyPorn
Is this the truth?  Is this metal scrapyard in Accra, Ghana, among, close to, remotely, being one of the ten most polluted sites on earth?   Scientific American is important and credible, as is the original source - Blacksmith Institute.

No.  Accra's scrapyard doesn't compare to Chernobyl or mining hotspots like Kabwe or OK Tedi.  It's not pretty, but it is pretty similar to dozens of other auto scrapyards in Guangzhou, Mumbai, Detroit, Jakarta, Rio, etc.

How did the headline above place Accra's automobile, white goods, and electronics scrapyard - and only their scrapyard - on a list with Chernobyl, Ukraine, Kabwe, Zambia, and other mining, smelting, nuclear and petroleum disasters?

In this blog, I'll show you where the research by Blacksmith Institute, behind this headline, was accurate and plentiful.   Unfortunately, one tragic citation led to false arrests, collateral damage, and potentially tarnished the brand of a really fine organization.  As Dr. Josh Lepawsky has described in "Mapping E-waste as a Controversy:  From Statements to Debates II", there has been a pollution of non-peer-reviewed "data" in the discussion of export policy.  It will lead to the end of "top ten" lists from Blacksmith Institute.  

Definition of PRIMUM NON NOCERE:  the first thing (is) to do no harm

E-Waste Tragedy 7: Logical Fallacy ("Something Must Be Done")

Staying on subject.  What lessons can the Environmental Activist Community learn from the "E-Waste Tragedy?"  Does Joseph "Hurricane" Benson belong in prison?  If not, how the heck did he get there, and how do we keep from making the same kind of mistake again?

Turns out, the ancient Greeks had this nailed many centuries ago.

In Orlando, at the E-Scrap 2014 Conference, I actually had a chance to speak to several people on all sides of the "Guidelines" issue.   Most, including Jim Puckett, said of course Joe Benson does not belong in prison.

The person from StEP (Jaco) mostly defended the prison sentence for Benson.  Jaco acknowledged the probability that 91% of Benson's sold good were actually reused, and acknowledged that most of the stuff filmed at the dump was "Post-Reuse", and generated by Ghanaians.   Nevertheless Jaco made the case that "rules are rules".   If the Guidelines "suggest proof of full functionality", that Benson should have known the consequences of his export activity, even if those Guidelines were based on eroneous (BAN.org) claims.  Even if Benson knew they were being reused, and new he was bringing rejects back for free recycling in the UK, prison was warranted.

(Did you notice the term "Guidelines suggest proof is needed"? How about proving the suggestion is warranted?)

Throughout these conversations, we observe the "Appeal to Desperation".


This logical "appeal to desperation" has also been labeled the Politician's Fallacy, and often results in prohibitions, war on drugs, 10 foot fences to foil 9 foot ladders, and many "industry self regulation" standards.  There is a lot of money in providing "Something".

Having studied this for a couple of decades, I'm basically hardening in my position.   Even Mr. Puckett actually offered to sign the petition, and said of course Benson should be released.

Tragedy 6: Now for a Balloon Dream And WhitePrivilege

I woke up between 2-3AM last night, from a very vivid dream (and strong acid reflux from trying too hard to reduce the Thanksgiving leftovers).

In the dream, my company was about to make an announcement about our R2:2013 certification.   As part of the announcement, I had prepared to release dozens of helium balloons, from the garage of my house (I blog and do accounting from an office over the garage).   The balloons were mostly yellow and pink, there may have been a few reds or blues, and they were up against the ceiling of my garage and my office and around the awnings of my home.  (Not sure exactly how I was going to "release" them).

Anyway, who should show up in my dream?   Jim Puckett, executive director of Basel Action Network, came personally in response to the announcement.  He didn't go to the warehouse... he showed up at my home in Middlebury, Vermont... to inspect my balloons.

It was cheerful and amicable, as my conversations with Jim normally are.    Still, I felt the same spike in adrenaline I get when an OSHA or Homeland Security or Vermont EPA (ANR) inspector arrives by surprise.    I was flustered enough, evidently, not to question why E-Stewards was inspecting my R2 certification, or why Jim himself was coming to my home.

Yes.  Jim Puckett was there, at my home garage, to inspect my balloons.  It was some kind of a privilege he had, because I was about to celebrate my certification.

An African Tech Reacts to "The E-Waste Tragedy"

EntertainmentEmmanuel E.P. Nyaletey is an electronics technician, currently on scholarship at Georgia Tech in Marrietta, where he's pursuing a degree in coding.    Emmanuel grew up a few blocks from the alleged largest "e-waste dump" of Agbogbloshie.    He went back to visit Agbogbloshie in March 2014.  Emmanual and I both attended the USA premier of Cosima Dannoritzer's documentary, The E-Waste Tragedy hosted by Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network... the inspiration of my past 6 blog posts.

Nyaletey has written an essay, reacting to the film, and it was posted on the ISRI.org blog last week.
It is worth a humble read.

Link:    My Reaction to the Film 'The E-Waste Tragedy' by Emmanuel Nyaletey.

The urbanization, electrification, and rapid development in African cities and other "emerging markets" is changing not just the landscape of Africa, but the foundations of the Guilt-AID industry.

 Since the BAN.org NGO publicly denied its previous claims that most of Africa's imports are "reuse excuse" junk, destined for "primitive recycling", the internet has begun to explode with exasperation, much of it (like Emmanuel's essay) written as eyewitness accounts.

William Buffett's essay, "The Charitable Industrial Complex", Cassandra Herrman's documentary #Framed, Heather Agyepong's "The Gaze on Agbogbloshie", and the "Rusty Radiator Awards" are well-heeled responses this blog has been inspired by over the past year.   What's harder to document are the less well produced, naturally exasperated reactions by ordinary businesspeople (like Joseph Benson) who trade "good enough" product to Africa's metropoleses (new articles in New Republic and the Guardian at bottom).

Check out the reaction to Bob Geldoff's "Band AID" on this UK talk show program.

Ghana Geek fixes Camera at Good Point Recycling
The lens is turning.  The photographers, and exotic gaze itself, is being examined by a new generation, born decades after "loving vs. virginia".  Touche pas a mon pote, biensur.

E-Waste Tragedy 5: The Guideline to Eden

( Alternative title:  The E-Waste Comedy? )

"Hurricane Joe Benson" is locked up in a UK prison, away from his family.  His home is at stake, his retirement at stake, because he pleaded guilty to violating GUIDELINES.   Guidelines designed by policy wonks, in response to lies, to protect Africans (from Africans)...

No offense to E-Stewards... but instead of donating to BAN.org, environmentalists should be contributing to a class action defamation lawsuit.

Here is a link to the "Guidelines", developed in Europe, to save Africans from Africans.  The "Guidelines" are behind "Project Eden", INTERPOL's effort to divert some international police away from ivory, drug, and guns dealers to focus on television repair in Ghana and Nigeria.  Those jobs are documented by UN research to reuse 91% of the material they import, generating 6 times the average wages in those countries, and providing access to mass media without mining, refining, generating carbon, etc.

The whole thing reminds me a bit of "Escape to Chimp Eden", the Animal Planet program hosted by Eugene Cussons.  Cussons rescues poor chimpanzees and brings them safely from bad zoos to good zoos.   Except that the technicians in Africa are by far smarter, and know more, than either the "experts" on "e-waste" in Europe or the chimps.   They could give Kyle Wiens of IFIXIT a run for his money.   This whole idea of guidelines to train Chinese and Africans to properly repair and recycle... is a tragedy in the making.

By far the worst #WhiteSaviorComplex film I have seen is Dannonitzer's "The E-Waste Tragedy".  I don't like to drop the "r" word, but the film takes the word of a bigot who makes money selling shameful images and uses them to raise money for his own salary, and to put technicians in jail.

Alternative title:  The E-Waste Comedy? continued

E-Waste Tragedy 4: The Perils Of Guidelines Drafted from False Perception (Ipsos MORI blog)

Ipsos MORI meets South Park's Satan...

This is the fourth part of a series of blogs following the documentary "The E-Waste Tragedy".  Emceed by Jim Puckett, premiered at the E-Scrap Conference 2014 in Orlando, the film by Cosima Dannonitzer purported to show junk electronics, dumped in Ghana.   They "followed the trail" back to the electronics origins in England.   I viewed the film with Emmanuel Eric Prempeh Nyaletey, who grew up a few blocks from Agbogbloshie, Accra's scrapyard.  He was carrying a petition to #FreeJoeBenson, the Nigerian expat sitting in prison in the UK for "violating e-waste export guidelines", and no one at the conference wanted to sign it.

Ipsos MORI is one of the UK's leading research organizations.   The website describes Ipsos MORI's 16,000 research staff in 84 countries.  Like Q-method, the organization relies on face-to-face interviews.   They get the real data for IMF, World Bank, and UN factbooks.   Last Month, Ipsos MORI published research titled "Perceptions are Not Reality:  Things the World Gets Wrong".

The Perceptions are Not Reality publication focuses on the "top ten" things which the majority of people in a society (14) perceive wrongly about themselves, about their own, local and national, civilization.  The web page starts with statistics, perceived and real, about facts on the ground in Great Britain:

"In Great Britain we get a lot of things very wrong…"
  1. Teenage pregnancy: the British think one in six (16%) of all teenage girls aged 15-19 give birth each year, when the actual figure is only 3%.
  2. Muslims: we hugely over-estimate the proportion of Muslims in Britain – we think one in five British people are Muslims (21%) when the actual figure is 5% (one in twenty).
  3. Christians: in contrast, we underestimate the proportion of Christians - we think 39% of the country identify themselves as Christian compared with the actual figure of 59%.
  4. Immigration: we think 24% of the population are immigrants – which is nearly twice the real figure of 13%.
  5. Ageing population: we think the British population is much older than it actually is – the average estimate is that 37% of the population are 65+, when it is in fact only 17%.
  6. Voting: we underestimate the proportion of the electorate that voted in the last general election - the average guess is 49% when the official turnout was much higher at 66%.
  7. Unemployment: we think nearly 24% of the working age population are unemployed when the actual figure is much lower at 7%.
  8. Life expectancy: we overestimate our life expectancy by three years, thinking the average for a child born in 2014 will be 83 years, when the actual estimate is 80 years.
  9. Murder rates: we are however one of the best informed countries on the murder rate: 49% saying it is falling (which is correct), and only 25% think it is rising

Unfortunately if not surprisingly, the USA perceptions aren't even as accurate as the UKs.

The perceptions of risks, and how those (mis-)perceptions are monetized when they go viral, has long been a theme of this blog.   But mis-perception and misconception, by itself, is not a tragedy.

Knowledge of the world around us is increasing, societies are becoming more aware of one another, and if Ipsos MORI continues to survey people over time, I hope they find that the trend in the perceptions will become more accurate.  We are more frightened by ebola than we should be, but 50 years ago, would we have known about ebola at all?

Misperception of facts do not make a "tragedy" unless we gear up to act on those "faux facts".   And what motivates society?


Got misperception?   Use it to motivate and market to regulators.

7 Steps To Create a Profitable Hoax (#ewastegate)

No one denies that the volume of unwanted electronic scrap is growing.   Gadgets improve lives around the world.   They don't work forever.  But they often have more than one life.

Display devices (more than half of all the e-Scrap) are like used automobiles.  The average life of an automobile (15k miles per year, 200k miles per car) is about 13 years... some last longer, some shorter.   But the average first ownership of cars is less than 50 months, or about 4 years.    

Some people (with means) like to buy new cars every 3-5 years. Same goes for television and video displays.   Just as the cars roll around for twice the number of years they were used by the first owner, there's a secondary market for TVs, PCs, and their display devices.   

How can a do-gooder create a $3M non-profit out of the used appliance (or used car) market? Two parts White Guilt, one part Exotic Locale Photos, one Fake Statistic.  Print millions, move on. 

For more, visit 2010 "Top Ten Myths of #ewastegate"

1.  Create a fake 'e-waste' news crisis  

Tell all the environmentalists that you have a "dirty little secret"... that most of the electronic material they have brought in to recycling centers didn't really get recycled in the USA, or at all.   CBS 60 Minutes, PBS Frontline, NPR, USA Today, BusinessWeek, BBC will come running to you with the microphone.  You are marketing a believable message to people who are already "activated" on the topic (already making the effort to bring old gear for recycling).

This is key, you aren't trying to convince people to care, you are taking people who already care and convincing them of a scandal.   For example:

TRAGEDY 3: (Video) Puckett Defends "Guidelines" Developed Under Hoax

"When something is "claimed" to be exported for repair... but is actually exported for primitive dumping...."  Africans are accused of relocating to Europe in order to do this to other Africans, and #GreatWhiteSavior is here to help.

Better, listen to Jim make BAN's case, on video, and on his own behalf.   Below is the case for the "guidelines" which would rewrite Basel Convention's Annex IX, B1110 (the unamended Convention explicitly makes Hurricane Joe Benson's exports legal, See Part 1).  In the video testimony below, Jim Puckett admits that they are legal under the Basel Convention.   They'd be "illegal" under the "Guidelines" proposed under the Basel Ban Amendment, developed under the cloud of his hoax statistics.   As he describes, those Guidelines are being implemented in Europe.  Those were the Guidelines the UK Barrister used to convict Hurricane Benson.  Below is Puckett's impassioned case not to "roll them back" (i.e. why we should still amend the Convention with the hoax-fed Guidelines).


Tragedy 2: The"Non-profit" Sanctimony Source Code

New Orleans non-for-profit public school - Ruby Bridges 1960 - Happy Birthday
Do not mistake "margins" for greed.   Having a margin, or "profit", on a transaction is like insurance.  Someday you will have another transaction... an unintended loss, or a call for help. Your margin allows you to have a positive impact on other peoples lives (employees, creditors, family).  Things don't always go as planned.  There is no place that's more true than Africa.

In the words of an old chum at the University of Arkansas, here's how most of us see wealth.
'I see dollars kind of like I see calories.  When I see a person who doesn't get enough calories, who's skinny and weak, it makes me uncomfortable.  It's unattractive.   When I see someone who's getting more calories then they need, I kind of see it like an obese person.  It's unattractive.   I like to be around healthy people who make enough money.' - Bertrand X?, friend at U of A
But there is an entire group of people who think "profit" is "likely bad".  They are anti-globalist.  And they often seek out a once-obscure federal tax statute to "certify" business partnership.

"Your company is for profit.  I work for a non-profit.  You shouldn't charge me recycling fees."  

I made more money working for non-profits than I have made running a small business, and I have helped more disadvantaged people with my business than I helped working in the not-for-profit sector.  I'll demonstrate that later.   But using a tax code to predict environmental outcomes was a key ingredient in the decade's "e-waste tragedy".  I'm not going to attack non-profits, but the belief that the tax status is necessary or sufficient to predict best behavior will attract wolves in sheeps' clothing.

Why do people attach a moral fetish to a federal corporate income tax filing statute?  What's with the obsession over corporate filings, as an indicator of morality? Why are some people more suspicious when I take my personal savings, buy a truck, drive it for income, and pay taxes on that income?  What makes a federal tax category more "honest" and more "trustworthy" than a small business?

Tragedy 1: Export for Reuse is Better, and Legal Too

"Ending is better than mending, ending is better than mending, ending is better …" -                  - Brave New World / Aldous Huxley               

Export for repair and reuse is specifically legal.  Not just saying 'it's not explicitly banned'.  It is specifically and explicitly stated to be legal inside the text of the Basel Convention.

"B1110 Electrical and electronic assemblies:
  • Electronic assemblies consisting only of metals or alloys
  • Waste electrical and electronic assemblies or scrap(13) (including printed circuit boards) not containing components such as accumulators and other batteries included on list A, mercury-switches, glass from cathode-ray tubes and other activated glass and PCB-capacitors, or not contaminated with Annex I constituents (e.g., cadmium, mercury, lead, polychlorinated biphenyl) or from which these have been removed, to an extent that they do not possess any of the characteristics contained in Annex III (note the related entry on list A A1180)
  • Electrical and electronic assemblies (including printed circuit boards, electronic components and wires) destined for direct reuse,(14) and not for recycling or final disposal(15)
14. Reuse can include repair, refurbishment or upgrading, but not major reassembly.
15. In some countries these materials destined for direct re-use are not considered wastes."

But more and more people are confused, or downright fooled, about international law.   "Sure, Africans are repairing as well as reusing, and reuse is better than recycling, but the export is illegal under the Basel Convention".

For an expert source on the Basel Convention, unamended, please consider the position of the Basel Action Network, in their 1999 piece "Why The US Must Ratify the Entire Basel Convention (or None At All)"  It's Jim Puckett's complaint about what he sees as the weakness of the Basel Convention, and saying that only nations which had voted for the Ban Amendment get it right.
"It is our conclusion that US ratification of the original 1989 treaty without simultaneous ratification of its Ban Amendment will equate to a net loss for the global environment and the protection of developing countries. Until the United States changes its position within the Basel Convention and decides to join the rest of the global community in ending the most abusive form of the international waste trade -- export of hazardous waste to developing countries it would be much better for the earth and its inhabitants to keep the US out of the game entirely."
The Basel BAN Amendment is a proposed, unpassed and unratified language which would make export for repair and reuse just as illegal as the export of waste.  It represents votes by representatives to the international secretariat.    They come together every couple of years, and BAN lobbies them to alter the rules in the convention (see video Part III).  Basel Action Network calls "loopholes" in the Convention, and perhaps they are and perhaps they aren't... but democracies leave those changes for legislatures and executive branches to decide (else many governments would never sign any treaty, if it could be changed by representatives appointed by non-elected officials in other lands, and the changes were binding on the democracies.).

Most see the Amendment as recommendations voted on by representatives of "parties" who attend Basel Convention meetings and conferences.  At Basel Action Networks urging, these committees take votes to add to the upcoming "Amendment".   Nations are free to incorporate the various "amendments" into their national laws, and many European governments do this (adapt Guidelines into the WEEE rules, for example).   But most nations don't, because it would be unconstitutional to have a bunch of people at a meeting who are not even citizens, much less elected representatives, vote in changes of law.

The USA, and most nations, take the position that once their legislatures ratify a Convention, that the language in the Convention as passed is the law until/unless the legislatures ratify later amendments adn suggestions.  Jim Puckett cannot attend a meeting in Vienna and vote a change to USA law.

That is a proposed AMENDMENT to the current Basel Convention Law.  It is not the law!
The current Basel Convention explicitly states under Annex IX (legal exports) section B1110 on electronics that electronic assemblies and cathode ray tubes specifically are legal for export for repair and that signatories can consider these "non-waste".   They are also specifically mentioned as non-waste commodities in the "cores" and refurbishing WTO agreement (Doha Round).

Term "Third World" is Anti-Second-Hand Propaganda

How "e-Waste Tragedy" propaganda is imprisoning African Geeks, Nerds, and Technicians.

  1. The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either NATO (with the United States, Western European nations and their allies representing the First World), or the Communist Bloc (with the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and their allies representing the Second World).
  2. Third World - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Ok.  So, the number of people who are not aligned with either the Soviets or NATO is... irrelevant.

Now, we all have friends who are overly anxious to impart their trust quickly on the statistic which affirms their bias.   The "bias confirmation" here could be something Eric and I suffer from.

We see that people are being arrested for importing stuff which mostly works.  To us, banning the trade between rich and poor makes as much sense as outlawing the used car market.

Stunning, Profound Ignorance Of International Cultures: 3B3K

I was watching a Nigerian television interview with pop singer Nneka Lucia Egbuna this morning, and making travel plans with Ghana Electronics Technician and new WR3A Board Member Emmanuel Eric Prempeh Nyaletey.   Eric will be attending this year's Resource Recycling E-Scrap Conference in Orlando.

Nigeria has morning news programs, kind of like our Today Show, or CBS This Morning, which people in Lagos watch while drinking coffee in their apartment buildings, getting ready for the morning traffic jams and commute to work.

Over the years, WR3A has sponsored travel to E-Scrap conferences for many international representatives.  Su Fung and Allen Liu of Malaysia, Roberto and Alice Valenzuela, and Oscar A. Orta and Mariano Huchim of Mexico, Wahab Muhammed Odoi of Ghana, Souleymane Sao of Senegal, Hamdy Mousa of Egypt, to name a few.  Emmanuel Eric is special, however.  He's a geek from Accra who was head technician for Good Point Recycling in Vermont for 2 years, and he flew back to Ghana last spring to revisit Agbogbloshie and the tech/repair warehouses in Accra.

Emmanuel Eric Prempeh Nyaletey fixes Good Point Security Camera
Emmanuel Eric will be circulating the #FreeHurricaneBenson petition, and trying to get people to renew their WR3A.org memberships.  He'll also be answering questions about Africa.

No, they don't all have Ebola.   No, they don't pay money to import e-waste for copper value.  Yes, they have had television and computers for decades and generate their own e-scrap. 

Emmanuel Eric is now on a full scholarship for coding at Georgia Tech, but we are looking for people to help us pay him to keep him at least part time working for Fair Trade Recycling.

7th Year Blogging Anniversary Landscape: A Black Sabbath

That's the Landscape in Vermont.

view from the vermont office

I've probably got two times as much unpublished blogging in the drafts folder as I have in the published column.    It's hard to write as an unpaid amateur.  But it's harder for professional writers to write about recycling and other trades accurately and meaningfully.

We occasionally get a rare hybrid, like Adam Minter, who (because he grew up as a child of scrap metal businessparents) had previous exposure to the trade before getting a degree and becoming a writer.   And we have trade journals, like Recycling International, Resource Recycling, and Recycling Today and Waste360 and Scrap, which (if they retain a writer long enough) build enough reference points to amount to expertise.  But they also have paid advertisers.

And we get opinionated profit seekers. I'd point fingers, but know that same finger has been pointed at me.  When most of your money comes from either export or shredding to prevent export, you have expertise and you have bias.

Does anyone play a game they don't intend to win something for?

Black Sabbath.  Clash.  Neil Young.  Woodie Guthrie, perhaps?

This year I decided to improve the quality of the blogs, and as a result I have fewer posts and a bigger "draft" folder.   The drafts are particularly heavy when I decided to attempt something grand, like the "Game Theory" blogs.

"Game Theory" blog drafts have some of the most insightful writing I've had all year, but it's difficult to make it actually readable.  I had about 12 blogs worth of "game theory" insight, weaving the psychology of self-interest into the morality claims on both sides.   It led at times to a rather gruesome truce, more of a free market than fair trade.  If everyone has a way to "win" the game, anyone can try to influence the rules to make them more likely to win.

Game Theory draft blogs were about how people make decisions to do stuff based on their own situation.  At times they factor in the behavior of other people.  In the "e-waste" trade, the decision Africans make is to "get access to mass media".  The way to get TV and computers on  a limited income is to buy used product.  It's exactly, exactly the same as the game theory which predicts USA teenagers buy used cars unless their wealthy parents by new for them.  Africans buy used display devices unless they have wealthy parents buying them new ones.

The theory that the trade is driven by avoided pollution costs in the UK or USA has been completely disproven, but the theory itself has "game theory" value for certain players.

1.  Planned Obsolescence
2.  Big Shred
3.  Dictators (who oppose affordable internet)
4,  Regulators (who want a "crisis" to inflate their budget)
5.  Reporters and Conference Holders (who make money on the "sizzle", not the steak)

It's a powerful set of players. "Evil minds that plot (device) destruction..."

s h r e d     p i g s

How to Use Twitter in E-Waste Research (Fatty Fatty Boom Boom style)

I was a huge skeptic of Twitter when microblogging first came out.  Reading page after page of what people I was "following" were "doing" at that minute?  Writing back what I'm "doing"?   Seemed like a South Park episode waiting to happen (and it was).

Within about 6 months, however, I found out how to use Twitter.   Simple.

Twitter is about its SEARCH BOX.

In the search box, you use keywords, and it greatly multiplies the number of experts and opinions and views that you are exposed to.  And increasingly, you can find the words of African TEchs talking about their own view of the "E-Waste Poster Child From Disney" debates.

Just this week alone:   "The Gaze On Agbogbloshie, Misrepresentation At Ghana's E-Waste Dumpsite" by Heather Agyepong.   Heather is also covered here at Carbon Creative Arts.

“My initial intention was to understand how waste could still be illegally dumped in Ghana and understand the conditions about how people felt. However when I arrived it was nothing of what I had read about the place. It was just super organised and not as dystopic as I thought. From the month I spent with the boys who live and work in Agbogbloshie, I wanted the images to represent that distortion. The images have that cross process look which leaves the images looking apocalyptic. I wanted this to exemplify how the western gaze effects our understanding, not just in Africa but how we can see other issues.”
Through Twitter, you find what Interpol is doing ("Project Eden" seems de-emphasized in this months Interpol Africa newsletter, in favor of wildlife crime... a welcome turn if it's sustained).   More emphasis on putting Elephant Poachers in jail, rather than Nigerian TV repairmen.

LIVE from UNH's Post Landfill Action Network: Internship, #FreeHurricaneBenson

Presenting to 150 Recycling "Zero Waste" Activists in Durham NH.  

1)  We go LIVE with the iPetition to #FREE Hurricane Joe Benson (see tab at right)
2)  We go LIVE with the Fair Trade Recycling Ambassador Program Applications (Internship).

Much has been written, and will be written, about Joe Benson's ridiculous trial, convicted based on the "common knowledge" that the "majority" of TVs and electronics he purchased would be dumped and burned.

The Fair Trade Recycling Ambassador Program is being launched to recruit students interested in international travel to fly to countries where used electronics are being purchased and interview the buyers.  Find out what's being dumped (if anything) and negotiate improvements (if necessary).

WR3A/FairTradeRecycling would provide relief to the legitimate Geeks Of Color - like Benson's buyers - who are being branded as ignorant children.   A college educated Recycling Ambassador could go to Agbogbloshie and find out where the dumped TVs came from (as Grace from Memorial University did, finding they were collected in carts from the City of Ghana, NOT from sea container yards).  At the same time, if the buyers aren't all they claim to be, that could also be revealed.

Instead of "fly and buy" (or "fly and lie"), think of it as "fly and sell".

Embedded image permalink

Snapshot of Lagos Nigeria. Not your daddy's "Third World" country

When Basel Action Network shows a junk television at an African dump, and then accuses African traders of doing mysterious favors to avoid UK or USA's recycling costs, it hits a chord... with people who have never lived in Africa.

If you've spent time in Africa, you know the real problems in Africa are things like TRAFFIC JAMS.

Multiple reports show that most of Africa's e-waste is generated by Africans.  Cities like Lagos (over 15M inhabitants) have televisions and computers and cell phones, have had them for decades.  

And it's a good thing.  People are much more likely to get their electronics from repair and reuse, which creates sustainable African jobs, for geek entrepreneurs, than from new tantalum mining in the Congo or tin mining of Indonesian coral islands.

And it's fundamentally good.  That's why it's so criminal for UK's Environmental Agency to put the Geeks of Color, like Joe Benson, in jail.

From 2010 to 2014, Africa's Internet usage increased by...
5,219.6 %
Here's a link to da stats http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

UK Continues to Falsely Imprison African Expat for "WASTECRIME"

15 Reasons to Free Joseph Benson of BJ Electronics, falsely convicted of "e-waste" crime.


I will repost this soon with hot links to the trial documents, hopefully by this weekend.

1)  The Guardian, Murdoch's SkyNews, BBC, Economist and Independent (2012) Newspapers all reacted to public statements by Lord Chris Smith's environmental agency that exports of televisions and computers for repair was "against international law".

2)  The international law in question, the Basel Convention, specifically describes this as legal activity and does not ban reuse or repair, only dumping.   (LCS may be referring to a proposed amendment to the Basel Convention which has not been passed or ratified.  Violating a proposed rule is not a crime!)

3)  The allegation made in court against the expat trader to Africa ("Hurricane" Benson) relied on "statistics" about the likelihood of dumping, provided by Greenpeace and the NGO Basel Action Network.   Both of these organizations have been quoted by LCS and by the press, stating that "up to 80%" of what the African traders ship to Africa is destined for primitive recycling.  NOW THEY DENY SAYING IT!  That's right - nothing was found "dumped", but based on BAN.org claims, Benson's prosecutor said it was "LIKELY" dumped, and he was put in prison based on "likelihood", given BAN's statistics.

4)  The photos these organizations (press and NGOs) use to make the case are taken at the city dumps of huge cities (Lagos, Accra).  According to the World Bank, these countries have had millions of televisions in use for decades.  The number of Nigerians with personal computers?  12 Million.  The UK and "Project Eden" depict Africa as if from Disney's "Lion King", while Africans are dealing with their own growing piles of e-Scrap, cell phone towers, and massive traffic jams.

-- Link:  UN Report "Domestic Consumption is the Main Contributor to African "E-Waste" --

5)  Photographs of junk Toyotas in London or Lagos do not prove Japanese guilty of wastecrime, and photos of junk TVs at Ghana landfills do not prove the Trader violated any laws or shipped any junk.  Africa has been "rapidly developing" for decades.

6) During the widespread reporting that exports of used electronics to Africa were mostly junk, the Basel Secretariat and UNEP participated in a two year scientific analysis to research containerloads shipped from London, including many by the accused Nigerian expatriot in prison.   Examination of hundreds of Sea Containers found 91% of product was useful - better than brand new product sold in Africa!  MIT, Memorial University, Arizona State, USITC, and other studies all confirm the "ewaste" import statistic (80%) was a hoax.

7)  Evidence presented in the UK court trial included no such test for repairability, or even tested the equipment in the containers, relying on "widespread knowledge" disseminated by Basel Action Network (repeated by Lord Chris Smith).  (LINKS COMING THIS WEEKEND)

8)  "Likely"?  Or NOT?   Basel Action Network has not just withdrawn the 80% dumping statistic, they actually disavowed it.

9)  "Hurricane" Benson is in jail, despite no evidence of a crime, a trophy on the wall for #wastecrime enforcement.   Benson's guilty plea was admitted at the end of a long appeal, when the judge had admonished him, and he was offered a commuted sentence (16 months rather than 60) only if he accepted a guilty plea.

10)  The cost of shipping 500 televisions from London to Lagos or Accra is higher than the cost of recycling them in the UK...  The entire "waste export" (for avoided recycling cost) theory was never tested and is mathematically impossible... it can be disproved with a simple review of Benson's receipts and costs of shipping.

11)  Pages and pages of individual brands and models listed in the African traders containers in Benson's court records show relatively new units, hand selected.  Who writes down the model number of a TV before they burn it??

12)  The World Bank statistics on households with TV in use in Africa (e.g. 6.9 million households in Nigeria as of 2006) cannot be explained via new unit sales, and offer proof that past imports were not "mostly waste".  There were not enough "new" TVs imported to explain World Bank's households-with-TV statistic.

13)  The argument that "even working televisions will one day become waste" is true of brand new computers, cell phones, and TVs, and reflects a colonialist regulation.  We do not restrict ourselves from importing new devices made in Asia until we have a recycling system for them in the USA.

14)  Planned obsolescence and non-tariff barriers applied to the secondary market is an old trick. Recent investigations by the US International Trade Commission found absolutely no evidence of the 80% waste export claims, and no evidence that "waste" shipments to Africa were common.

15)  The NGOs which raise money on the photos of children posed with E-Waste do not share a dime of the donation with the children.  Rather, they seek to put the kids parents in jail.

Quantitative studies supporting Benson:  15.   Evidence of Wrongdoing?: 0


Lord Chris Smith is probably not a bad person.  Jim Puckett isn't a bad person.  They are just wickedly late admitting they were WRONG about the "e-waste" hoax, and at this point there is an innocent man in JAIL and all I get from Basel Action Network is a statement about "collateral damage".   E-Stewards have to demand this be fixed, Chris Smith needs to look at the references to his quotes in Benson's sentencing and make some calls to get Benson out of there.

Blacksmith Institute has, in 2015, abandoned it's "ranking" of "top most polluted sites", but only after offering legitimacy to the BAN fake and disavowed statistics about Agbogbloshie.  The year Blacksmith listed Agbogbloshie at the top of their Top Ten List is the year Joe Benson was locked in a United Kingdom prison cell.  #SHAME ON MY ENVIRONMENTALIST TRIBE.

Africans and other "geeks of color" see this as just one of many racist, colonialist, poverty porn, planned obsolescence driven acts by Europeans and do-gooders.  It's a sin to kill a mockingbird.

Game Theory 3: Monopoly Itch Mite Cure

Part of what makes game theory interesting is the use of analogies to analyze rules.   Gedankenexperiment (Thought experiment) is a game theory approach to philosophy and ethics.   And for an Ethical E-Waste blog, its a way to view a situation from 20,000 feet.

Wikipedia - Schrödinger coined the term Verschränkung (entanglement).

What if one player uses a different set of dice than another player?  If that player won 60% of 1,000 games, you'd want to control for imbalanced dice... but you'd have spent a lot of time playing in order to prove it, so it seems better if both players have to use the same die without the effort to prove one set of dice is faulty.  That requires an umpire, an authority, an NFL, and NBA, a regulator.

In non-democratic communist governments, the authority is itself a monopoly.  Regulators can be paid off, and you can't go to court to appeal weighted the dice.  In capitalism, the use of patents and trademarks create temporary, time-sensitiv,e monopolies... the authorities enforce your monopoly for a limited amount of time, which does promote research and invention.  The use of a combination of government regulators and capitalist corporations is a horrible system, the worst, except for all the other ones.

As this week's thought experiment, lets look at a theoretical entanglement of ethics and patent law.

What about... PermaChiggerInc?

What if a corporation - PermaChigger - cross bred some kind of chigger and itch mite to develop a type of scabies resistant to sulfur, to permathrin, and neem  oil.. resistant to every treatment except their trademarked GMO petrochemical?  The entire world is scratching its collective butt off, and the money rolls in.   The GMO treatment can be manufactured at scale, cheaper to produce and more profitable.  Empty bottles of PermaChigger become as common as litter from bottled water.

That's about the worst capitalist system I can think of.  It's similar to AIDS conspiracy theories of a decade ago, but the AIDS conspiracy doesn't make sense because it kills the clients.  Mite management might make more sense.

Short of being caught contaminating people on purpose, the corporation has engineered itself a guaranteed profit.  They don't even need to do the dirty work of enforcing it, they have government trade commissions and international police to stop the sale of counterfeit and copied product.  I'm not anti-capitalist, and the system here is the one which AIDS and Ebola have the highest chance of being brought under control.

Profit ensues.

Now imagine a Nigerian man, Benson, who has never been to school, from a pidgin speaking corner of an inner city Lagos slum, has the itch.  A six foot six man weighing 260 pounds, he's black as they come and looks scary as all hell when he gets mad.  He has the genetically modified mites, his wife has it, his kids have it, all their neighbors in Lagos are scratching their thighs off.  But they can't afford the Capitalist GMO treatement.  It's not a fatal condition, but life would be a lot better if he thought of a solution.

Game Theory 2: #EWaste Players and Stakes

Live from New Orleans, International finalists for Recycling Innovator Prize (c: Resource Recycling)

Game Theory continues.    Can the policy over #ewaste, the tiny little environmental niche of electronic device recycling, be assessed best via the individual conflict and cooperation strategy of decision-makers?   Or rather by the environmental risk and benefit of the environmental impacts?

Competition, evolution, survival of the fittest... in societal groupthink, it's called Survivor.

I wasn't.  Ah well.  Neither was my reuse business model.

Over the years, this blog has examined how "legacy display devices" movement is better explained by reuse value than by "avoided disposal costs".  Used CRTs from the USA compete with new CRTs made in Chinese factories in 2002.   Used CRTs provide ten-fold increase in internet access in cities ruled by anti-democratic governments.   Cheap secondary devices compete against new.  The planned obsolescence, or anti-gray-market forces, join an alliance with "parasites of the poor".  The NGOs see the visibility of their "cause celebre" picked up by more journalists, turning donations into enterprise.

The rules in any game are bought into by the players at the table.   The rules are set by environmental officials who don't know an SVGA monitor from a monochrome flat panel display.   The rules are enforced by international police, beat cops who act on the information given by journalists, following the footsteps of Lord Chris Smith.   "I'm reporting on a really big and important story," says the journalist... and "80% exported to primitive wire burning operations" becomes the single critical ruling enforced by umpires on the field to protect Africa and China's Eden-ism (or the value of the primitive imagery to westerners, who seem to almost see huge African city-scapes - development itself - as a loss of vacation habitat).

The story builds interest in the Game.  And public interest in the game is currency.  Every perceived crisis is an opportunity.  Even if the water samples in Guiyu, China, actually measured textile dying factories from upstream, the awareness brought to "E-Waste" can be turned into a game changer.

Game Theory 1: African Can't Fight UK City Hall

Hurricane Joe Benson (#FreeHurricaneBenson) spent years on appeal before concluding he couldn't fight "City Hall."   
 "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake." - Sayre's Law (Wallace S. Sayre)
In a small pond, big fish are kings.   And intellectuals talking about a rather obscure niche of world recycling policy have become empowered by the smaller audience.   You learn that the proportionality of Sayre's principle cuts both ways... the big stakes questions about recycling policy go "whoosh" over the heads of local decision makers.  And the small contracts, small business disputes, small business accusations, and "people from third world countries", can whip City Hall into a frenzy.

Game Theory is the study of strategic actions in multi-decision-maker scenarios.  Game Theorists may use math - especially statistics - to predict how the number of actors involved in a decision affect the outcome.  Or they may measure the wealth of the outcome, and how its control affects the behavior of stakeholders and decision makers.  Look at it this way - the strategy and outcome of a game of RISK is affected by the number of players.  If you have six players, a goal of controlling a continent is much more difficult to achieve than a game with three players.  If you get to keep the cards of an eliminated player, timing that player's elimination (so you execute their final play and get their cards) becomes more important than the extra pieces you achieve by controlling a continent.

As players are eliminated, the sea of stakeholders gets smaller and smaller.  The stakes in the economy, per player, get larger.

[Note:  I'm on my way to New Orleans for the Recycling Innovators Forum... leaving in 20 minutes.]

A small set of stakeholders interested in an outcome starts to resemble a "small pond", as goals and perspectives become less diverse.  This in turn defines the law, or the rules about behavior concocted by the remaining participants.  But as the economy or stakes become greater, more people want to play at the table.  This "game theory" analysis explains a lot about electronics recycling policy, perhaps so much that no one even notices the lack of actual data on the "risks" to be mitigated.  Free and fair trade is almost presumed guilty, and in a rush to make rules, any rule may do.  And the rules are being made by a small group of players:  OEMs, Big Shred, Poverty Pornographers, and the contract managers at City Hall.

Take an online game of poker, with real cash stakes, with players on 5 continents.   A vote comes up, which lettering to use on the playing cards, Chinese characters or western Arabic?

Australia, Europe, North America, and South America vote against the Asian card numbering... and like the JDowsett's Ferguson-themed Racism by Bike Blog, the game is subtly biased in a way that a Western observer won't even notice.   Language is in many ways a better lens than color or bike-vs.-car for studying how majority behavior dictates systems.  Debating use of language used at "City Hall" is a better study for "tyranny of the majority", perhaps, than calling darker skin a "minority" in a world geography, precisely because it takes us away from "You're not Trayvon" jingoism.

Apparently, I'm now defending JDowsett and the Racism by Bicycle Blog.   But I'm also trying to demonstrate how finger-pointing do-gooders can create a carnage of collateral damage in a rush to make rules they haven't the time to vet.   Primum non nocere ... first, do no harm.

CRT Glass Recycling "Breakthrough" - Innovator Award Finalist

Great News!

After 5 years of trials at our sister company "Retroworks de Mexico" (see NPR Living on Earth, and MarketPlace), approval of the glass recycling system under EPA CRT Rule last year, and a $469,000 "Fair Trade Recycling" research grant with 3 universities to study the process, Good Point Recycling's CRT Glass management is in the news again.

This month we are being flown as a FINALIST to the National Recycling Innovators Forum in New Orleans, hosted by the national Resource Recycling Conference. This is a very prestigious national competition, which includes all types of recycling innovation (paper, glass, plastic, compost, you name it).  Our "Fundente Production Partnership" (FPP) proposal is recognized as a way for electronics recyclers across the nation to cooperatively share in this new market.  Basically, it supports the use of old TV CRT glass as leaded silicate to replace as a necessary ingredient in copper, zinc and gold smelting.  A single copper smelter we are working with in Mexico uses over 200 tons per day of leaded silicate "fundente" or fluxing agent, and copper smelters (like Phelps Dodge in Arizona) would also become end markets in replacing mined Angelsite, Feldspar, and other virgin leaded silicates for their smelting processes.

News about the Innovators Forum is here, the winning proposal submitted by Good Point Recycling of Middlebury, Vermont is described here (FPP).

 (Breakthrough, or "break, threw"?)

White Liberal Checks Privileges by Bicycle

Two friends shared a link to a blog by Michigan preacher and blogger JDowsett, who hit the Facebook lottery with a blog last week, "What My Bike Has Taught Me about White Privilege".   It is well written.

Liberal white privilege college students 1981
It has been one of those months when a lot of social and racial soul-searching is going on in the USA.  The mysterious shooting of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri...  Without going into a lot about that case here, I'll just put this link to Cracked.com "7 Important Details that No One Mentions about Ferguson" (my Facebook status for much of the week).  The language is salty, but I think Cracked has definitely evolved from a Mad Magazine rip-off in the 1970s to some of the best editorial writing on the web today.  Here's a shot of my status, including a snippet of the article.
Dudes... Cracked.com has grown into something, like... way different from "Mimic MAD". I've actually considered quitting to go work for Cracked, it's today's editorial.
Robin Ingenthron BTW It's a longer article than usual in Cracked and the language is quite quite salty. But there are some great points made, e.g.: "Aside from protesters throwing rocks and things at police, you've probably heard reports that LOOTERS and RIOTERS were at the protests, and that is true, .... There were people at these protests who got out of hand (some from out of town, some not), and the community paid for it. But small groups of drunken youths do not a riot make, especially when it's surrounded by much larger groups of completely peaceful protesters. Most of them are just like any average citizen in America. If you have to, just imagine that all of these protesters also happen to be white. Hope that helps."

Note the distinction the author Cody Johnston makes about how a mass protest gets labelled as a "riot" less easily in our minds if we "just imagine that all these protesters also happen to be white".   It's much the same point I make ad nauseum about TV repair... people perceive an African TV repairman as a little more dangerous, a little more criminal.  #HurricaneJoeBenson did not get six bullets like Mike Brown, but the time they took to defame him and prosecute him was a slow motion train wreck.

Hey Yah...Teach me lies...

Even as UN reports surfaced showing 91% reuse, and the original source of the "ewaste hoax" statistic ("80% dumping?") mumbled away a denial of ever having stated otherwise, the prosecution of Joseph Benson and BJ Electronics plodded away, taking a note of none of it.  It's harder to assess, perhaps, a mistaken snap judgement made by a Ferguson MO policeman in seconds.  And Trayvon Martin's killer was acquitted based on the quickness of the killing (and prosecuted in the press for the number of minutes he spent stalking trouble).  Benson was FRAMED over a course of years, and apparently no one ever thought he was worth the time to check that Greenpeace and Basel Action Network were full of @#$*.

Yep, the biggest thorn in Jim's side is indeed a liberal environmentalist, a college chum of Puckett's chums.

Yearbook got us liberal Minnesota PIRGs (leaning left) mixed up with sparse Black Christians in Asia?