Collateral Damage TOC: The Preview of Ewastegate


Many, many posts on this blog have been around the theme of "unintended consequences".  Two decades of attacks by Basel Action Network to save the world's poor from the waste of the rich nations have added up to a lot of environmental injustice.

This series of blogs will try to document the case for "intervention" by Basel Action Network's donors and E-Stewards.  The NGO has lost its way, and is expending more of its firepower on agents of conscience and authors of nuance.

These are in order of scale of importance, but if you are skimming, jump to #7.  I got something new, and if it turns out to be proven, BAN's Board of Directors will need to take action before the feds get involved, and before Jim Puckett starts erasing his emails.

Collateral Damage 1. Modern high tech recycling and refurbishing factories

BAN spokespeople have repeatedly called the best and brightest recyclers and refurbishers "a myth" and have attacked those who represent them as "deniers" and "apologists", and sought amendments to the Basel Convention to make trade with those factories illegal.

Collateral Damage 2. Small scale (Informal) repair and recycling of home generated scrap

BAN has made the "informal sector" a bad word, when the smaller refurbishers are actually the most vulnerable.  Forcing African, Asian and Latin American small scale tech-sector to buy from fewer OECD suppliers creates "back alley" recycling, just as most prohibitions and boycotts do.

Collateral Damage 3.  Reporters and journalists

Reporters and journalists are in a tough spot already, forced to be experts on every environmental and economic and political topic.  Calling themselves a "watchdog", the NGO has gotten extremely false and inflammatory statistics ("80-90% exports are dumped") into USA Today, National Geographic, CNN, BBC, Economist, Al Jazeera, Science Daily, NPR, etc. etc.  The poison circulates from journalist to journalist, diverting attention from real environmental problems (like non-ferrous metal mining).

Collateral Damage 4. Environmental movement

Ditto.  Well meaning young environmentalists respond to the photos of children at dumps with a passionate indignation, not knowing that the devices they insist on destruction would have been properly repaired and reused, or even properly recycled, by the "others" portrayed as sub-adults.  This "accidental racism" will create cynicism.  (I've been urged not to use the word "hoax" out of fear fellow environmentalists will wind up as collateral damage).

Collateral Damage 5. Interpol, EPA, and Enforcement

A massive waste of resources, "Project Eden" found no Eden in Africa.  It found statistics from World Bank that showed no more illegality or fraud in trade of used electronics than any other trade - until the crackdown.  (Make straw hats illegal and straw hat crime increases).

Collateral Damage 6. Economy (CA SB20)

California believed BAN's malarky about CRT dumping in Guiyu (never a destination for CRTs) and cut itself off from a billion dollar per year refurbishing factory market, which BAN told SB20 was "illegal" and "a myth".  The "cancellation clause" created huge piles of CRT glass and robbed California taxpayers while doing nothing at all to improve the environment.

Collateral Damage 7. Basel Action Network Board of Directors, employees, and friends

In this post I intend to reveal new information about the MIT GPS methodology, suspicions about methodology asked about in our 14 page letter to Carlo Ratti, some of which are now proven. But ironically, there is a brand new development I would have missed if I hadn't been forced to go back to it by BAN's false attack on my company and its friends.  It has to do with the releasing of information about the GPS trackers to companies who pay BAN a portion of their income.   
During the period the GPS was sent to Middlebury, my company was in the process of shipping several loads of printer scrap to an E-Steward.  The company denied Good Point Recycling dock apointments, which we asked for repeatedly over several days.  If Jim Puckett allegation that the printer "very quickly" went to Chicago, that means he had real-time knowledge of the tracked device.  It now appears that device WOULD have been delivered from my company to the E-Steward if our dock appointments, which we'd already shipped several, had not been cut off while the GPS device was in our factory.  I may reveal the frustration from emails sent by my employees over the E-Steward delivery cancellations, and my pleading with the Chicago area e-Steward to let us deliver the loads which we had been issued purchase orders for.  We can show that resulted in a change to the other R2 Chicago company - the one we had not tried delivering to, but whose audit showed R2 certified downstreams in Hong Kong... and how we sought to relieve that pressure by re-sorting potenially reuseable laser printers for the R2 load.  
 Put this another way:  The ratio in 2015 for loads shipped to the E-Steward to the R2 company (total all materials, not just printers) is 93.3% to 6.7%  The odds that a device would wind up at one of the two companies, rather than the other, is striking.
If is apparently true that MIT undergraduates were instructed how to find a non-public office on the basis that they disclosed my company, and they selected a laser printer which sells used for $349 to drop off there, it was bad enough.   If in addition, BAN knew the location of the device in real time, and the Chicago area e-Stewards recycler cancelled the 5th load already prepared for it because it had information about the GPS device from BAN, then that is potentially criminal
Got that?  That would appear to be a violation of SEC rules at best, and potentially a criminal enterprise if the collusion was intended to harm R2 companies that were using the same "approved" downstream as E-Stewards companies (which have agreements to pay BAN $$ a share of their income, which goes in Jim's pocket).  Before I provide the evidence of it, I would suggest that BAN's Board of Directors get in touch with me, so I can provide them and MIT's attorney with information that should not be given to Jim.  I have testimony from E-Stewards that they were aware of the GPS devices before BAN made the public announcement, and in some cases actually helped deploy the devices against competitors. 
I had asked MIT about this possibility in May 2016, and MIT provided my letter to BAN (without cc'ing me or informing me).  It should have been an opportunity for Jim to vet the methodology internally.  If, as it now appears, BAN leaked information selectively to e-Stewards, and some of that was "live" information, someone could actually go to prison.  There may be a legitimate explanation for the cancellation of the printer scrap delivery to the E-Steward company.  But if not, E-Stewards and BAN itself could be the biggest collateral damage of their leaders obsession with Robin Ingenthron and Fair Trade Recycling.

Collateral Damage 8. My personal relationships
Admittedly, I look obsessed, too.  That ain't good.  But its the business relationships I'm building, the memberships in Fair Trade Recycling, that have been collateral damage to BAN's 2 page hit job.  And yeah, I'll write more about that too.  It's the financial damage that would become a part of a defamation or slander lawsuit.  But those are expensive and tie up the legal system.  It is the due diligence of Boards of Directors and MIT Ethics departments which will shake this out when they see that I have a very legitimate case.

Let the due diligence begin.

Collateral Damage 1: Data Journalism vs. Ewaste Politics of Personal Destruction

The best advice has proven out. Don't do what I did.  If the press isn't covering BAN's story, don't cause them to cover it by over-reacting to it.  Yesterday WasteDive called in reaction to the blog on the curious denial of a claim never made.

But I've long been in the business of "glasnost", and in the end I believe that serious researchers will learn more by the methods used by the "watchdog" than if I hold back.  This is the long game.  I'm betting that friends 10 years from now will appreciate honesty and integrity, even if the safer choice is to hide in the crowd.  And let me take personal credit for BAN's announcement that future tracking will be a) voluntary (e-Stewards), b) anonymously reported (no more singling out Robin), and c) won't send live lithium batteries that burst into flames at shredding companies.

I've already taken credit for BAN admitting state of the art [SoTA] facilities exist in Hong Kong. State of the Art modern facilities which, I pointed out, was insulted by describing New Territories as "rice paddies".  In our private May 10 letter to MIT, we described the $550M investments in EcoPark as examples of modern and legal importing facilities.  Important to remember:  at that time we were demanding data that was being OBSCURED in Hong Kong.  We did not export to Hong Kong, period.  We did not claim WE had any connection to company in Hong Kong.  We were saying that the profiling of Hong Kong recycling was biased.  And it was.

My private May 2016 letter to MIT demanded our data (on the printer seen going from Boston to Vermont to Chicago to Hong Kong).  MIT SCL's Carlo Ratti denied having the data (see below).  We later learned MIT undergrads at Senseable City had rung the doorbell to deposit the tracked, sabotaged printer to our greater Boston client offices.  It was not a public drop off point.

Jim Puckett solves these mysteries in an email of August 16, and the text of the Scam report (left).  We requested an Ethics review at MIT, but have only heard back from their attorney so far (who seems like a nice person, see next blog on "Collateral Damage").

Here it gets a bit messy.

Now, completely separate from our investigation of BAN and MIT deployment data on the sabotaged printer ("our data" on "my tracked printer"), as a blogger I was provided data from a different Seattle non-profit - one quite similar to the one in Boston above.  That Seattle non-profit had been given the prescise, unobscured data through enforcement actions that were then underway by Washington State environmental regulators.

So we were now tracking two different devices to Hong Kong, one deployed on the East Coast (Printer to Chicago) and one no the West Coast (LCD from WA to California).

Unlike normal peer reviewed research, no one was making this easy. MIT answered back "As BAN is in sole possession of the information and data that you request, we suggest that you contact BAN for the information."   Hmm.  I read that to mean it's a one-way street, because we did NOT contact BAN for the information, but Ratti sent our 14 page letter and 2 page cover letter to Jim Puckett (according to Puckett).  So in the blog we wrote about the data we did have - the Seattle LCD travelling through EcoPark to Tin Shui Wai.

How did we think BAN would react to disclosures of modern high-tech recycling in China?  Been there.  Read the quote below, and ask what you'd expect BAN to "obscure" in the Monitour website designed by MIT SCL.

Remember 2012?  BAN specifically attacked me, ad hominem, to a Chicago Patch report for promoting "the myth that there are all these wonderful high-tech facilities in China."

This quote from BAN not only attacked "the myth of wonderful high-tech facilities" for recycling in Asia, it attacked me personally, "adding more harsh comments about Ingenthron's character".

If you follow, we requested the data that would have saved us a lot of time and shown the printer showed up in Mr. Lai's Printer Farm.  But between May and August, while we were refused that data,  some other data fell in our lap.   We were given coordinates of the Seattle LCD, and sent a letter to MIT about the coordinates about a wonderful high-tech facilities in Hong Kong, objecting to those facilities never being contacted by PBS @KCTS-9 etc.

It's a small world.   One company I've mentioned in the blog as an example of R2 and ISO certified state of the art recycler in New Territories in HK has requested we keep their name out of the discussion.  On reflection, I agree that BAN's naming the company as a blameless party - but implying claims I did not make about it - is unfortunate, and am rewriting past blogs to remove unwanted references.  Though there is a WSJ article about them from January 2015, when their press releases I used to have links to went out.

We tracked the data we had - the LCD from Seattle (repeat - not the printer from Boston) on its journey, via the coordinates no longer obscured in Hong Kong.   Compare the two screen shots from Monitour and Google Maps of the site in Yuen Long (New Territories HK) below.... Pillar Point, home of EcoPark, Yuen Long, New Territories, Hong Kong.

So BAN is putting two and two together and getting three.  Seattle's LCD goes through EcoPark and apparently gets reused.  Chicago's printer doesn't, is diverted to a scrapyard, and winds up at the "printer farm".  Vermont never exported anything.  But had we been given an LCD and shipped it to Seattle rather than shipped a printer to Chicago, it might have been different.  We'd still have nothing to do with the outcome, and the question becomes how did BAN decide to profile yours truly (and my client) for 2 pages when we did neither?  The point is what is BAN hiding in the obscured data, and what is MIT's role beyond having undergraduates "deploy" devices at unwitting, unwilling, private drop off points?

BAN MIT MoniTour Teardown: Inside the Ewaste Export Controversy

The MIT MoniTour @KCTS-9 Basel Action Network "Expose on Exporting" #trackingewaste is still being reviewed by review researchers, recycling experts, and reporters.  Memorial University has helped plot final landing points for devices.  There are still a large number of items in places that BAN can't quite explain.  [There are data points missing, which we located on Monitour but are not in the table per MUN]

- There are good places overseas (BAN now says "never said there weren't")
- People who never exported are highlighted for political reasons (BAN says it's justified)
- BAN's own math suggests 11% total exports (good or bad end points)
- BAN's conclusion (use E-Stewards) belies BAN's financial interest

As one of the people who never exported the tracked device, but whose clients were assaulted by BAN's innuendo I've got a particular axe to grind.  But the main point is that I have consistently made the same argument before BAN attacked me personally.  Jim Puckett has told a reporter directly what I inferred from the article - that I came up with EcoPark, etc., to cover up my shipment to Mr. Lai's Printer Farm.  It's in print, and it's provably false, and I need another apology.

BAN made a very legitimate point via their GPS tracking study - that despite normal diligence, we should not assume for sure material exported to Asia won't go "sideways" to a scrap metal vendor (any more than we can assume that via E-Stewards).  But Jim Puckett tries to push the point too far, and in so doing damages the names and reputations of state of the art repair geeks overseas, Boston area MIT hippy coops, Vermont ADA employees, and legitimate discussion of environmental policy.

Perhaps Jim yielded to his frustration and inability to control the story in a tidy direction, and now has injured people that shouldn't be injured.  He needlessly involved innocent MIT students, Carlo Ratti, KCTS, and The Body Shop Foundation in a pissing match over environmental justice.  Jim simply needs to say "I'm sorry".   Again.

Watchdog Issues Apology For Personal Attacks in E-Waste Article

Jim documenting CRT glass was not exported as he claimed (AZ)

Short Post: Smelters and Financial Assurance.

Want to try something new.  Brief brilliant posts. Easy to read.

I've got totally bogged down by and MIT. I have pages and pages of unposted blogs defending me and my clients.  

Totally quick brilliant blog post starts now.
Primary copper, zinc and lead smelters can use CRT cullet instead of feldspar, galena, angelsite.
See my article on why they don't (Time out of Mined)
If the smelters are making a rational decision not to use the CRT cullet as fluxing agent (because of the multimillion, even billion dollar fines history with EPA over Superfund sites), then they need smaller secondary smelters, like NuLife, to manage it.
NuLife and other micro-smelters, which turn CRT glass into lead feedstock, need affordable closure plans.
So the primary smelters - Doe Run, Teck Cominco, Glencore, Southern Copper, Penoles, etc. - which individually could accept 200 tons per day of CRT glass but don't want to - should offer to take NuLife material under a closure plan.  A one time clean out situation, they take 60 days of recycled cullet.
EPA would never bother them, they'd be bailing EPA out of an undesirable closure situation.
The smelters would be paid for the "insurance" value.  They get say $20,000 per year just to SAY they WOULD take it if the closure was invoked.

The NuLife micro-smelter can make a significant contribution to USA's e-waste problem.  This is totally a smidge compared to the mining and primary smelting business, but EPA and environmentalists are obsessed with it.
To find out why, you have to read some of the 1,867 older longer blogs.  It's guilt, liability, psychology stuff.

BAN can free my genius to create more solutions if they stop being absolute pricks to people like Joe Benson, EcoPark, Net Peripheral, and my clients in Boston.  

DEBUT - Fair Trade Recycling Offset - Recycled Content Jewelry from Computer Scrap

[10/6/2016]  Just a little celebration.  We just made our first "Fair Trade Recycling Offset" transaction.

We sold about $10,000 worth of computers to Chendiba Enterprises, who have a Vermont based tech testing all the displays and PCs at our plant before he buys them for export.  He's our "Joe Benson".

Normally, we take a deposit of 80% when the computers leave Vermont ($8,000 say), and wait for the computers to be received and reconciled in Ghana.  Then the next containerload is $10,000 - $2000 for the reconciled shipment #1, and another 80% / $8k deposit for shipment #1.

This week, we told our Ghana buyer to take $100 out of the $2,000 reconciliation and give it to the father of one of the Chendiba Techs (who I met and filmed in 2015).  He is a retired high school teacher who kept his own father's tradition of small scale metal smelting.  He made our Fair Trade Recycling bracelets in 2015.