Our Political New Year's Resolution: Ebony and Ivory

It's 6AM and I'm packing the car for another annual cross country road trip from (red state) Arkansas to (blue state) Vermont.  I was hired as a cross cultural trainer for new US Peace Corps volunteers arriving in Cameroon in 1987, and sometimes feel I never stopped.

Can't resist posting my note to the AirBNB host where we stayed in lovely Leslie, Arkansas.  She was the child of a hippie who grew up in the Ozarks and now lives in Seattle.

Finding yourself in liberal Seattle must be like me finding myself in Vermont. Generally I'm very relieved to be away from "ignorant and proud of it" politics here in the southern midwest. But also I find myself very aware of my coastal liberal friends and our own confirmation bias and "profiling" of conservatives, and attributing to 'denial' what may be legitimate skepticism over 'solutions'. Consider yourself a Peace Corps volunteer from a red state.

ebony and ivory stripes (wikipedia chain gang)
Confirmation bias. Profiling.  I'm not immune to it.  None of us can be. But when you walk a mile in another man's shoes - as I've done for a long time with the WEEE export entrepreneurs in emerging markets - you can sit on their jury.  The blindness of NGOs to the studies that show nuance is nothing new.  It's Captain Ahab.  It's Scarlet Letter.  It's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  It's in To Kill a Mockingbird.  It's Huckleberry Finn's crime.  These great works are all about people who start a mission based on justice (like environmental justice) and consider themselves jurists and agents of conscience, but are deafened by their own conclusions.

We need to keep it simple. If I'm skeptical of your trade ban on used electronics as a "solution" (to what? poverty?) that does not make me a "denier". Let's find something else to agree on, a simple message that might appeal to rural and urban and OECD and non-OECD.

For Our New German Blog Readers: See You in Salzburg

The number of blog visits is up in 2016, compared to 2015.  Hopefully that is a sign that I've been engaged more relevant topics. Views from Europe, India and Africa grew in number and duration.

"Why We Should Ship Our Electronic 'Waste' To China and Africa" ran in Motherboard Vice five years ago.  Klaus N. read it in Germany and decided to do a piece on it for 3Sat (German language equivalent of PBS, I'm told, which broadcasts in several countries).  That led to a pretty steady dozen or so readers in West Europe.  This year, the number is close to 100.

Some of the attention is probably "reflected from the mud".  Kevin McElvaney published the arm-flailing Mike Anane's absurd claims about Agbogbloshie ("the biggest e-waste dump on earth") Sodom and Gomorrah? Fishing as a Boy?..."), which led to interviews in all kinds of German news, and led to a flurry of follow up visits to Ghana by other aspiring documentarians.  A textbook case of photojournalism running off the reservation without a hint of datajournalism to support it.  The posts here which provide links to World Bank and other data seem attractive to the photographically inspired.

In any case, Fair Trade Recycling is now a curiosity, if not a known quantity, in Europe.   I'm preparing my presentation for ICM, 16th International Electronics Recycling Congress IERC 2017 in Salzburg, Austria, where I will sit side by side with Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network on a panel in front of hundreds of European regulators and researchers.

Landscape shot of the small small site at Agbogbloshie where close ups of kids perched on monitor casings takes place
I offered to do a presentation on how incredibly small and insignificant our topic is.  How bland, how navel gazing our concerns are from the perspective of the slum dwellers we wring hands and handkerchiefs about.  The background of the landscape photo I took shows the Old Fadama slum in central Accra.  The dump is across the lagoon.  And the most photographed, if not the largest, ewaste dump on earth is there in the center, on this side of the lagoon.

No kidding, folks. This is it for wire burning. I got photos of photographers on that tiny, barren spot, posing young slum ruffians on top of some of the few dozen devices found scattered on the lagoon bank.   See the "close up" of the same site at bottom... same tent in the background.

Above is another (landscape) view of this exact site and the 25 people burning wires there. Note tent behind girl

MIT Ethics Inquiry? Senseable City Lab and BAN GPS Tracking Update

As we near the end of 2016, and I review the engagement of the published blogs this year, it appears I need to update readers on the apparent stonewalling of our requests for information and review of MIT Senseable City Labs "collaboration" with Basel Action Network's GPS tracking of used electronics.

I slowed down on the reporting in part because I had to engage with actual attorneys... MIT's, one of the "collateral damage" processors at Hong Kong's Eco Park, and my own.  Obviously Hong Kong Environmental Department attorneys must be involved in responding to BAN's accusations (in China Daily) that their legal opinion - that printer scrap is not hazardous waste and not illegal to import - was against international law (according to USA-based BAN.org). Also a few of the companies mentioned in the report as being in the "chain of export" cautioned me about the "Streisand Effect".  If reporters were by and large (other than PBS and Time) ignoring BAN's study, why risk elevating it?

Well enough time has gone by for an update.

  1. MIT did not confirm or deny that a copy of my letter was given to its Ethics Review Committee.  They sent it instead to Basel Action Network, the organization we thought entangled MIT in the ethical research questions to begin with (and who I did not address in the letter for that reason).
  2. Evidence has come to light that BAN had the ability to control the outcome in real time.  This risk was not addressed by Carlo Ratti's team.  BAN admits they knew where the devices were at intermediaries DURING the study.
  3. My company shipped printer scrap to another shredder, on several occasions, which pays BAN e-Steward royalties.  We shipped printer scrap to that company immediately before the load (also to the Chicago area) the month before the tracking device came to Good Point, and a month after the device was shipped to the company that exported it.
  4. DURING THE MONTH IN BETWEEN the company which pays BAN royalties stopped accepting our material!  We had actual cancellations of deliveries of printer scrap while the tracking device was at our property!

At the very least, this seems a strong reason not to publish the names of unwitting and unwilling test subjects involved in the chain.  While we don't know about this particular case, we do know some in the chain were more "witting" than others.  I revealed last summer that at least some E-Steward companies knew the trackers were in the field, and at least some were involved in selecting which devices to track.

This does not prove that BAN colluded with or warned their sponsor company that we had a device on our property, or that the information resulted in the delivery being cancelled until the device was off our property.  That information is "continuously unknown".

It does show the need for MIT's existing rules on testing of unwitting subjects, and rules on conflict of interest.  And there can be no bigger example of a conflict of interest than between Basel Action Network and Fair Trade Recycling.

Collateral Damage 2: Emerging Markets "Informal" Sector Takes sCrap from Shiny Consciences

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

Several NGOs made "informal sector" a bad word.  Search "e-waste" and "informal" online, and you find that it's a polite word for a lot of pictures of brown people earning a living the way white boy scouts earn medals - by protecting the environment, adding value, and supporting a circular economy.

Infamous example?  How about the COVER photo from the 2015 UNEP Report.  What exactly do you see here?  A lot of people have been hypnotized to see something nefarious going on.  

This is what I saw happening when I visited Chinese buyers more than a decade ago.  It was informal. But it was also sustainable.  The environmental harm of producing chips from mining, refining, smelting, and manufacturing created small integrated circuits worth more than the gold they held in them.  If it was about the gold, the refiners in Japan and Belgium would have no competition here.  What I saw the Asians doing was memorizing each chip and sorting them, painstakingly, according to their reuse value.  


If my children were born in a poor rice paddy village, and they learned to do this, creating thousands of dollars in secondary market value, I'd be proud.  It would remind me of how my Ozark family went from subsistence farming, no running water, no electricity and no paved roads, to OECD status in two generations.  And no thank you, it wasn't from big city charities.

Fixers do "git er done" in every culture, and often become the founders of the world's most successful enterprises.  They see stuff for what it can do, not for what it cannot do.  They find treasure where others saw trash.

The "informal" market in Asia, Africa and South America isn't perfect, but if you want proof of racism look at the cover photo of the UNEP article and ask how something which reduces carbon, creates wealth, and is a less toxic process than European refining gets elevated to poster child.

2016 NeoProphesy: Biographical Reflection on Value

What's the value added of an apparently contemplative tweet?

Does it persuade anyone?  My latest theory is that 100% of what we publish will be analyzed by artificial intelligence (either supercomputer or a genetically modified giant human brain) in 50-100 years, and that every single tweet and blog will be filtered through a consciousness we can't imagine. More on that below.

In the wee hours of the morning, I lay thinking about other people, and how they became a part of me. How I learned from people's personalities, kind of like you learn words or vocabulary, or a foreign language, by listening to others.  Focusing on them.  Getting what they want us to get out of what they are saying, what they value.

OEM Sponsorship of Electronics Recycling - Enlightened Self Interest

This could have been a chapter 9 in "Collateral Damage" series started in October. Original Equipment Manufacturers have been at ground zero in the "Ewaste" War.

But Original Equipment Manufacturers aren't really collateral. They are are active players, for better and for worse, in the battle over recycling policy.  Their role has been extended to finance recycling of products at end of life.  Or not at end of life.  Product support, software upgrades that turn "obsolete" into a verb, negotiations over broadcast changes (Telecommunications Act of 1996), VHS or Beta, copyright law...

They are targets, and they are targeters.  They are allies and adversaries.  Interested parties with a stake in the game.

It's just business.

What Does The Term "Third World" Mean Today?

My suggestion is that we just stop using the term "Third World" and "Lesser Developed Country" altogether.

There are certainly places with incredible poverty.   Like, say, the poverty I knew about in the Ozarks as a kid.  Not that I suffered it, or even that many people I know suffered it.  But it was in our rear view mirror, through our parents and grandparents, who lived in the Ozarks during the Depression and before electricity, running water, and hospitals were commonplace.

I've posted a few times about my mom's father, Clarence E. Fisher, pictured above. This was a photo I took as a teenager.  He had a tractor, but had gone back to his mule ("Jenny") for old times sake and found that he really liked ploughing that way.  He was a subsistence farmer and an excellent carpenter and painter.   And someone who convinced me it was going to be really important to me the rest of my life to know how everything worked, and how to fix stuff.

Effective Environmental Messaging

General reaction to a lot of posts on Facebook this year:   People care about stuff, and they post what they care about. And they post about what other people care about. It's curious how many of my friends posts demonstrate they care about what other peoples value systems are. Many of us are very certain of our own value system, what we care about, and express fear or anger at a society that doesn't seem to care about it. Or perhaps the post is an ad (I posted about giraffe extinction yesterday) to get people to care about what we personally care deeply about.

Value Added By Recycling Industries in Massachusetts (1992, Robin Ingenthron) - What John Tierney Failed to Learn about Garbage

Value Added By Recycling Industries in Massachusetts (1992, Robin Ingenthron)

This is kind of a hoot.  Dr. Josh Lepawsky found a paper I wrote my first months in the job at MA DEP, 30 years old, 25 years ago. It got Boston Globe front page coverage because of ricochet.   A loud PIRG vs. Plastic Packaging Industry referendum fight had thrust "recycling" into a spotlight, and the value of "recycling" rather than the packaging policy itself, was occupying the center stage.  Critics of the referendum were attacking state recycling policy, and proponents of the packaging laws were wrapping themselves in recycling like it was mom, apple pie, and the American flag.

To defend recycling as a policy, I tried to explain that there aren't "good markets" and "bad markets".  There are "buyers markets" and "sellers markets", and from an economic perspective, the paper mills, glass furnaces, metal refiners, etc. were adding more value than "waste diversion" from landfills.  So I got some secondary data on the recycled paper mills etc. that I'd supplied as a recycling collector, added up their employees, and explained the multiipliers.

The paper doesn't do so explicitly, but buried in it was my first realization that paper mills might be worse "neighbors", environmentally (odor, water effluent) than an incinerator or landfill, but they created so many jobs that the neighborhoods surrounding those mills were advocates.  Environmental enforcement was linked, geographically, to real estate value.  Likewise, those same jobs, which would disappear in Massachusetts if the tissue paper had to be made from trees, were far more important economically than the value of a ton of paper at a recycling center.

I was initially accused of writing the paper to influence the referendum (and threatened, professionally). I responded that the paper mill employees and those like me who'd been driving paper recycling trucks were kind of bemused... I might next leak the number of laundromats in MA and see if that got in the Globe.  And four years later, this paper was called upon to rebut John Tierney's "Recycling is Garbage" rant, which in part arose out of the very anti-recycling statements being made during the Packaging Referendum Wars (which employed many Bottle Bill Battle generals... history for another blog).

Anyway I long ago lost track of the paper, Josh found it at the MA State House library.

Editors Note: Status of WR3A Good Point Blog

Blog Status December 6, 2016.

Wahab, left, points to photo in Washington Post of Idrissa, who was struck and killed by a truck in 2013 or 14
Catching up on editing 4 blog articles (from "Collateral Damage" series) and one magazine article, and preparing for my presentation at ICM in Salzburg, Austria.  Also getting all my vaccinations for the re-visit to Ghana.   I'm double checking things from the draft Fair Trade Recycling report (2015 visit).

1- Does something bad happen  at Agbogbloshie?  Bad for health, for the environment, etc.?

2- If something bad happens, is it related to unfair export and import trade?

3- If something bad happens, due to unfair trade, is it illegal or a "loophole"?

4- If something bad happens, due to unfair trade, and it is illegal, should Joe "Hurricane" Benson and other Tech Sector African businesspeople pay fines or go to prison for it?

The answer to the first question is yes and no.  Or rather, some bad things happen, and some good things (better than if the goods were in the USA or EU) happen.  The worst thing is probably the men who burn wire and then use their bare hands to scrape metal out of the dirt and ashes.  The earth there will be contaminated by lead.  Some of the lead is from automobiles, some from leaded casings in older electric wire (not computers).  If they aren't washing their hands really well, they are likely to suffer consequences.

The good thing is that the goods are used for far longer than westerners use the goods.  Even after westerners have finihsed using the electronics, Africans will tend to reuse them twice as long as that. And hand disassembly is better for the environment than shredding.  And the cost of achieving internet, phone, TV, radio and other teledensity measures, per African is a TINY FRACTION of the upstream environmental cost per capita done by Western countries.  And most of THAT damage, from mining, occurs in places like Africa.

2 - No.  The junk in Agbogbloshie is far more likely to be collected from African city residents and businesses after 10-20 years of use than it is to be imported. The people saying that it came from sea containers being dumped to avoid recycling costs are making it up at best, and in some cases lying.

3. Not under Basel Convention Annex IX.  But - in reaction (over-reaction) to lies about #2, some EU countries have passed stricter laws.  It's like if you thought bananas were poison, and passed a law against selling bananas... yeah, banana sellers would be criminals.  But seriously.

4. No. This was a witch hunt.

Breaking News: As HK WEEETRF, So Follows Accra's "Ewaste" Moon Shot?

Another logical conclusion to all the research into NGO's proposed bans on E-Waste Exprot Trade.

"Hey, we can do it right.  We can repair and recycle better than you can"

As goes Hong Kong, so goes Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana.  A $30M State of the Art E-Scrap Recycling Plant is breaking ground in Ghana.   In January, I'll be there.
The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency are set to commission the construction of a recycling facility at Agbogbloshie in the Greater Accra Region. 
Estimated at $30 million for the first phase, the facility is expected to recycle all waste electrical and electronic equipment to final products in an environmentally sound manner, relieving the people of Accra and its environs, specifically Agbogbloshie community of toxic pollutants generated from the burning of e-waste. - See more at: http://citifmonline.com/2016/11/23/govt-to-construct-30m-e-waste-facility-at-agbogbloshie/#sthash.EpjnrmbK.dpuf
Once again, the solution to "sweatshops" is found to be "air conditioners".  Given the choice between moving business back to "Big Shred" in Europe and the USA, the Tech Sector in Emerging Markets says "Thanks but we like managing this, and by the way we're really, really good at it".

Finally the End of Ewastegate?

Collateral Damage 3: Sensationalism vs. Science

John Brown by Levin Handy, 1890-1910.jpgIn a recent correspondence, the Executive Director of the Seattle NGO made a comment about our long history trying to work with or around each other on the subject of "e-waste" regulation.  He summed it up by saying "We have a disagreement about international law and policy".

Fundamentally, perhaps not really.  We agree on what the Basel Convention says about trade between OECD and non-OECD countries.  We agree on what the Basel Ban AMENDMENT says, which would change the rules in the Convention (which covered disposal) to cover recycling and repair.  We agree the second, the Amendment, has not been ratified.  We agree that his organization has been successful in getting several European countries to substantially adapt rules on scrap recycling, repair and reuse to match the language in the Basel Ban Amendment.  And we agree that we strongly disagree whether that is the right direction for "international law and policy".

Although I'm certainly more comfortable around international law discussions than your average junkyard recycler, I would not attribute the disagreement, at least primarily, to interpretation of international treaties.  Here's my problem.

1) OECD is a bizarre basis for determination of "waste crime".   The Basel Convention uses "OECD" to make a binary distinction, drawing a line between Brazil (non-OECD) and Mexico (OECD) that "waste" shall  not cross.  The line is based on a bizarre "club membership" standard. It is not based on any science, whatsoever.  Rather, its entire basis is a rather quaint 1970's "third world" idea correlation.  Places like Singapore and Hong Kong, have higher average per capita incomes than the USA. They are not OECD, but are clearly in the business of electronics manufacture, warranty returns, refurbishment and recycling.  "OECD-Non-OECD" makes as much sense as dividing people by race, by religion, or as "cowboys and indians".

2) Sensationalism and generalizations about e-waste appeal to implicit racism.  The stories are easy to write, and create wealth for the Seattle NGO, jobs for EU and USA regulators, and trade barrier leverage for "Big Shred" recyclers.  Sensationalism makes cheap, plentiful, disposable articles, creating the collateral damage of Joe Benson, Net Peripheral, and Las Chicas Bravas.

It's really the second - the sensationalism ("poverty porn") of Asian, African, and Latino reuse markets - which drives emotions.  Emotionalizations are attractive to journalists this time of year.  I didn't introduce those to the debate.  At the beginning, my blogs and correspondence with Basel Action Network were an attempt to de-emotionalize the subject of trade, to reduce the use of photos of kids at dumps, and to reduce the prosecution and impugnment of refurbishing factories, even (or especially) those in emerging markets.

"Bad Science in the Headlines" has been a subject of research for some time, and there is nothing in e-Waste coverage to distinguish it.   Sensationalism in journalism is a human health risk.  Racially profiling geeks of color is not only morally toxic, it can produce actual risks to human health.

But if BAN brought emotion-guns to the policy fight, I can't fight with a scalpel.  And so we had little recourse but to focus on the accidental racism, the collateral damage, and false stereotypes which the sensational "e-waste" journalism brought down upon the Geeks of Color.

2016 - Particularly Hoppy Bourne Brew of Ewaste Blogs

This year, the average readership per blog has doubled.  That's no doubt thanks to the interest in #ewaste generated by the Basel Action Networks claims, and academic links to MIT Senseable City Lab.  I thought perhaps the links to Hong Kong (specific geographies, like Tin Shui Wai) may have had something to do with the readership, but actually the hits were greater in the Pakistan Faisalabad blog (which tracked the 3 CRT monitors that BAN said were exported, 2 of which wound up at a TV remanufacturing operation a few blocks from a major urban university - a far more interesting story than the dystopia described by BAN).

Or is it something else entirely that attracts readers?  Jim Puckett, the speakers on TED about #ewaste, EU policy makers, publish-or-perish researchers, the regulators, and myself, are all looking for the right background for the movie we are making in our heads, about ourselves, and our role in discarded items generated by consumers.  We all perceive ourselves in a defensive position.  EU folks I interviewed seem absolutely dumbfounded that the African Tech Sector I work with saw them in a completely "offensive" light.

Pictures of kids at dumps, and Halloween ghoulish rice-paddy language, make our jobs - and our blogs - seem more exciting, more worthy of a Moby Soundtrack (bottom).  Activists perceive ourselves as heroes, academics as judges or historians, and commercial interests are in some ways the most honest - getting food on the table for families by providing what the marketplace asks for.

USA Election: Proposing a Free Market Solution to Electoral College Dilemma

Free market solution to Electoral College dilemma.
Corporations and their shareholders should make major investments in the counties (Maine and Nebraska) whose Electoral College representatives are allowed to vote outside their state "winner take all" system. Like a "magnet school", these counties economic benefits would create incentives for other states to slowly loosen the "winner take all" system which is responsible - twice in 2 decades - for promoting a candidate with fewer popular votes to Chief Executive. Detroit should be the first. Had Michigan allowed the City of Detroit to cast its own proportionate electoral votes, investors would be saving the city and politicians wouldn't appeal solely to the Michigan rural majority. Whichever Michigan governor pulled it off would be credited with healing the city, which has become the very thing that "white" Michigan cities (Howell etc) fear in its current state.
I'm constantly asked to explain the USA's Electoral College whenever the topic of a USA election comes up. It's a civics lesson about a rational decision by smaller state actors. Here's how I explain it to Europeans.
Imagine if Europe were to try to elect a President of EU. Its "United States of Europe" constitution would require the buy-in, or joining, of individual member states with their own cultures and languages. Those states would, in a completely free market, face the same market forces as urbanization. Money is more efficiently concentrated in one place. Smaller nation-states would fear being lost in the shuffle.
Why build a bridge or an airport or a stadium in a small state, like Vermont or Belgium or Denmark, if the marketplace and political (voter) economics reward spending that infrastructure money in a big city like London, Paris, Milan, etc? If you were a President, you could always win more votes by spending every federal dollar in the cities and states with the most votes. If you were an EU state like Belgium, you'd be about the population of Michigan in the USA (in proportion to USA/EU population). That fear created the "winner take all" electoral college, and Luxembourg would as likely want "all its votes" cast on one candidate, to ensure candidates don't just passively take 45% of their votes and move on.

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 BAN.org 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.

PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN? Brownwashing Hong Kong Moon Shot, NGO #Ewaste Mistake of Decade

As multiple reporters recited from the press releases from MIT Senseable City and Basel Action Network this year, we heard descriptions of Hong Kong's New Territories, Yuen Long, and Tin Shui Wai in particular, which were familiar to people who went to high school 2-3 decades ago.
"Rice Paddy".  "Primitive".  "Child Labor."
But they missed the largest, most modern E-Waste processing facility ever seen on earth.  This is an example of "brownwashing", the equal and opposite of "greenwashing".

WEEETRF stands for "Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Treatment and Recycling Facility"

MIT's central claim is that the GPS Tracking Devices revealed "Previously Unknown" things about the used electronics trade.   And they found "mistakes made" by R2 and E-Steward certified companies.

But the biggest "previously unknown" is still unreported.

Two years ago, the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department (EPA) launched a "moon shot."  And Basel Action Network didn't just miss it.  THEY HID IT.  #brownwashing

But they had to say something about it... something in small print.  Actually this just describes the $45M of the investment, they didn't actually mention the $550M WEEETRF next door.

How is this NOT THE PBS HEADLINE?  NGO went to huge lengths to hide perhaps the largest e-waste recycling facility on the planet, led everyone to a puny junkyard as "representative of hundreds of similar dumps" (really?) in Hong Kong ... a statement they have to make because there's no significant truck traffic, nothing approximating the volumes BAN says are going there (the Agbogbloshie problem).  But they track stuff to the WEEETRF and to end users of repaired devices in Tin Shui Wai, and when I call them out... they attack ME?

Previously Unknown, or Continuously Unknown?

ED NOTE:  THIS IS NOT A DEVICE GOOD POINT RECYCLING OF VERMONT TOUCHED, EXPORTED, HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH.   We obtained the data from a third party.  BAN made a false statement that we are representing this as some kind of an "alibi" for a device that Vermont had something to do with.   We didn't export anything at all, and the device shown above was managed on the West Coast.

Geography Baiting 6: Granular Images of Recycling in Asia

My response to BAN's report "Scam Recycling" is not a criticism of tracking technology as a methodology.  And I'm not a critic of MIT or the Basel Convention.

Basel Action Network, using funding from The Body Shop Foundation, successfully added a lot of granularity to the discussion about exports of used electronics internationally.  The Data is interesting.   A peer review process, using scientific method, could have produced a great report, and could have protected the privacy of unwitting and unwilling test subjects in all the countries involved.  And to the degree that data is released rather than "obscured", it can be assessed by professionals like myself, and academics, and policy can evolve.

And that's happening. Josh Lepawsky of MUN's Geography department has repopulated many of the data points that were obscured on BAN/Monitour (though not all - Foshan is missing, as is EcoPark).

Is BAN playing games with the data?  If so, MIT Ethics office should recognize that its students (remember we have the names of the ones who placed a device in Somerville) are pawns.

I'm a critic of one thing.  Environmental Malpractice.  For a decade, this blog has attempted to offer an "anti-defamation" defense vs. Basel Action Network's game of tokenism, profiling, geography-baiting, race-baiting, and slander.  The people I'm most concerned about today are the Chinese printer technicians who make repair and reuse of laser printers as commonplace in China as automobile repair in the USA.  Or, put another way, as common as repair of laser printers was in the USA in 1995.  Because of the history economy printer cartridges - which cost as much as ball point pens to make, but sell for over $20 - printers are a specialty business which has been under attack since I first visited China's Nanhai/Foshan district in 2002, the year BAN visited Guiyu and Adam Minter arrived in Shanghai.

It's extremely difficult for Fair Trade Recycling to defend a printer economy which is kept in the "informal" sector by forces which defy Americans understanding of reuse economies.  Fifteen years ago, I assumed that anyone paying double the price of scrap for laser printers, but who refuses to buy inkjet printers, knew what they were doing, and had to be in the reuse parts business.  When I visited those markets, I was uneasy. They were very small, dirty shops.  Sometimes the work was outdoors. But you saw clearly that the sandaled brown and yellow people were sorting the printers by size and brand.  I found out that the reuse markets for certain LaserJet 4s had more to do with industrial machine repair (using the same memory cards) than it had to do with Laser printing.  And I found out about EFF.org, and Arizona Cartridge Manufacturers, and Jazz Camera.

I also found out that these markets are virtually untraceable and impossibly unaccountable. If I met a printer scrap buyer in person, and managed to communicate in Chinese, I learned that from his perspective scrap was "liquid". If he found the same printer I sold him closer to him, he felt he'd fulfilled his obligations and what happened to my physical printer was irrelevant.  From his perspective, it was as if I was trying to track the serial numbers on a hundred dollar bill I'd used to transfer money by Paypal.

Geography Baiting 5: How Can You Say No?

You are approached by an R2 Certified Chicago Recycler, who has decades of experience in copy machine refurbishing.  You have seen and photographed copy machine refurbishing, overseas, yourself.

The Chicago company has news about a state-of-the-art recycling facility in Hong Kong.  Hong Kong is wealthier, per capita, than the USA.  You know it's near the center of printer parts repurposing, and demand for recycled plastic - the plastic that you know is being lost in big shredding operation.

You check the downstream.  Hong Kong Environmental Department considers printers non-hazardous waste.  The facility identified in Hong Kong is also R2 certified.  You request verification of where the focus materials (circuit boards) go, and track them to Dowa and Umicore...

"You should have refused to ship there".

Really?  Why exactly, given the information above, should we have said "no"?

Deflection Option:  You can say you sent it to Chicago, not overseas.  But the fact is that you knew it could have gone overseas.  You just don't believe what BAN tells us about "primitives" in Hong Kong.

If you were to say no based on the Hong Kong facility, advertised as being state of the art, able to make the highest and best end use of the printers, how would you justify boycotting them?  How can you say no?  On what basis?

I could think of only one reason.  Bigotry. Racial profiling of Hong Kong as a place with "hundreds of junkyards" and "rice paddies".   Fear of the other.

Geography Baiting 4: BAN Investigates Un-American Recycling Activities

Well, this guy must not be a credible source...

"Just a few days after arrival, the printer left Vermont and travelled to the Chicago area and then onwards to the port of Long Beach, California. It next pinged off of the coast of mainland China before arriving at the port of Hong Kong. Two days later it was in Mr. Lai’s Farm. " - Jim Puckett

He's talking about ME.

Sounds very "Un-American".  Sounds like Evidence that we are exporting 40% of our waste, according to BAN.  Or worse, sounds like companies that PAY the NGO tribute money are a "safe" solution to the Un-American problem, we must be shipping more than 40% just to buck up the average.

Caution:  Wet Taint

Sounds like.  This NGO makes a lot of noise, but the report they issued says in one place that 50%-80% of devices are exported, in another place over 80% are exported, and in the press release says 40% are exported.  In Geography Baiting #3 we showed what the actual MIT data say, and when corrected for the sampling error (not GPS tracking the 60-80% of e-waste that's almost never exported), what they actually have is data that is pretty close to the 7%-15% range of other vetted studies.

But this is about sound.  Jim doesn't want people to listen to me, he wants to discredit the blog.  So he's got a GPS on a device purchased by an R2 Company in Hong Kong, traces it to an R2 Company we sold it to in greater Chicago, and traced that back to us, who was downstream for our client in greater Boston - the one with no public drop off point - who someone told MIT undergrads to deposit the normally reuseable laser printer they were told to sabotage inside.

They did probably expose something we didn't know - that the buyer of our buyer in Hong Kong is using Hong Kong EPD's non-chemical non-hazardous waste classification of printers to outsource those devices on the cheap.  That's information, and we began acting on it last May.

But the "Geography Baiting" is making all Asian recyclers - all "Un-American" recyclers, seem primitive.  Telling readers that what happened to Robin could happen to you.  If a device might be reused, might be repaired, but someday eventually gets disposed, it will impugn you for doing business with someone who does business with someone who does business with someone overseas in the first place.  That is why they name the client in greater Boston, who is 4 transactions away.  

We do allow some printers to be exported.  Not very many.  Less than 6% of the printers that arrive at Good Point Recycling are intended or approved for reuse, and it was one of those BAN tracked to the R2 buyer whose R2 buyer sold it to someone at MLPF. 

Our problem at Good Point is that we believe in, and want to support rather than boycott, the best practices and state-of-art recycling in emerging markets.  We now know that the downstream 2nd tier audit didn't tell us everything, but we'd have no more info about that than if we had used an E-Stewards company, and BAN/MIT have not demonstrated that E-Stewards is superior to R2 in their study.  (But look at how my pal Craig Lorch is portrayed in an inset, compared to me).

Geography Baiting 3: Retribution Strikes Press Release from BAN

While we wait patiently for answers from MIT about the ethics questions we have on Senseable City's "joint project" with Basel Action Network, BAN strikes.
"40% of  e-Waste given to Recyclers gets Shipped Illegally to Polluting Operations Overseas" - Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network
Since we have sent multiple letters to MIT and emails to BAN, offering to meet to show our processes and all downstream information, we know that BAN is conscious of the false and derogatory information embedded in this statement, explained below.  The question is, do they do it purposefully to cause harm?

1.  It is NOT 40% of e-Waste given to Recyclers.

BAN never tracked 65% of the weight (CRT and projection TVs that practically never get exported).  They sample tracked 3 types of device (printers, CRT monitors, LCDs) and found - of those - that about 36% were exported.   36% of 35% is not 40%.

2.  Most of the 40% tracked was NOT shipped illegally.

We showed here on the blog devices tracked to reuse and refurbishing operations.  Also, Hong Kong doesn't consider printers hazardous waste and BAN attacks them for classifying them as non-hazardous waste even as BAN calls them "clearly" hazardous waste in their report.

3. Most Overseas Operations are NOT Polluting.

The one BAN focuses all their attention on - Mr. Lai's Printer Farm - is visually concerning, and it was NOT identified as a destination on our downstream tracking.  So kudos on that.  But to say it is representative of the 40% of 35% is racist and insulting.  Other devices went to places overseas anyone should be PROUD to work with.

But the point of BAN's report is clear.  They do not go after companies that pack and export.  They do not track most of the destinations.  They track my company in several pages.  It's because I spoke out about them.  I believe that is the message here, to make other recyclers afraid to speak up on behalf of the geeks of color, to intimidate those of us who object to racial profiling, who do NOT pay them tribute money via E-Stewards (using an E-Steward company shows prominently on the press release, though the GPS tracking didn't show that to be determinate).

My company baled 95% of the printers we received for shredding - some by E-Stewards, all by R2 certified companies.  Of the FIVE (5%)* our crew found potentially reuse and repairable, we either tested them ourselves or more likely sent them to another R2 company which listed reuse as a potential outcome (not 100% shredder).   It was one of those 5% nice-looking ones that we sent to a USA company, which had listed certified Hong Kong destinations as their partners.  And, notably, one of those BAN and MIT chose to send to us.

When BAN and MIT hide the data we requested since last May, it just makes it hard for us to respond.  BAN plays the Bilbo Baggins Riddle "What (data) have I got in my pocket?"   We did find some of the tracked devices DID go to the Hong Kong EcoPark. If ours did not - and I accept that now - we have to find out who misdirected it (the USA company or the Hong Kong certified company).  Even if it was legal, it may not be acceptable.

For all we know, the device WOULD have been reused and repaired if not but FOR BAN's Sabotage.  I don't open all the halloween candy I buy to make sure no one sabotaged it.  Until now, I doubt anyone has opened a repairable printer and cut up the guts to make it unrepairable.  There's a word for that, but it's not a polite one.

The point is that BAN is a bully and directs its Reports and Press Releases not to enlighten, but to casuse people to fear them, and to pay them tribute.  It is because I read the Report, studied it, tracked devices to different places, made 14 pages of comment and critique, that my company is profiled in the report.  What I want to know is why people at MIT would not see this for what it is.

We did not, NOT export the device.  We send printers we have DETERMINED to be unusable to a shredder, and that is MOST of the printers.  If BAN intended to show we export, they'd choose a printer that sells for ten times scrap value on ebay and Amazon, and they'd make it unrepairable with internal damage.  We did not export even THAT (Jim stated we "exported to Chicago" in his email).  This is a spray-paint job by BAN.  And while our Chicago partner has offered to just let me "push him under the bus" (and claim it wasn't us), I prefer to out this Senator Joe McCarthy.

At long last, NGO, have you no sense of decency?  Have you no shame?

(Ed correction -. first edition of blog mistakenly reported on 95% not repairable by omitting the word "not". Only 5% of printers at my company have been set aside for potential reuse in 5 years)

Press Release Below.

Secret Tracking Project Finds that Your Old Electronic Waste Gets Exported to Developing Countries
40% of  e-Waste given to Recyclers gets Shipped Illegally to Polluting Operations Overseas
September 15, 2016. Seattle, WA. Utilizing high-tech methods to track high-tech wastes, the environmental watchdog, Basel Action Network (BAN) as part of their e-Trash Transparency Project, funded by the Body Shop Foundation, planted GPS trackers into 205 old printers and monitors and then delivered them to charities and recyclers. The new report, entitled Scam Recycling: e-Dumping on Asia by US Recyclers, revealed that of those that were handed over to American electronics recyclers, 40 percent did not get recycled in the US as expected by customers, but were instead exported to highly-polluting and unsafe operations in developing countries -- mostly in Asia.  

"The American public continues to be scammed by unethical companies greenwashing themselves as 'recyclers'," said BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett.
"The toxic chemicals released by the crude breakdown of our old electronics in the junkyards in Hong Kong not only harms workers and communities abroad, but comes back to hurt us as well. We are the only developed country in the world that ignores this problem. It's time to stop say 'enough is enough'."
Among the findings of the report, BAN found that:
  • 40% of the 152 deliveries to US electronics recyclers went offshore -- mostly to China
  • 96% of the exports are likely to be illegal under international or US law 
  • 93% of the US e-waste exports moved to developing countries
  • 75 companies were involved in a chain of transactions that led to export of e-waste.*
  • Many recyclers involved in export made website claims of never exporting
  • "R2" Certified Recyclers exported at greater than average rates, e-Stewards
    Certified Recyclers at less than average
  • Hong Kong electronics junkyards expose workers and the environment to dangerous toxins such as mercury. 
The exported tracked devices, travelled to Hong Kong (37), Mainland China (11), Taiwan (5), Pakistan (4), Mexico (3), Thailand (2), Canada (2), and one each in United Arab Emirates, Togo, Kenya, Cambodia, and the Dominican Republic. MIT's Sensable City Labs worked in partnership with BAN to produce an interactive online map
 to show the pathways of all of the 205 trackers.
Most of BAN's trackers had found their way via ship and truck to 48 different sites in a semi-rural part of Hong Kong known as New Territories. BAN travelled there and visited the precise locations where the trackers ended up. They found massive volumes of LCD monitors, printers and other electronics being smashed each day and broken apart by hand in hidden junkyards, allowing the release of printer toners, and mercury phosphors easily inhaled by workers both unprotected from, and unaware of, the hazards.  
BAN also looked at the electronics certification programs designed to improve ensure recycling management. The "R2" certification program created as a result of an EPA convened multi-stakeholder process has about 5 times more certified recyclers than the e-Stewards program (a more rigorous standard), but it was found that "R2" members had a higher rate of being associated with export than even uncertified recyclers. Recyclers certified to the e-Stewards Standard had the lowest export rate. The e-Stewards Standard was created by the Basel Action Network together with industry leaders. It is designed to be fully consistent with international law and is the only e-recycling program that utilizes tracker technology to verify conformity with the standard.
The BAN report calls for the following key recommendations:
  • All consumers and businesses concerned about preventing pollution of the global environment should make exclusive use of e-Stewards Certified Recyclers
  • President Obama should sign an executive order to prevent US government e-waste from being exported overseas.  All others can sign petition for this
  • Manufacturers, governments and recyclers should commit to full transparency of where they send all of their hazardous electronic waste.
Hong Kong government should ban all imports of hazardous e-waste and close the informal New Territories junkyards.

Download the report here:

For more information:

Jim Puckett, Executive Director, Basel Action Network