The "Good Point" blog is about "Ethical Electronics Exports, Fair Trade Recycling". Composed by Robin Ingenthron, founder of Good Point Recycling and the WR3A non-profit, the site discloses the company's position, policies, as well as the personal opinions of its founder. It has become an important source of inside information on the "e-waste recycling" business for academic research into recycling policy. The website invites dialogue, promotes discourse, and twitters recycling policy forward, using humor, music, and mind-bending analogies to convey important issues.
The recycling industry has been accused of misleading consumers. Ingenthron hopes that a "warts and all" blog which fully discloses the company's opinions and practices will temper cyncicism about green businesses. Frequently cited by the recycling trade press, the Vermont blog has been labeled "bracingly honest", a "creative approach", and a "refreshing" break from recycling dogmas.
As a passionate defender of "fair trade", Ingenthron writes, "Our company's first motto was that we are who we say we are, and we do what we say we do, which is kind of a sad commentary on the e-waste recycling industry." He hopes that in the future, people can once again take that for granted.
Meanwhile, a growing number of academics, entrepreneurs, and government recycling coordinators use the SEARCH function on the blog to mine answers to specific questions. They find external links to film of operations overseas, data on the company's Mexico operations, export policies, its domestic recycling capacity, hard drive data management, and more. The Good Point blog offers insights into positions staked out by EPA, ISRI, NRC, NGOs, and International institutions on mining, disposal, and recycling alternatives. Perhaps our most important followers are overseas.
Before creating American Retroworks Inc. and WR3A.org, Robin Ingenthron was Recycling Director at Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. His division implemented the first CRT "waste ban" regulations, the first market research on CRT reuse and recycling, and the first state RFP contract for municipal "ewaste" recycling (a state contract is enforceable by the Attorney General, giving it more teeth than a "Pledge" or "Certification").
Ingenthron has a BA in International Relations from Carleton College, and spent a semester at the UN in Geneva. With the US Peace Corps, he trained in Congo and taught school in Cameroon. He was hired by Peace Corps to stay in country as a "cross cultural trainer" before returning for an MBA Peace Corps scholarship at Boston University. He worked as a consultant for operating systems software industry, and as a co-director of two recycling non-profit organizations.
Good Point Recycling is a member of Vermont Businesses For Social Responsibility, Association of Vermont Recyclers, and the World Reuse, Repair and Recycling Association [WR3A] an organization which establishes "Fair Trade" standards for surplus electronics exports, ensuring no "toxics along for the ride".
Directors Juan Solera and Albert Julia's English-language documentary, Blame Game, can now be viewed on Amazon Prime. The documentary was aired at the 2019 E-Scrap Conference in Orlando, Florida, and Good Point Recycling of Vermont sponsored the travel costs for the directors (from Spain), on behalf of Fair Trade Recycling.
The Event was well attended by E-Scrap standards. Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network opened questions from the audience, stating it was the best film he'd seen on the subject. He then went on --- very curiously -- to ask why the filmmakers had not given more air time to proponents of the Basel Convention?
The curious insinuation was that he had not been interviewed. But he had been. The directors had honored his own demand not to include his interview, perhaps because he had made a false claim on camera.
Directors Solera and Julia seemed dumbfounded, and staggered to answer. The documentary had iincluded interviews with Basel Convention expert Katharina Kummer Peiry, UK prosecutors, and Greenpeace. But they were dumbfounded by Jim's question, because they had actually interviewed Jim Puckett himself for about 10 minutes. When the last question to Puckett was whether he knew who Joe Benson was, Puckett became furious, walked off camera, and shouted that he would not sign a release form and would sue if they used his interview. Juan Solera said Jim then called him in Spain and berated him for including two questions I'd suggested, one on Benson, and one of his claims about the percentage of exports that are reused vs. discarded.
I asked Jim a few hours later why he had claimed not to know who Joseph Benson was. Jim said that he considered Benson "collateral damage". As readers know, Benson was the first person to be framed with a hidden GPS tracker, and sentenced to 60 months in prison, due to BAN's claims that it was "common knowledge" that 80% of the TVs he exported would be "quite quickly" dumped and burned.
No Fair Trade Recycling member had sold to Benson, but we could see plainly that the TVs in the BBC Panorama video were all the same size and brand, a tell-tale sign of a hotel takeout. Benson had been buying TVs when hotels upgrade them. The only physical evidence that TVs he exported were "illegal" or "waste" was the BBC reporter Raphael Rowe's claim to have "snipped a cable" in the TV with the GPS tracker, carefully reassembling the TV. Like poisoning and apple, Rowe claimed this was evidence that the TVs Benson exported were going to be scrapped....
But, Rowe and his camera crew had to follow the GPS tracker to Ghana and then PURCHASE it for 40 British pounds sterling. From a house, not from a scrap pile in Agbogbloshie.
Blame Game does not follow Benson's story as well as we hoped, and by cutting out footage of Puckett and Michael Anane making false claims, they make a journalistic error (Solera said they had to cut things that they knew not to be true, and that Puckett had threatened legal action. I think a public person who makes a living as an expert, who is caught lying on camera, has no legal recourse to ban the lies from being broadcast).
Wahab Muhammed Odoi bravely sat in for the interview, and attended the conference to answer questions. He and Solera said that EWaste will always be found in Africa, because Africans have owned TVs for decades. Puckett then claimed that he had stopped Ewaste in China, that there was no ewaste there anymore, seeming deaf to the logic that most ewaste is generated by African and Chinese consumers... and that even if he had stopped imports of used goods (he has not), that ewaste will indeed continue to exist every place that had TV stations in the 1970s.
Still, Solera and Julia's documentary does much to correct the wildly false impressions conveyed by Pieter Hugo and Placebo's "Life Is What You Make It"... Blog readers may remember I was blocked by Placebo and labelled insane by Rainbow for writing an open letter to them, referring them to vetted research like Memorial University's Reassembling Rubbish author Dr. Josh Lepawsky and others. My letter identified several sensationalist claims about Agbogbloshie, and tried to convey the sense of exploitation of "poverty porn" images by people in the video.
Juan Solera and Albert Julia also struggled in their documentary with how to portray pollution and poverty without "exploiting" it. They try, though at times the documentary feels like it has been assembled by committee... one senses that the directors could not bring themselves to cut out film that would tend to sensationalize and exploit... no doubt the parts Jim Puckett appreciated. But Juan and Albert and Fernando took the time to film both sides, and made a huge effort to distinguish themselves from those who benefit financially by exploiting misconceptions. (See photos in the June 2016 open letter to Placebo).
In related news, Sasha Rainbow, the director of that 2016 Placebo MTV video (that heralded Agbogbloshie as the largest e-waste dump on earth where most of Europe's junk is illegally dumped), has finished her short film "Kofi and Lartey". Her quote below opens by stating "There has been much documentation of Agbogbloshie in recent years, but in most cases it has come from a sensationalist perspective." She no doubt learned that from featuring @Alhassan Ibn Abdalla. I know Abdalla and follow him, got him an interview on BBC in 2015 flood and forced Agbo relocations. He is an activist on slum dweller human rights. Glad she recognized the "sensationalism" mistake, and learned from him. No hard feelings, Rainbow).
In the 1970s Environmentalists all knew that the least sustainable human activity was mining and refining, extracting petroleum and mineral ores and trees from the forests, coral reefs, and mountains. Conservationist knew that to conserve endangered species, we had to conserve habitat. The human activity that digs deepest into the remotest habitats is raw material extraction.
Why are the natural resources in such remote places? Well... they aren't.
No matter how rich in copper ore Mount St. Elizabeth of Vermont might be, the pollution that would occur from the hard rock mining would be unacceptable to neighbors. The population density in New England had led to more environmental regulation.
Property value is at risk when ore is blasted from veins of ore, smashed with 100 ton tractors, and leached with cyanide in the open air. You cannot obstruct the view of a Martha's vineyard cottage with an oil deck. However rich the vein of gold, you cannot open a Carlin Trend, or Witwatersrand Basin dredge in Central Park. It is easier to make paper by cutting down 100 small pulp trees in northern Canada, to truck them 200 miles to a hydropulper, than to chop a single rich softwood from the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and pulp it at the James River Paper Mill in the same city.
Ok, granted, those are not majestic Sequoia trees. These are low income housing for owls. But the fact is that trees appreciate if they are left to grow longer, and the Forest Industry knows that pulp demand needs both recycled and virgin sources.
Indonesia forests being replaced for pulpwood or palm oil
The more polluting an activity, the farther away the investment. Out of sight, out of the regulator's mind, and out of reach of enforcement. That is why a CRT glass pile in Columbus Ohio is getting more attention than the Kabwe, Zambia mine that produces the same material - leaded silicate (anglesite) - with far more pollution at far greater environmental cost. This was frustrating to teenage environmentalists at Fayetteville High School in Arkansas in 1979. We knew where our consumption was hurting the planet, and we felt guilty about it, but it was hard to fund the activity to regulate it. Chimps and wildebeests don't vote. The destruction of habitat in Kabwe, Zambia, or the fishing villages of OK Tedi in Papua New Guinea, or the reopened tin mines on the coral islands of Indonesia to produce tin solder for electronics. Bangka, Belitung, Kabwe and OK Tedi never got the attention of the Mobro Barge. If you survey environmentalist in the 1990, on the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Day, only the Mobro garbage scowl was on the lips of the speakers, and only the NIMBY reaction to local dump closures was in the papers.
The ocean tides are driven by a relatively small object in our solar system. The Moon. It's nothing next to the sun, or even Jupiter, but its gravity is closer to us. And this has been the weakness of the environmental movement a democracy - we make other voters care about things that are closer and more visible, even when we know that we can grasp at all the plastic straws in the world and never approach the impact of the petroleum spills (BP, or Nigeria, or the oil barge of Valdez Alaska) at the sources that meet our demand - not just for plastic straws, but for oil and gas to heat our planet.
Recycling a single aluminum can reduces enough carbon as would be produced by burning half the can's contents in gasoline. That's because of the energy it took to produce that can out of the bauxite mined in Ghana or Arkansas. So we were willing, in the 1980s and 1990s, to help pay for the cost of collecting that can with a) deposits, b) anti-litter campaigns, c) landfill cap and closures... and in the 1990s, we came up with a fourth source of recycling funding - Producer takeback, or EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) laws.
The point of the Ethical Gravity is that we used EPR to design a Ptolemy System, a "Circular Economy" that revolves around us. We care about Africans if we see that the waste they burn is "ours", and environmental groups created a hoax that familiar stuff is being dumped at Agbogbloshie in sea containers from Western recycling centers, rather than collected from African businesses and household generators who reuse those devices for decades before they discard them.
If you actually want the Producer, the Original Equipment Manufacturer, to pay to recycle the aluminum can in your city dump, one way is to tax that producer to pay people to pick up the can. That's what Vermont's container deposit system does, and manufacturers hate it, and call it (correctly) a regressive tax on consumers.
But if we simply renegotiate the General Mining Act of 1872, and the IMF and World Bank mining loan policies based upon it, we'd be taxing the Producers at the beginning of the pipe instead of at the end. That would direct capitalist investment - quickly - into recycling ventures.
And that is what pictures of kids on piles of Chinese scrap, or kids carrying TVs on their heads at the Agbogbloshie dump, are designed to distract us from.
Photo close ups of kids affect us more than satellite imagery of the Kabwe or Ok Tedi disasers - visible from outer space - because the pics make the damage appear closer to us. Like the teardrop of an Italian American, Iron Eyes Cody, produced to distract us from the bottle bill which affects us from the begining of the consumption, or the General Mining Act that made the extraction of the bauxite for the can, or extraction of the petroleum to melt and refine it, through raw material subsidies (GMA 1872).
Capitalism, Communism, and Socialism have one thing in common - they don't like up front costs. They like to defer cleanups to later. They only look at pollution after it has occured, and promote "end of pipe solutions" to address it when forced to. Which for the 14 of the top 15 CERCLA Superfund cases, at hard rock mines on subsidized mining sites, still has yet to be paid for. A tax on royalties of the minerals to extract the original material would make that material more valuable, and the aluminum can might never have been thrown out on the road in the first place.
Leaded silicate (anglesite) mined from Kabwe, Zambia
Environmental protection laws are not about protecting the environment.
They are about protecting real estate value.
The real estate that's the most valuable, in cities, is where the recycled feedstock is.
We cannot change that, but we CAN change the value of the copper ore, iron ore, coal, feldspar, gold, bauxite, and lead ore in the ground. Change the General Mining Act of 1872, and start charging more than $5 per acre to mining companies blasting federal lands. Then encourage Zambia, Indonesia, Philippines, D.R. Congo, Malaysia, and other mining/forest hotspots to do the same.
Taxpayers will enjoy two benefits - income from the sale of the virgin material and investment in urban ore. Recycling stocks would quadruple in value overnight if the GMA 1872 is finally changed.
Changing the environmental laws to revolve around the cost of the extraction means that damage done to farway places, and other species, counts as much as if the laws revolve around us. Like Copernicus and Galileo, we have to see the gravity of the situation.
'You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.' Winston Churchill
This is really worth a listen. It's a brief history of Keep America Beautiful, the history of ethical concerns over litter, and how voters are sent "grasping at straws", or recycling, rather than focus on the environmental legacy of extraction.
NPR's series Throughline takes a swing at how voters are influenced through guilt, and how that guilt can be diluted, harnessed, or its trajectory influenced by PR.
The broadcast starts early on with my state of Vermont, which passed the first anti-single-use law to prevent litter. That led to the Keep America Beautiful industrial organization, which leveraged white guilt through TV PSAs... but also acts as a "gatekeeper" or authority over what voters are told to keep in mind when they feel the gravitational pull of their liability or responsibility. (I'd previously started a draft blog a month ago on the Crying Indian, but this program does better than I can).
Industry creates environmental awareness around litter because it's closer to more people's personal responsibility and "ethical gravity".
As I shared in a retweet of MIT's Jeremy Gregory's link to the NPR story, this keeps us away from extraction, mining reform, externalization of forestry and oil drilling.
The environmental impact is mostly at a point of extraction & creation. The focus on end of life is fetishism - similar to the way we spend 9/10 health care dollars on the last year of life. Probably [Steven Pinker] @sapinker could explain fear of / obsessions with "end points in plain sight".
Will have more to write about this, and explain what I mean by "ethical gravity" and personal sense of liability for a piece of litter, as opposed to the environmental costs of the mining or forestry or carbon or energy behind the production of that litter. In fact, the whole plastics packaging debate completely ignores how much more efficient plastic packaging is at protecting - and extending the lifescycle - of food products (compared to selling food and drink in glass or cans or cardboard).
A lot of my meditation on ethical gravity, and the use of guilt and liability and risk aversion to herd behavior, crosses into topics that are not about waste at all, but cultural appropriation and race. That may fill my draft folder for awhile, as I've been labelled an "iconoclast" when I ask questions from a reservoir of deep thinking. See the 2011 blogs about Priestatollahs and the fight for ethical authority. The war between OEMs and the Charitable Industrial Complex will someday perhaps soon be used by Artificial Intelligence to influence all of our votes and direct us all to greater environmental sustainability (or Skynet).
This is part of the problem in carbon policy... carbon is hard to see, and visualization defines our ethical orbit. Some people will care more about a discarded plastic straw than about ocean floor mining to produce electric car batteries, just as many people donate more to save sad abandoned pets over endangered rhinos. For me, extinction is far sadder than kittens suffering. Some people think that's cold.
'You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.' Winston Churchill
Corporate conquests, raw materials, industrialization and economic development... I'm beginning to think that African classrooms should be receiving USA 1970s high school history textbooks.
Histories differ, context differs, trade relationships differ, languages differ, currency differs. The development of Western Guangdong Province looks nothing like the development of coastal Shenzhen. The WSJ reported last week that Viet Nam would not instantly replace China as an outsource. In Harvard Business Review this month, author Ndubuisi Ekekwe of the African Institution of Technology and Fasmicro Group published an essay with the headline "Why Africa's Industrialization Won't Look Like China's".
It's not a bad short essay, but it could have been even shorter. If the western edge of one Chinese Province looks nothing like the eastern edge, why on earth would we expect a whole continent to develop by the pattern of eastern Shenzhen?
Ekekwe seems to imply that China opened Shenzhen zone and presto. Having studied African and Asian and South American transformations from "third world" to "lesser developed nations" to "emerging markets", and having studied the industrialization of the United States between 1800 and 1940, I can attest that the only way to write a short essay is to predict it will be different. Africa lacks the whole Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea war economics, diaspora context that led to the "Asian Tigers" of the late 1900s. But, if you look at people as individuals, and see what they are doing, you can recognize patterns that are not out of place on any continent because they are, by definition, out of place in that place. Things are happening in some places in Africa the way they happened in Vietnam and Peru and India, perhaps. But if it's a broad topic like "Industrialization", Texas did not develop as New Jersey did. What is interesting about the article is where it predicts the future, and how Artificial Intelligence and Robotics will alter the "cheap labor" assumed to be the key to China's industrialization and growth. I would add that the secondhand or secondary economy, trade in used goods, is also going to impact paths to development. 50 years ago there were basically 1 billion rich people reselling and donating to 3 billion people in "emerging markets" (with a billion on the sidelines, too poor for secondhand). Today, there are roughly 4 billion (by the standards of the 1960s) rich people reselling and donating to 3 billion (with only a half billion on the outskirts). Imagine running your dad's 1960s used car dealership when half his customers now buy new cars, and there are 3 other used car dealerships in town. If I were asked to make a prediction, I'd suggest that Africa's future wealthiness will occur differently than anyplace else. And that one end of Ghana (to the north) will develop differently than another (south). But if I were asked to make a prescription, I'd agree with two of Mr. Ekekwe's - transport infrastructure and education - and add a third... one that is a rare gem of fake economics transposed from the top a mere 147 years ago, but which I've always argued (since high school) robs emerging continents of America's path to the world stage. Raw Materials. King Copper. The end of the "copper barons" reign on the USA economy, which drove development of railways and telecommunications (telegraph roads) out west, arguably ended 100 years ago after the great labor war in Bisbee Arizona.
The USA had seen its relevance to the new "electric" world economy tied up with unlicensed, unbridled, copper mining. Those mines would lead to great environmental catastrophe (14 of the 15 largest Superfund sites at the end of the century). Under the theory that raw material, like copper, is less "intellectual property" and creates fewer jobs per ton, the USA passed the General Mining Act of 1872. The Act was a page in the playbook of genocide of native Americans (during the Apache Indian Wars of the same year), and plan to populate the Gadsen Purchase (AZ and NM, where my great grandfather was in the Indian Service). It was also a giveaway to wealthy "robber barons", like those that control too much of the wealth in Africa's raw material economy. The high school textbooks of Arizona and Montana look a lot like the anti-colonial textbooks in Africa. My prescription to developing Africa would be amend General Mining Act of 1872 and the World Bank, and IMF policies based on subsidized natural resources to promote intellectual value added / manufactured goods. Force extraction industries to charge as much as the raw material is worth, making copper more like "rare earth metals" which play hardball with supply and demand forces. And tightly control the environmental damage, charging as much as it takes to develop sites in a way which defends Africa's delicate inland ecosystems.
I accept the point that Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and the "market cannibalization" of secondhand sales have made employment per ton less exponential over extraction. My hope is that raw material mining and petroleum extraction can, like agriculture, be made into something less painful to look at, less dependent on child labor and slave labor, and a source of sustainable renewable profit. If every nation is "industrialized", it becomes less of a stigma to be King of raw material or agriculture. When every kid in every slum on planet owns a smartphone (and a backup flip phone as well), the vision of "industrialization" imagined by Deng Tsao Ping in the 1990s needs a facelift.
There are only so many "economies". As "industrial" becomes less of a Hollywood buzzword, and sustainable ag and circular economies of reuse and repair catch up, Africa will have nothing to be ashamed of whether it's making CPU chips, copper cathode, or cotton blouses or the best coffee on the planet. It should start by marketing itself as the Economy of the Happiest Humans On Earth. People are happier there. That's something we should try to copy.
USA Health Care debate is clearly about the allocation and distribution of cost. I keep hearing it expressed as a poor health care. Most instances where USA death tolls are higher could be attributable to relative affluence (affordable illegal drugs, affordable guns, affordable sugar).
Take Cancer. USA's system developed the best responses in the world, and help explain not just the increased rates of survivorship in the USA, but actually floats a lot of other boats as well.
The hypothesis being debated by politicians is not that cancer rates would be lower in a single-payer system, or that treatment of injury would improve, but that costs would be distributed differently. Right now you get very affordable health care if you have Medicare (are over 65) or are eligible for Veterans Administration hospitals, or perhaps are poor enough for Medicaid (I know less about that). But under those systems, you are better off if you have an extremely expensive ailment (like cancer) but not clearly better off (red tape) than if you go to the emergency room of a private hospital.
This blog was developed after a conversation with one of my kids who attended United World College in Bosnia y Herzogovina. All 3 of my kids have lived as ex-pats and wind up trying to explain a system that most people don't even understand in their own countries. If a nation can't even manage its own appliance repairs, how can it manage human bodies?
The answer is as complex as the question is simple. In the USA, people who are the smartest in their class go to Med School or get employed by pharmaceutical research firms. Those people are not available to fix laptops, the money is in fixing hearts and livers. In Ghana, only a slight fraction of smart people have the opportunity to go to med school. I means there are more smart people available to repair laptops.
Cost - Benefit of Biology Repair
At a meta-level, the debate is about repairing the system we have for repairing health. The debate over the USA Health Care Insurance not about USA treatment of illness, vaccination rates, or gunshot trauma, or the root causes of those risks. It is "given this person needs health care, how does the system calculate those costs, and how do they get paid for?"
That episode gets to the crux of the matter... how much is this repair (treatment) worth? We can objectively tell whether a car or laptop is "worth repairing". We know that that objective decision is arrived at differently by people in different supply-demand economies (Adam Smith). But what is human life worth? And how do we make rational decisions while surrounded by loved ones driven instinctively by a million year old evolutionary principle (fear of death)?
In certain places, even rich people understand the economics. "You have to step over the bodies" is the training advice given to medics on battlefields. If you stop to treat a dying man with 4% chance of surviving his would given an hour treatment, 6 others who had a 50% chance of living with 10 minutes of treatment will die. If a wound is so big that 9 pints of blood are lost every minute, you cannot empty the blood bank to give the person another hour of life. At least, not until you solve the supply problem for blood. That problem - cheap artificial or substitute blood - is most likely to be solved someday in the future in the USA Health Care system, This is because someone obscenely rich will create a market for it. Perhaps NASA or the US Military Spending (cost of soldier) will play a role. For geeks, think of it as "free RAM"... it would change your repair diagnosis decision for a number of machines (as Chromebooks changed the market around hard drives). The excess in health care expenditure per capita includes both more expensive costs and more available expensive treatment. Think of it as an average cost of a car, in a country where more people buy a Tesla. That doesn't mean that Chevy is or isn't more affordable, but you can't really tell from the statistic exactly how the income is being distributed.
US Political Debate
Skeptics of single-payer systems point to the red tape and inefficient costs and exploitation (double testing, prices gouging). I have witnessed this in Medicare. Skeptics of the current system point to people who have "cheap" private insurance that excludes things (like cancer or pre-existing conditions) in the fine print and who wind up with crushing bankruptcy when the treatment they require is not covered.
My dad's doctoral thesis professor, William Stephenson, wrote a book called "Play Theory" after developing a really profoundly deep-diving polling system called "Q Method". Based on his research, the discussion above is too complex for most people to follow, and they will naturally adapt the opinion that is the most "familiar" (the most likely to have been heard expressed by a friend or family member). That leads to tribalism and divided Congress, and it can be exploited (weaponized) by foreign powers over social media. I think the way the nation votes for BernieCare, ObamaCare, TrumpCare has less to do with the understanding of the cost distribution system and more to do with finding a simple motto or slogan ("Socialism doesn't work" or "US Health Care System is Broken") than with improvement of the system.
Under the USA system of Medicaid and Medicare, young healthy people are taxed to pay for the cost of elderly and poor and veterans. Unlucky young people (cancer, accident) wind up with bills they cannot pay after they are treated. The bills don't get paid and hospitals put the unpaid expenses onto Medicare patient bills. It provides evidence for both skeptics. But economically, the cost is distributed.
In small countries like Holland, it's pretty easy to distribute the excess health care cost onto a tax on gasoline. In oil rich nations like Norway, its even easier. It's pretty hard on Texans (who have the longest driving commutes), not hard at all on Manhattan residents (who tend not to own a car because of the cost of the garage).
Under Q-Method, I'd ask 100 subjects to rank the following 2 questions in the order they most agree with each. I wouldn't be concerned with how strongly you agree or how violently you disagree, I'd find out the order you'd put them in, even if you agree or disagree with each. This would divide the 100 interviewees into two groups. Their opinions would most likely be predicted, under Play Theory, by the amount of time they spend every day with people who express one of these opinions.
Politicians who say they have a simple solution are lying.
Politicians who say it's too complicated avoid taking a stand on a difficult problem.
The system is rigged
Reporters who write short blurbs leave it to bloggers like me to explain things to people overseas, who understand that USA health care is different but who mistake election year press controversy for a health care crisis. Most people are healthy and most people don't like to pay taxes, but most people want to be treated if they become pregnant or injured and the health care costs suddenly arise.
My solution would be to make everyone under the age of 25 eligible for Medicare, But even that's far more complicated than it sounds. There are people who believe that every life, even the babies who come to term with a critical congenital brain defect who will never be capable of consciousness (born with a brain stump) who would insist that it's moral to tax everyone to keep that body alive forever (and to imprison the mother who was told about it and ends the pregnancy in the first trimester).
And thus we enter another uncomfortable democratic election debate people prefer to oversimplify, and treat via slogans... yes I will type it. a b o r t i o n s.
For most of us, ability to think is a software problem, not a hardware problem.
Primum non nocere - first do no harm.
'You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.' Winston Churchill
The Twittersphere continues to post drama documentaries about Agbogbloshie, illegal dumping, largest e-waste dump on earth, etc. Just 12 months ago, another European documentary was produced which tries to out-do the outlandish racial profiling that already put Joseph "Hurricane" Benson in prison. It now has over 1M views.
But there's no title. No filmmaker. Narrarator is unnamed. There are no credits. No funding source. No one to ask questions of. It's an anonymous hit job on Africa's Tech Sector, doing the business of Planned Obsolescence, Big Shred, and Charity Industrial Complex.
Joseph Benson of BJ Electronics, Olu Orga, and the Tech Sector in Ghana still face a European lynch mob... but now the journalists may as well be wearing hoods. Learning from the retorts to #SashaRainbow and #BaselActionNetwork, the propaganda now seeps through social media without anyone to confront or trace it back to.
Given the well documented electricity grid in urban cities like Accra and Lagos and Dakar and Douala in 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010, etc., it should be pretty simple to calculate some estimate of how much e-waste consumers in those cities should be producing.
If you do that simple math, it's profoundly clear that the dumps would be much much larger if not but for the success of Africa's Tech Sector in prolonging the useful life of appliances, repairing them, and keeping them in use.
The more time I spend in Ghana, the more simple interviews like Olu Orga (embed at top) seem to be glaringly missing from documentaries like this one. And what we are now documenting here is racism, racial profiling, utter bias and bigotry by Europe's left-leaning documentary makers. They don't see that the "savior" role they imagine for themselves will be seen by historians as a planned obsolescence lynch mob.
The waste to energy facility and port of export interviews appear to be in German. If anyone can determine who is responsible for this anonymous racist propaganda, please let me know.
'You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.' Winston Churchill
Update on the progress of the CLRR lawsuit, where a 5-year landlord is suing people who shipped CRT tubes to the tenant in 2012 (there is a mess still there in 2019).
- The OEMs who backed CLRR are not named. - The landlords who expanded CLRR 3-fold (3 warehouses) are suing recyclers who ceased shipments at first warehouse. - Ohio EPA is pursuing tonnage, which means companies who abandoned CLRR before Ohio EPA greenlighted them are being sought for amends.
Weeks ago, we blogged about the Landlord's case against all recyclers, whom the landlord claims participated and profited from a "sham" recycler. The landlord expects the judge to accept that anyone who shipped a tube there on Day 1 knew it was a sham, but the landlord did not, as they proceeded to extend leases and offer 2 additional buildings, years after some of us pulled the plug.
As an informal consultant to an OEM representative who vouched for CLRR, I have a treasure trove of information on the project between.
My associates provided a viable downstream outlet for the CRT glass CLRR was able to process (at least, until the trommel broke in 2015), as an industrial mineral useful to primary and secondary metal smelters. In 2016, E-Scrap News published my article on the useful nature of CRT glass sized and graded with trommels. That was the backup plan for CLRR, not the $15M furnace. When 2014 ended, CLRR had not shipped enough loads of processed furnace ready cullet, and the speculative accumulation had begun.
What could CLRR do, and when could they no longer do it?
CLRR's trommel in Columbus, Ohio, broke in 2015, but they continued to accept material. And the material they accepted became worse and worse. Ohio EPA cites the 2015 trommel breakdown as a key moment when CLRR became a "sham" but is silent about the distinction between companies who abandoned CLRR even before that.
Among the largest loads CLRR received was the cleanout of three OTHER bankrupt recyclers from several OTHER landlords abandoned properties. Creative Recycling, GES, and 2TRG/EWSI are not mentioned in the lawsuit, but a significant portion of the material in Columbus Ohio was simply moved from CERCLA Site A to CERCLA Site B. Companies who blew the whistle on that to OEMs and CLRR representatives are, to the landlord, equally guilty as those who shipped to the day before bankruptcy.
In this "Triple Jeopardy" blog, we focus on the irony that the current suit cites as an NGO "expert" the organization which certified and recommended the previous bankrupt companies, whose shredded CRTs must now be moved a third time. If we are going to widen the pool of PRPs, we need to either start where speculative accumulation started, or go back to the entire pool of companies involved.
Going back to previous GOCRTGM blog #1, the hypothesis was that you sent a CRT glass tube to CLRR, what did you know, and when did you know it?... You delivered your CRT to CLRR's only address from 2012-13. You stopped shipping way before CLRR ignored YOUR PO for furnace ready cullet, and began stockpiling it.
CLRR was operating in the warehouse at 1675 Watkins Road in 2013... When Garrison purchased the property, after your CRT had been delivered. But it was also a year AFTER the NGO recommended "Big Shred" E-Waste Recycler, Creative Recycling, abandoned waste CRT glass on another landlord. Garrison cites an "expert" whose cleanup company had shipped waste to Garrison's site in 2014. Presumably the new landlord had an appraisal and property inspection. Presumably, someone at GSP knew something about your 2012 CRT, or the process proposed or taking place, when they purchased the building. What they knew, or should have known, is whether their renter CLRR was doing work or just storing material. They say that you should have known, in 2012 and mid-2013, what their NGO expert identified as a concern in late 2013.
GSP renewed the lease with CLRR in April 2014, two years after our 2012 delivery, after the Creative Recycling bankruptcy, and after the NGO warned a out the process. After the "bell", GSP agreed to lease CLRR a second warehouse at 1755 Watkins Road.
Follow this - You shipped in 2012, landlord says that BAN's whistle in late 2013 should have warned YOU, but LANDLORDS leased 2 more warehouses in 2014 and 2015. It seems that BAN's warning was a dog whistle only 2012 recyclers (retroactively) and not the landlords of the subject, could hear. According to Ohio EPA filings (public hearings), the new lease after you ceased shipments was to move CRT glass that actually had been processed from intact CRTs, like yours, delivered to 1675 Watkins in 2012-2013.
You don't know that, because you shipped your CRT in 2012. In 2013, you informed CLRR it had to ship the furnace ready cullet, and you provided a downstream who would accept it for free, actually sending one test load there for free. But CLRR was actually also receiving shredded glass from another bankrupt recycler, abandoned at another landlord, neither of whom merits a peep in GSP's complaint. But the expert who had recommended the previous bankrupt recycler as an E-Steward is claimed by GSP to be an expert that they could not hear, but you should have heard a year and a half earlier, in 2012.
When you shipped your CRT to be recycled, what you also did not know, and may still not know, is that a few other landlords were resolving a few other abandoned CRT glass cases during this period. In 2012, E-Stewards gave certificationto one of their Founding Members. Creative Recycling - at one time one of the top 5 television and monitor recycling companies in the world - had gone bankrupt. It seems their "one stop processing" machine, nicknamed "David", had created a huge messy pile of improperly broken, improperly processed, NOT "furnace ready" cullet, out of the CRTs the company accepted at its east coast facilities that extended from New York seaboard down to Florida. From Recycling Today [November 2012]:
"CRS says it has begun work to certify its processing facilities in Tampa; Baltimore; and Allentown, Pa. E-Stewards certification requires that all of a electronic recycling company’s processing facilities be certified to the standard, which also requires ISO 14001 certification.
"The company has a total of 13 facilities, which includes collection facilities. CRS also holds R2/RIOS (Responsible Recycling Practices/Recycling Industry Operating Standard), ISO 9001 and OHSAS 18001 certifications at its processing facilities."
E-Stewards NGO "Watchdog" Basel Action Network is cited in the GSP and Olymbec complaints as an expert whose warnings about CRT glass in 2014 should have told you (in 2012) how risky CRT glass recycling was. In Paragraph 113 of the Complaint, "The Basel Action Network ("BAN") is an environmental non-profit group that describes itself as an investigative watchdog for sham electronic waste recyclers. In Paragraph 115, the claim states "On or about September 26, 2013, BAN provided public comments in response to Defendant Closed Loop's permit application in which it expresses concens with the risk of speculative accumulation and sham reycling that would arise from Defendant Closed Loops' conduct". In par 116, "BAN's public statements regarding the Defendant Closed Loop situation were widely disseminated and, upon information and belief, were known to [PRPs]"
What audit of which E-Steward might have given these insights to BAN? And what landlords might have been aware of the perils of the situation? As Bobby Elliot (Resource Recycling) reported in 2018, the demise of the huge Creative Recycling E-Steward led to abandonment of 32 million pounds of "legacy material".
After Florida-based Creative Recycling Systems filed for bankruptcy in September 2014, landlords in six different states – Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina – worked closely with state officials to remove 32 million pounds of legacy material.
The earliest cleanup was conducted in Maryland in December 2014 and the last cleanup was completed in September 2016 in South Carolina.
State records indicate most of the material was sent to a handful of downstream processors: Ohio-based Closed Loop Refining and Recovery, Kentucky-based Global Environmental Services (GES) and Illinois-based Kuusakoski Recycling.
Closed Loop and GES received more than half of Creative’s stockpile and have since closed, leaving behind millions of pounds of their own CRT glass. Both firms have been the subject of lawsuits and regulatory action.
So, if you had listened to Basel Action Network in 2012, and sent your CRT to Creative Recycling to be shredded, it still wound up in Ohio. And if you were a landlord in Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, North or South Carolina, you'd already been to court to move 32 million pounds of improperly ("sham"?) managed CRTs to Columbus Ohio.
Garrison leased CLRR the second property, 1655 Watkins Road, to Closed Loop in 2014. You know this because you did what you were supposed to do, and doing the 365 day follow up on your 2012 and 2013 CRT deliveries to CLRR. CLRR explained that your intact CRT had been processed to furnace ready cullet and was being moved to the second site, where a new furnace would be installed.
The furnace would be financed by 2 parties. One of them was EWSI, which had - with great PR and fanfare - heralded the acquisition of E-Steward 2tRG and relocation of the material to (drumroll) Columbus, Ohio.
In June 2014, EWSI proudly announced that it had been "interviewed by Bobby Elliott of E-Scrap News". This was a few months after David Cauchi and Brent Benham informed you, during your speculative accumulation audit, that the new furnace would be financed by EWSI's $30M investment from Tanke and Loyalty in China. Photos of Cauchi and Benham on that trip below.
Suffice to say, EWSI's announcement of the $30M from Chinese investors was BS, and led to the SEC filing suit against EWSI executives. Panos was convicted of fraud in 2016, Nielsen (pictured with Cauchi) was still up for sentencing in 2018. For a peek at how EWSI operated, see its glowing announcement that the CEO had been "Interviewed by Bobby Elliot [sic]" (screencaptured from Wayback machine) below, and compare it with Elliot's actual articles on EWSI, 2TRG operations in West NY and Ohio.
This article on the EWSI 2TRG waste abandonment in 2014 is actually accessible via BAN's own website. The article shows pictures of the material abandoned by the E-Steward Certified operations at Ohio warehouses, and upaid rent to the Ohio landlords. This was prior to Garrison and Olymbec leases of the 2nd and 3rd CLRR warehouse operations.
Ok, so my attorneys can relax... I've only shared public information (some of it you have to use the Wayback Machine for). Not the records of Garrison South Park's discussions with Cauchi and Benham about the moving of E-Stewards abandoned material - TVs and other ewaste from Cincinnati Ohio and imporperly crushed CRTs from E-Steward Creative Recycling facilities in several other states, transported to the property by e-Steward Kuusakoski (originally named in the suit). And I'm not publicizing information on negotiations of where the abandoned CRT material in Columbus Ohio is slated to go, or who is currently the most reasonable bidder, or who has offered to finance the move. Or what I know about which former employee of which renter landlord in the suit knows all about this, including discussions with EWSI.
The major point of this blog is that if you are a landlord, and your client wants to lease a second and third warehouse, to receive material being moved by other bankrupt CRT processing firms (E-Stewards, all) in landsuits from other landlords, don't expect recyclers who refused to use THOSE bankrupt facilities in 2012 and 2013 to pay for that pile a THIRD time.
GSP SHOULD HAVE ACCEPTED MY CONSULTING OFFER INSTEAD OF TRYING TO PIN THIS MESS ON ME FOR MY 2012 INTACT CRT. BECAUSE THE ONGOING DILIGENCE I DID WAS REVEALING DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN SEVERAL PARTIES.
MOST OF THE IMPROPERLY CRUSHED CRTS AT THE GSP AND OLYMBEC SITES EVIDENTLY CAME FROM SHUTTERED E-STEWARDS PROCESSORS AT OTHER BANKRUPT FACILITIES SERVED EVACUATION NOTICES BY OTHER LANDLORDS.
What is not yet public is who knew what, and when they knew it, and what they did to profit from it.
Ohio EPA knew about EWSI and 2TRG, and it's likely that GSP did, too. According to executives at CLRR, it was no secret the Cincinnati stockpile was being moved to CLRR facilities, and that CLRR was waiting to be paid for it by EWSI. CLRR executives told us that their landlord knew about the situation too, in 2013. Certainly, everyone knew about it when EWSI held a grand opening of a new E-Waste plant in Columbus in partnership with CLRR. And certainly, everyone noticed when EWSI closed that plant within a few months. Employees sued for non-payment, the Ohio AG was involved, and the SEC arrested EWSI executives for fraudulent claims of $30M Chinese investments to hype their and pump-and-dump stock sales.
CLRR executives further told us that the plan to purchase and pay for the $15M furnace involved discussions between representatives of the landlord and EWSI, who had purchased 2TRG. EWSI publicly claimed that year they had received $30M through a new China contract - and took CLRR executives to China with them to negotiate the deal.
So if it's true that CLRR told Landlord GSP and Ohio EPA about this financing plan, and Ohio EPA scheduled public hearings on the expansion at a second (GSP) and third (Olymbec) warehouse in 2014, and EWSI was issuing press releases about the Ohio e-Waste Recycling investment, why isn't any of this information in the deposition?
Alvin and the Chipmunks, Till I Collapse (Eminem Cover)
This is another chapter in a long story about racism against the Asian factories and African reuse operations that were buying working CRTs from Europe, Japan and America. As the UK House of Commons concluded in 2011, the used devices were rarely dumped, but represented a "loss of strategic metals" in demand by Big Shred operations, which in turn were financed by Planned Obsolescence OEMs designed programs. The whole payola scheme is managed by a "watchdog" in Seattle, who makes money from the very processors who MAKE the mess and then bid to collect it, dump it again, and bid to clean it up a 4th time.
'You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.' Winston Churchill
The environmental WEEE policies supported by the UK mean well. They mean fabulously well. When I met Lord Chris Smith at a public meeting to launch INTERPOL’s “Project Eden”, I could see the passion towards ending what was thought to be the scourge of the planet - E-Waste exports.
The UK had made the export (except for “fully functional”) used electronics a crime. African, Asian and Latin American tech sector importers were labelled “waste tourists”. The House of Commons reported in 2012 that the exported secondhand computers represented a “strategic mineral” interest, and that whether or not they were reused (the HOC report did, to its credit, cast doubt on the “80% waste” statistic proclaimed by Lord Chris Smith), that the UK’s industrial sector needed the metals to remain in the UK’s “circular economy”.
In 2014, Joseph “Hurricane” Benson accepted a guilty plea for “illegally” exporting used electronics. He did not admit to dumping them (he purchased them and exported them at much higher cost than disposing them). He knew, as a TV repairman from Nigeria, exactly how the secondhand equipment would be reused and re-sold. He admitted guilt to the UK’s new law that made secondhand electronics exports illegal.
We met Benson, and spent the next 4 years researching African used electronics trade, with specific attention to those imported from the USA and UK since the 1990s.
Export for repair, and even recycling, is explicitly legal under the Basel Convention (see Annex IX, B1110). But the UK had written its own law, aimed at used electronics export. Not only was Joseph “Hurricane” Benson sentenced to prison, but he was excoriated as an evil polluter, as a man who dumped waste on his own native countrymen. He was made an example and written up by the BBC, UNEP, SkyNews, and countless other report writers as cause of the “largest e-waste dump on earth” (Agbogbloshie, Ghana). Using northern Ghanaian Dagomba translators, we interviewed the scrappers, traced their routes to see where the junk came from, and documented how it was being scrapped and resold into the world recycling market. If a single copper cable has ever, ever been buried in a landfill in Africa, we could find no evidence of such.
As someone who lived in a remote area of Cameroon in the 1980s, a village with no post office, bank, telephone, and fewer than 1 vehicle per 1000 residents, I know my neighbor had a colour television set. Nigerian pirated VHS tapes were for sale on blankets on every corner (“Rambo” and “Rocky” were big hits, but Mr. S. Stallone earned little income from it).
The assumption that junkyards like Agbogbloshie were receiving sea containers full of electronic waste for primitive treatment was promoted by thousands of White Saviours. But it would never had stood the test of a solid interview with actual African electronics professionals, repairmen, tech sector traders, aka “Geeks of Colour”. Our World Reuse Repair & Recycling Association (WR3A.org), dba Fair Trade Recycling, is here to introduce you to these experts, if you are willing to listen.
The economic argument - that it’s impossible to profit by exporting electronics to Africa if not but for reuse value - is strong. Not one single solitary sea container has ever been seen at Agbogbloshie (which UK journalists represented as receiving 500 such sea containers per month). The World Bank statistics show the number of households in cities like Lagos and Accra had at least one television in 2001 - a statistic which makes Agbogbloshie bewilderingly small, given the waste generation those African households would create in 15 years, if they consumed and disposed of electronics the way Europeans do. But Africans don’t treat their possessions that way, for the most part. There is a TV or cell phone repair shop on almost every corner, and the Techs in our network actually build replacement circuit boards from scratch, using transistors salvaged and kept in coffee tins, rather than throw one out for lack of a replacement part.
The Akosombo hydroelectric dam in Ghana is more than 50 years old. Long retired BBC experts, like Dr. Graham Mytton, can tell you precisely how many hundreds of TV stations were active in Africa in 1977. Did anyone for a moment think that Africans would have been watching the Premier League games on brand new TV sets if Joseph Benson had never opened his business?
The IMF and World Bank have decades of consulting studies which explain how the developing world relied on a “critical mass of users” owning used TVs, used cell phones, used computers, etc. to make investible the hydroelectric power grid, the TV stations, the cell phone towers, and the internet cables and satellites which supply bandwidth, power, content, etc.
The “strategic metals” that UK’s “big shred” industry cries for were mined by Africans, in metal mines like Kabwe in Zambia. If there is an environmental crime to investigate, look upstream, to the conflict metal mines that created those materials for your industries to use.
The Circular Economy is a wonderful thing, and WR3A is delighted that it has your support. Our African members, too, believe in the Circular Economy. But like Copernicus and Galileo, they do not believe that it revolves around You.
'You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.' Winston Churchill