Lessons from EWaste: Listening to "Others" Perspectives

Happy New Year. 

The E-Waste Export Controversy died in 2017.  All around, I see people leaving the bandwagon, addressing new emergencies (piles of CRT glass abandoned domestically), addressing new waste concerns (markets for plastics, mattress processing)

It took 5 more years after the key proponent of the "shocking" statistic about 80% e-waste dumping overseas basically admitted to making it up while soliciting donations (no proceeds of which went to the children in their "e-waste" photos) for the press to stop breathing new life into the ewaste export hoax.

Here and there, a few neophytes still refer to the E-Waste Export Controversy, recalling Annie Leonard's Story of Stuff cartoon or a poorly written UNEP press release.  UNEP for too long used photos to imply widespread dumping, working "90%" into release with pictures of kids standing on junk, despite chart after chart that disproved the 2010 narrative.  Self promoting "Ewaste Tech" fundraisers claim to have eyewitnessed thousands of orphans burning circuit boards in Agbogbloshie.  And wanna-comeback glam-rockers like Placebo's Brian Molko film scrappers holding burning rubber tires over their heads, paying them for a nice dinner... paying scrappers to monkey around with fire that otherwise fails to support itself (adding little if any value to wire).

The game is over.  Today, most reporters following up on a BAN press release find plenty of studies and articles, from numerous sources, debunking the NGO's past "reports".  BAN's executive leader often writes an op-ed attacking the credentials of the critic, but that has shown diminishing returns.  We said it here ten years ago:  "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain".

Taking a page from Scott Adams Dilbert blog, I'll take a minute to boast about my forecast of the defeat of the e-waste hoax, predictions of the ties that would emerge from the NGO's IRS990s, the involvement of "Big Shred" and "Planned Obsolescence" funding, and the shadow of racial profiling.  In 2010's Blog "Slums and Recycling and Environmental Justice"  diagnosed and foreshadowed the ailment.  In future blogs, I will tell you my secrets, with which you too may win bigly. 

"Out of the hottest fire comes the strongest steel." Chinese Proverb

Defending the 20 Percent: LET'S INTEGRATE RECYCLING

American Retroworks Inc. is a USA corporation based in Middlebury, Vermont. Established as a consulting company in 2001, ARI developed one of the first electronics take back and recycling ventures in the USA (Good Point Recycling), which now employs 30 staff. ARI has recycled, or diverted for reuse, over 20M kilos of “e-waste” over the decade plus we have collected in New England.  We create blue collar jobs in Addison County, we train our staff to meet new opportunities, and almost all of the $40M we have brought into the county came not just from out of state, but from big manufacturing companies - OEMs, steel and copper smelters, plastics molders - in other countries.

This blog is about the 20%.  Of people, partners, and product. 

Reversing Environmental Racism: Owning Your Stereotypes and Profiles

We are on the verge of turning the page on EuroCentric #CircularEconomy.  Several professionals in the European Union (and UK) have understood that Copernicus and Galileo were right, and the sustainable economy does not "revolve around" the OECD.

Five years after the IERC conference gave an Award to Jim Puckett of BAN for his "pioneering and breathless work to prevent the globalization" of used electronics management, the conference has invited Emmanuel Eric Nyalete - a native Ghanaian, Georgia Tech Coder, and former reuse department head at Good Point Recycling - to address the conference and tell them about Ghana's imports from the Tech Sector's point of view.

How did we get here?  And why did it take ten years (since publication of Greenpeace's report on Agbogbloshie) to get experts like Emmanuel, Grace Akese (of MUN), Jenna Burrell, Josh Lepawsky, and others to the podium?  And is it possible that Europe will actually contribute financially to welcome Africa's Tech Sector back to the table, and partner with them to make the world better for future generations of all races, languages, and creeds?

15 Minutes of Shame: Confessions of a Sexual Alpha Male #MeToo

When I hear the noise and see the headlines about people I truly admired - Charlie Rose, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, Al Franken, etc. - I mostly turn my head.  Not that their shameful acts are directly comparable, but they are all people I admire (not so much Bill O'Reilly, Roy Moore, Roger Ailes, etc).  So far, I haven't really spoken to anyone about my disappointment or empathies I share with both victims and perpetrators.

By the time I graduated (Carleton) college in Minnesota, I had learned enough - about myself and my capacity for both positive and selfish love - that I thought it best to take a two year "time out".  I signed up for a Peace Corps position as a high school teacher and was placed in a very remote rural high school in north central Cameroon.

While I wouldn't describe it as a vow of chastity (unsuccessful at any rate), it did change the game, and challenge me.  I'd later explain, after Peace Corps hired me as a Cross Cultural trainer for new volunteers, that our ideas about Peace Corps as a remote and lonely adventure are really mistaken. We arrive with hiking boots and backpacks, but find ourselves enrolled in a black fraternity. For most of us, it's intensely social, lacking privacy.

"All the other kids with their pumped up kicks..."