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This presentation was given at the 2013 E-Scrap Conference last week in Orlando. It was given by Oscar A. Orta who shared the podium with Cees van Duijn of INTERPOL and Feng Wang of UN University. The presentation seeks to give an update on the multi-party research being made regarding electronics recycling and the export/import and reuse and refurbishment of second hand electronics between developed and emerging countries.
The point is to show that most of the stuff filmed at dumps in emerging markets was generated in emerging markets (Lagos had 6,900,000 households with TVs in 2007 World Bank), and that most imports are intended for reuse in Africa and Latin America at least (91% reuse at UNEP study, 87% ASU study). Further, UNEP confirmed our 2006 hypothesis that much of the junk found at reuse shops was brought in as "trade ins"... same as you find old Ford cars at a Toyota dealership (no, Japan did not dump old cars here).
In the Fair Trade Recycling model, the reuse entrepreneurs stop being cast as villains, and instead are seen for their potential to finance an actual takeback system. Instead of selling $100,000 worth of used computers or displays, the USA/Export country charges $75,000 on the condition that the buyers properly report whatever is damaged in shipping or unrepairable damage (e.g. customs searches of containers) and take back old units from their cities, like a "cash for clunkers" or "needle exchange". We can cross train by visit or by video, but use data (mass balance, reconciliation) to determine reuse and recycling rates and to tweek the system if necessary.
It's a very powerful partnership, a very different model. One where governments and NGOs can participate but are not completely needed, one where the free market can act and entrepreneurs from different countries support themselves and work together in order to set up proper and responsible electronics' recycling operations and infrastructure while at the same time promoting entrepreneurship in developing countries and creating better and better paying jobs.
With the publication of the UNEP studies (showing 85-91% reuse in Africa), the publication of Junkyard Planet (Adam Minter), the Memorial U + Fair Trade Recycling grant, and the bizarre retraction of the 80-90% waste statistic, we believe this is the year people will finally be able to see and understand the other side of the story.