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Earth United Kingdom News Technology

UK Man Sentenced To 16 Months For Exporting 'E-Waste' Despite 91% Reuse 212

retroworks writes: The Guardian uses a stock photo of obvious electronic junk in its coverage of the sentencing of Joseph Benson of BJ Electronics. But film of the actual containers showed fairly uniform, sorted televisions which typically work for 20 years. In 2013, the Basel Convention Secretariat released findings on a two-year study of the seized sea containers containing the alleged "e-waste," including Benson's in Nigeria, and found 91% of the devices were working or repairable. The study, covered by Slashdot in Feb. 2013, declared the shipments legal, and further reported that they were more likely to work than new product sent to Africa (which may be shelf returns from bad lots, part of the reason Africans prefer used TVs from nations with strong warranty laws).

Director of regulated industry Harvey Bradshaw of the U.K. tells the Guardian: "This sentence is a landmark ruling because it's the first time anyone has been sent to prison for illegal waste exports." But five separate university research projects question what the crime was, and whether prohibition in trade is really the best way to reduce the percentage of bad product (less than 100% waste). Admittedly, I have been following this case from the beginning and interviewed both Benson and the Basel Secretariat Executive Director, and am shocked that the U.K. judge went ahead with the sentencing following the publication of the E-Waste Assessment Study last year. But what do Slashdotters think about the campaign to arrest African geeks who pay 10 times the value of scrap for used products replaced in rich nations?
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UK Man Sentenced To 16 Months For Exporting 'E-Waste' Despite 91% Reuse

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  • Re: And yet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:12PM (#47290607)

    That's the problem with Capitalism these days, if you're not bribing the right people in government, you can't sell stuff.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:19PM (#47290631) Journal

    Remember, arbitrage is only legal when dealing with intangible financial instruments. Arbitrage with actual products is gauche and therefore punishable.

  • Re: And yet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:25PM (#47290665)

    How is that a capitalism problem? Capitalism puts emphasis on the private sector, not the government. Furthermore, I don't think this is even something advocated by any private entities. All of the lobbying behind this is environmentalist groups (which actually tend to lean socialist and/or communist) who think that they're doing the planet a favor by preventing used electronics from going to countries that are often the last stop in the useful life of goods (when they "recycle" them, they send to scrap the valuable raw materials, and just trash or burn the rest.)

    In this case, you have to decide what is worse: Preventing all technology exports to these countries (which guarantees that they'll remain in third world status forever) or allowing about 20% of these goods to end up being discarded on the ground.

    This problem is cultural in nature rather than cost related in nature. For example, in countries like Liberia it is actually common for people to defecate in public and just leave it there (they don't even bury it,) and often eat in the same place (breaking the old "don't shit where you eat" rule.) This creates a health AND environmental hazard that really has nothing to do with technology or politics, rather it's just really bad decisions made by the people over there.

    Depriving them of technology will NOT solve this problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:37PM (#47290703)

    The way quite a bit of e-waste gets out of countries with strong regulations is by being shipped in "working" or "repairable" units, which are in principle allowed by law, even though they are actually waste. So this may be a bad thing, or may be a good thing, depending on the details. The mere fact that the devices are working or repairable does not mean that they aren't waste--if someone gave you a working 20-year-old TV, would you want it?

    If I didn't already have something better, then yes, I would want it. My current main television is about 10 years old, and I bought it used two years ago to replace another that was 14 years old and needed an expensive repair.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:59PM (#47290805)

    I have volunteered many, many hours to some 3d printing FLOSS projects over the years.

    There is a reason.

    Manufacturing is a corrupt, bizarre industry. It does not take magic to build a vacuum cleaner. Mechanical inclination is innate to the human brain. The planned obsolescence fad has done nothing in the past 50 years except transfer wealth from the middle class to the top 1%, essentially by committing mass fraud by forcing engineers to use their skills to produce products that fail on purpose for no reason.

    This time is coming to an end. No African would buy castoffs when they can print their own product in their own backyard. Yes, it will be a while before we can print electronics, but it was a while before we could print things like cups and knobs in the past.

    "Oh but what about the jobs lost". Lets talk about that. Lets talk about GM, which purposely shipped huge number of cars, knowing that they had a defect that killed people. For years. And punished the person who tried to stop them. I wonder how people who work for low wages at small businesses feel about watching their own tax dollars being spent to bail out a company that kills people because it's management are lazy and incompetent. This is not about 'saving jobs', it's about ending a corrupt and evil system.

  • Re: And yet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @09:06PM (#47290833)

    Actually, the party elite in the soviet union were bribed regularly in order to make sure things happened when they needed to. A government demanding bribes for doing what it's supposed to do is not 'capitalism.'

  • Re:And yet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @09:07PM (#47290839)
    Yep. Because selling used equipment to Africa can be called illegal export of e-waste, it has to be destroyed and a lot ends up in landfills. Real fucking green.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @09:55PM (#47291067)

    ... Arbitrage with actual products is gauche and therefore punishable ...

    If the arbitrage was carried out by humongous multinationals, such as Japan's Mitsubishi Group or America's GE's, no, nobody dare to punish them

    It's only punishable when small fry does it, small fry like that Mr. Benson in TFA

  • Re: And yet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @04:01AM (#47292049)

    Damn, you're stupid.

    Most of these "environmental" laws exist to stifle the used product market, preventing manufacturers from being undercut by their own older models. This is capitalism buying regulations in their favor.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll