7 Steps To Create a Profitable Hoax (#ewastegate)

No one denies that the volume of unwanted electronic scrap is growing.   Gadgets improve lives around the world.   They don't work forever.  But they often have more than one life.

Display devices (more than half of all the e-Scrap) are like used automobiles.  The average life of an automobile (15k miles per year, 200k miles per car) is about 13 years... some last longer, some shorter.   But the average first ownership of cars is less than 50 months, or about 4 years.    

Some people (with means) like to buy new cars every 3-5 years. Same goes for television and video displays.   Just as the cars roll around for twice the number of years they were used by the first owner, there's a secondary market for TVs, PCs, and their display devices.   

How can a do-gooder create a $3M non-profit out of the used appliance (or used car) market? Two parts White Guilt, one part Exotic Locale Photos, one Fake Statistic.  Print millions, move on. 

For more, visit 2010 "Top Ten Myths of #ewastegate"

1.  Create a fake 'e-waste' news crisis  

Tell all the environmentalists that you have a "dirty little secret"... that most of the electronic material they have brought in to recycling centers didn't really get recycled in the USA, or at all.   CBS 60 Minutes, PBS Frontline, NPR, USA Today, BusinessWeek, BBC will come running to you with the microphone.  You are marketing a believable message to people who are already "activated" on the topic (already making the effort to bring old gear for recycling).

This is key, you aren't trying to convince people to care, you are taking people who already care and convincing them of a scandal.   For example:

"Approximately 80% of electronic waste currently delivered to recyclers is actually exported to developing countries.
It worked so well, making a fake number up for China.  Best to adjust it a little when applying it to another continent.  For example, see the "75% junk" results from an "extensive investigation".

Throw in modifiers like "strictly" and "toxic"...  With the right baloney statistic, even repair and reuse, highest on the environmental hierarchy, can be made to sound suspect.  Halloween-y language like "skeletons" and "ghoulish" and "witches brew of toxic chemicals" add to the suspense.

On BAN.org letterhead

Take pictures of actual USA collections, and then juxtapose them with dumps in other countries.

Falsely state that majority of USA junk is shipped directly overseas
"The dirty little secret is that when you take [your electronic waste] to a recycler, instead of throwing it in a trashcan, about 80 percent of that material, very quickly, finds itself on a container ship going to a country like China, Nigeria, India, Vietnam, Pakistan — where very dirty things happen to it," says Jim Puckett, the executive director of the Basel Action Network, which works to keep toxic waste out of the environment. - NPR
You get NPR, CBS, PBS, BBC, CNN, FOX... a veritable alphabet soup of reporters and journalists to report your made up statistics.  Better yet, let your Board Member and biggest donor swear to them under oath in Congress.

Board of Directors Congressional Testimony
Be sure to touch on emotional triggers, like injustice, poverty, and fear.

Now post scary looking African photos, and pose kids with stuff on their head!  Exotic locales!  You are brave and interesting!

Keywords:  ghoulish, toxic, witches brew, skeletons...

No need to pay the models for your gaze on Agbogbloshie.   A buck a pose, tops.

Take "exotic" photos of Africans at small African dumpsite in large African cities, material imported 20 years earlier

2.  Offer a (fee-based) Solution 

Now offer a solution... a "certification" that allows companies which pay you to tout that they are NOT in your fake statistic.   They are properly vetted... companies like Creative and 2TRG.  With the expertise the reporters bestowed, you can logically also declare your knowledge of the "politically correct" domestic recycling solutions.  Since you made the problem up in the first place, you can approve 95% of the applicants without much risk.

Big capital solutions are the best "solution".   Like Shredding!   There are automobile shredding companies out there (like SWEEEP) which will anxiously throw the electronics material in the machines.  No need to trouble with testing and repair, you can avoid the "geeks of color" if you use shredding machines right there in jolly olde England.

Crush crush, grind grind!  And now you find out that some anti-gray market brand name manufacturers like it, too!  Get firm offers to fund your campaign to destroy the "secondary market".   For every ten working used gadgets destroyed, two new ones can be sold, in the charitable-industrial-complex fight against "market cannibalization" (aka "planned obsolescence in hindsight").

Oh, yeah, shred that working TV baby

Monetize the solutions.   In order to be "Certified", member stewards ("Big Shred") must pay your "non-profit" a share of their "income".   And in return, you publicly praise their legislative attempts to create non-tariff trade barriers for reuse and refurbishing.

But to get more paid members, you need to show the consequences of NOT getting "certified"....  How can you build a faith-based recycling economy without an inquisition?

3.  Accuse and Arrest  

Now that your baloney, baseless statistics are accepted on faith by regulators as "common knowledge", lure inexpert enforcement agents to rise to the rescue. Get INTERPOL and UK Environmental Agency to accuse (primarily African) "waste tourists" of "waste crime".

Factory remanufacturing bound monitor refurbishing factories supply over 50% of displays sold to emerging markets

The container above was going to an original contract manufacturer in Asia to be made into small, affordable, new TV sets.   But why not say it went to Africa?  The 6 billion people in the "non-OECD" make a pretty big target, and aren't good at defending themselves (thanks to your exotic photography).  Many people won't notice as you glide back and forth between "non-OECD"and "third world", referring to China's "rice paddies" and Africa's "shantytowns".    Easy to make people forget that, in the past decade, internet access grew in nations making $3,000 per person per year at ten times the rate of "developed nations", and they didn't do it with $1500 Macbook Airs or Microsoft Surface tablets.

The arrests of people in reuse & repair markets rewards your cash-paying "Stewards", like SWEEP, who don't want to compete with higher added value reuse and repair exports.  You split the cash and set up the small fries.  And you frighten most American surplus property dealers from exporting to the boogey-men.

Even dictatorships in Africa get into the act.   Don't like what your subjects are saying on that "internet"?  If people can only import new devices, only the wealthy in your nation will have access.

Make African-to-African export the "criminals".
Hurricane Joe Benson sentenced to UK prison for 91% good reuse based on fake statistics and rules to govern fake crime

Basel Convention doesn't actually make the trade of reuse a crime at all.  It's not only "not waste", a clause in the convention explicitly protects those exports (and you are on record protesting it).   But you can undermine the exemption with "guidelines" which shift the burden of proof (if 80% are bad, after all, they are probably guilty).   Shred and Planned Obsolescence partners will help you to start your own legislation.  The   RERA bill (HR2284) in Congress will make it all illegal, no using actual statistics on reuse as a defense (see #3 below), making the "burden of proof" easy to enforce, and will keep the loot for you and your donors to split.  It's less than the nation would make selling used goods for reuse (scrap is worth less), but make it sound "patrioticly domestic".

Putting African TV repairmen in jail in Britain may not sit well for long.  Prepare your statements.    "Collateral Damage" is the best response, if you are asked why someone reusing 91% of their exports gets put in prison for violating your "guidelines" - the ones designed to eliminate the "75-80% dumping".

But be prepared, this is where it gets tricky... Over 3-4 years, people won't stay duped.

4.   Prepare for Factual Studies ('OOPS')  

Sooner or later, all the attention will draw actual research.  Be prepared to say Oops.

- 80-90% Reuse (Kenya study)
- 85% Reuse (Peru study)
- 87% Reuse (Malaysia audit)
- 3% Export (US International Trade Commission report)
- 91% Reuse (Nigeria UN funded study)
- 93% Good (Ghana UN funded study)

Um, the only 80% dumping (or your 75% tweak for Africa) figures anyone can find include the clean, baled, plastic and metal scrap from the proper disassembly and shredding.   That's right, your own source says they were talking about the percentage of good, clean USA scrap which gets exported, not about the percentage of exports burned by children.


What about the scary photos at dumps?

Oh, "Sorry", it turns out the dumps you were taking pictures of collected that stuff from businesses and households in Africa.   Nigeria already had 6,900,000 households with TVs about a decade ago (World Bank).  Cities like Lagos, Cairo, Accra, etc. have been watching the World Cup for years and years, and after a decade, upgrade their TV sets just like we do.  Sure, most were originally imported used - back in the 1980s and 90s.   But no study finds imports going "directly" or "simply" or "very quickly" to the dumps you took pictures of (#1).

Sound incredible?  Look at the used car market in the USA, and you'll understand the turnover of electronics in Africa.   Most new car buyers upgrade after 4 years, but the used cars aren't discarded as "waste".   Turns out that most of the display devices Americans abandoned for flat-panels, like used cars, for the past 20 years, weren't imported as "waste" at all.   That is precisely why the Basel Convention made this trade specifically legal in the first place.

When MIT, Memorial University, ASU, USITC, etc. start tracing actual transboundary movements, they will find that its not the recyclers in the "rich nations" who paid to ship the material.  It is all paid for by people in "poor" countries.  African businesspeople pay for the loads and the shipping, and they generally DON'T factor in avoided disposal costs of the rich.  Instead, they found that TV Repair is a pretty decent job in Africa, attracting the best and brightest, just as it was in Taiwan, Singapore, and other rapidly-emerged economies.  The researchers found billion dollar contract manufacturers buying good displays for re-manufacture, just like car engines and ink cartridges, for resale in huge cities like Jakarta, Mumbai, Johannesburg, and Lima.

Remember your friends at "Big Shred"?  They aren't bad people at all, they are recyclers.  But the problem is, they believed you.  When they realize your NGO isw running an anti-trade, anti-business, anti-globalization, anti-market campaign, and they could have been making more money exporting good stuff, they turn away.

The OEMs who played in the anti-export marketing know that the contract manufacturers are real, and many now realize that getting affordable reuse equipment into African cities is opening new markets for new product.   Someone is more likely to buy a laptop if they have an email account.  And an "anti-Asia, anti-China" campaign has serious blowback potential.

Contract manufacturers which originally made the displays were vast majority of export market.

Functional CRTs with 25 year lives were discarded in wealthy nations for "flat LCDs", after only 5-10 years use
Most of the above factories are in Asia.

Direct African trade exists, but was small potatoes in comparison.   But lacking the huge remanufacturing facilities, the African buyers were very choosy about what they bought and paid to ship and import.

Researchers at universities have done the math and, if you claimed the "E-scrap" problem was huge (you said 50M tons per year), then the "two thousand containerloads" sent to Africa is (click, click, type, @SUM...) about 3% of all the generated "waste".   Your claim that the neighborhood of Agbogbloshie, Ghana, imports "most of the world's junk electronics" is mathematically impossible based on your own exaggerated figures.  And university students tend to run into exchange students from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and tend to get first hand confirmation of your #povertyporn, #whitesaviorcomplex, #parasitesofthepoor, and #rustyradiator marketing.

5 Major Studies show 85%-93% of exports are GOOD.  Largest in Africa, funded by UN/Basel Convention, above

African Import Markets - that small portion of all used material - were 93% Good.   The African import for reuse and repair shops have no more to do with the African dumps than new car dealers have to do with abandoned auto scrap.

Almost nothing in your story adds up at all.  All you have is close up pictures of brown kids at city dumps, which you've now labelled representative of the entire nations of China, Brazil, India, Nigeria, etc.  None of your math makes any sense, and you have to cover your tracks.

So be prepared, don't let the facts overtake your momentum.   .Skip to the next crisis, quickly...    One that you helped create....

5.  Jump to Next Crisis (The Non-Exported)  

The ones (good or bad) that were NOT exported got destroyed in USA and EU...

....and good news - they have been generating massive piles of unrecycled, leaded CRT glass.

Congratulations!!  Your new crisis is a real one!!

Glory be, the big shredders people sent the displays to, when they were afraid to export for reuse, have made a huge pile of actual toxic material!

Sharpen your knives, boys.

But remember your "friends" at big shred and the Original manufacturers?  Who do you think your "superfund campaign" is aimed at?  

The hissing sound... what's that hissing?

6.  Disavow Step #1 (Cover Your Tracks)  

"Never has BAN ever stated that 80% of US e-waste is exported."

- Jim Puckett  

Parasites of the Poor?  Photos of kids at dumps all over annual reports.  No $$ goes to the young men in pictures

Best do step 5 quickly.

Time to move on to attack the piles created by your Stewards.

Pretend not to know the name of the Collateral Damage behind bars.

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."  Or the one behind bars.

7.  (non-) PROFIT!!

Success!  You've created a charitable NGO, dedicated to eradicate a problem you made up, and have a real crisis to point at... while creating a bit of collateral damage along the way.

Check out the 501-c(3) charitable (non-political) organization's income.  (Form 990)

Roughly $3 Million Dollars in 3 years.

But what is the hissing sound?  What's the sound a deflating balloon makes??

Increasing salaries, but declining donations / revenue.
Net assets declining, from $439,923 to $149,207 to $44,856....

What's all the recent red ink?   

When compensation, salaries and wages go from $90,000 per year (2010) to $402,806 (2012) per year, that tends to happen.  

What would African reuse markets, and other geeks of color, do with a million dollars per year,  or $402,000 in annual wages?

The real "E-waste Tragedy", perhaps, is environmental malpractice.  For more information, visit the Top 10 Myths about "e-Waste".

Form 990 Returns, by Year (Basel Action Network)

The IRS Form 990 is an annual information return that most organizations claiming federal tax-exempt status must file yearly. Read the IRS instructions for 990 forms. If this organization has filed an amended return, it will not be reflected in the data below.



Form 990

Total Revenue


Total Functional Expenses$1,060,332
Net income-$104,176
Notable sources of revenuePercent of total revenue
Program services$578,32160.5%
Investment income$490.0%
Bond proceeds$0
Rental property income$0
Net fundraising$0
Sales of assets-$1,281
Net inventory sales$0
Other revenue$0
Notable expensesPercent of total expenses
Executive compensation$100,5019.5%
Professional fundraising fees$0
Other salaries and wages$302,30528.5%
Total Assets$183,321
Total Liabilities$138,465
Net Assets




Form 990

Total Revenue


Total Functional Expenses$964,124
Net income-$257,832

Notable sources of revenuePercent of total revenue
Program services$409,00257.9%
Investment income$1990.0%
Bond proceeds$0
Rental property income$1,4000.2%
Net fundraising$0
Sales of assets$0
Net inventory sales$0
Other revenue$0
Notable expensesPercent of total expenses
Executive compensation$96,65410.0%
Professional fundraising fees$0
Other salaries and wages$0
Total Assets$275,545
Total Liabilities$126,338
Net Assets




Form 990

Total Revenue


Total Functional Expenses$912,550
Net income$116,646

Notable sources of revenue

Percent of total revenue
Program services$343,66833.4%
Investment income$1,0940.1%
Bond proceeds$0
Rental property income$4,5500.4%
Net fundraising$0
Sales of assets$0
Net inventory sales$0
Other revenue$0
Notable expensesPercent of total expenses
Executive compensation$90,0009.9%
Professional fundraising fees$0
Other salaries and wages$0
Total Assets$517,536
Total Liabilities$77,613
Net Assets$439,923


"What could possibly be worse than dumping 75%-80% of obsolete used "e-waste" in African dumps to be burned by children scavenging wires? What could be worse than violating international law?

How about lying that the crimes occurred in the first place?

Ghanain Emmanuel Nyaletey, an electronics repair technician who grew up a few blocks away from Agbogbloshie, has published an editorial questioning why the press has failed to correct its false reporting on the "e-waste export crisis". In April, Nyaletey will fly back to Ghana, with reporters, working on a documentary of the "e-waste hoax". http://retroworks.blogspot.com...

Seven months after the prison sentence for UK-based, Nigerian born TV repairman Joe Benson, the original source (Basel Action Network) of the "world's largest e-waste dump" story (Agbogbloshie scrapyard in Accra, Ghana) denies ever, ever stating that it has knowledge of foreign dumping in Africa. After the Guardian and the Independent and BBC ran stories claiming to follow "cut wires", UNEP studies of the "seized containerloads" found a range of 85%-93% of used electronics imported to Ghana and Nigeria were repaired or reused. The UN funded study found that the used electronics were more likely to be used than brand new product (raising questions of how much ESD "waste" is being resold after warranty return), that cities in Emerging Markets were generating up to 1/3 per capita as much electronic scrap as OECD nations (which would make them a larger net source than the West). Further, the study found that "geeks of color" like Nyaletey who repair and repurpose western imports earn six times more than the national average wages for their home nation (Nigeria, Ghana studies). Nyaletey painstakingly documents the findings from the 2011 and 2012 UN funded studies, and questions why white environmentalists are still trying to "save Africa" from reuse and repair.

2012 Study of Nigeria "E-Waste Assessment" http://www.basel.int/Portals/4...
2011 Study of Ghana "E-Waste Assessment" http://www.basel.int/Portals/4...

While the environmental organization BAN now denies being the source of the "80% waste" statistic, Memorial University researcher Josh Lepawsky has tracked the organizations orphaned statistic through peer-reviewed reports on "e-waste exports" over the past 15 years, and found it to be one of the most frequent citations in scholarly research on the topic. http://scalar.usc.edu/works/re...

If not from western "waste ships", what IS the source of the electronics shown at the African dumps? Cities like Accra and Lagos have millions of households with television (and refrigerators, and computers, etc.). World Bank estimated in 2003 that Nigeria had over 6 million households with television. Twenty six percent of Ghana households had televisions 15 years ago. http://www.econstats.com/wdi/w...

Meanwhile, 3 separate documentaries are in the works based on interviews with "Hurricane" Joe Benson. Benson has provided documentation that his cost of shipping, per unit, was much greater than scrap value, and has documented how he returned unrepairable appliances back to UK recycling centers free of charge, saying there is no earthly motive to ship waste. A petition to #freejoebenson will be circulated by Nyaletey in Ghana, and is now available online http://www.ipetitions.com/peti...

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