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November 2004

Electronics Recycling Exporters Create Reform Association
Cooperative Marketing to Create Environmentally Correct Jobs and Try to Solve Worst Export Problems

The World Reuse, Repair and Recycling Association was incorporated this week in Middlebury, Vermont. This association will gather electronics recyclers and other reuse exporters who wish to export goods for reuse but cannot afford due diligence of end markets on their own.

The founding members of the cooperative include USA’s American Retroworks, Cochise County Learning Action Coalition, staff from University of California at Davis, and will include international member companies representing refurbishment markets in Hong Kong, Philippines, Egypt, Eastern Europe, and South America. Some overseas companies have already expressed interest in joining, and even financing, the WRRRA.

The organization will share headquarters at American Retroworks Inc., which owns Vermont’s “Good Point Recycling” facility. Profits from Good Point Recycling will fund the WRRRA in the first year.

The first goal of the World Reuse, Repair, Recycling Association will be to establish agreed upon quality standards for monitors, televisions, and other repair-and-reuse items exported for repair from the USA. Association members will pool their resources to offer a “cleaner” option to meet global demand, and demand higher environmental standards for overseas refurbishing companies. Association members hope to keep U.S. recycling costs affordable to residents, to meet legitimate export demand, and to force association members to improve their own processes for electronic scrap. The organization will also promote domestic recycling of scrap such as leaded CRT glass and gold circuitry.

According to founder Robin Ingenthron, there was an immediate positive response to the WRRRA. “Several companies like American Retroworks Inc. tried to establish a higher exporting standard to meet the strong legitimate demand for working and repairable monitors and TVs overseas. I think many of us found we didn’t have enough material to dictate the terms. Some of us have tried raising our prices on generators, while others have lowered their export standards to compete with low-ball bids.
“This organization will cooperatively sell quality items, and perform diligence on every members’ behalf. We will make use of market forces rather than trying to deny them.”

According to Ingenthron, the need for the Association became apparent when several desperate monitor refurbishing companies contacted him for help, to improve the quality of used goods imported into Southeast Asia. Some of these companies have raised refurbishment to an art form, producing digital TVs which double as PC monitors, with on-board DVD, games, and input jacks for either computer or television display. But they say some of their sources in the U.S. are sending junk monitors along with the good tubes, as “Toxics Along for the Ride.”

What drives Toxics Along for the Ride is the expense of recycling unrepairable units in the U.S. A scratched or damaged or obsolete CRT tube costs an American processor between $5-15 to recycle. The temptation to ship American pollution to repair markets is undeniable.

The Association is patterned after organizations such as ISRI (institute of scrap recycling industries) and jewelers associations, whose membership fees are too high for some small recyclers. WRRRC membership will be free to those joining in 2004; afterwards, rates will only rise if those members vote to raise them. Members will be required to adapt reputable environmental standards, to document domestic recycling of gold and lead, and to allow WRRRA dispute resolution if bad quality exports are alleged. Both domestic and overseas members will be required to submit to due diligence inspections voted on by the WRRRA board of directors.

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