Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Charity Begins in...Basingstoke?



I live near a council tip, which is next to a sewage treatment works of all things. In the summer, on the second Tuesday in July when it is always warm enough to have a window open, the stench can be extremely unpleasant. So much for stockbroker belt Surrey! The house may warrant a mansion tax should Red Ed get into power but you can smell the counties pooh!

But until I landed on Planet eReco I had never really considered waste. Now when I visit the tip, as is my wont upon occasion, I look at our rubbish through opened eyes, agog at our wastefulness and at the hoops we now leap through to recycle.

eReco’s fundamental principle is actually 0% landfill. That is what we are about here in sunny East Grinstead. Yes, data security is the other side of the coin, and we take that very seriously indeed, but what we are here to do is to stop stuff getting buried in the ground. Landfills are horrible things. The detritus of human life, the stuff we simply cannot use again, being dug into the good earth.

And yet, although we proclaim 0% landfill loudly and often, it is rarely something that resonates as part of the buying decision. It is almost a given I suppose. People are starting to expect business to be a lighter shade of green. Even though when they go to the supermarket that Avocado is still imprisoned within 6 layers of plastic you need a pair of scissors to get through. Even though we allow hundreds of thousands of tonnes of our WEEE to get sent to African tips every year.

That last one isn’t funny is it? Well neither is the Avocado actually, as you usually slice half a hand off getting it out, only to find out it takes 3 more days to ripen, but the export of WEEE to somewhere where it will end up in landfill is a disgrace.

Shame on us for allowing it to happen.

There are even charities in this country who boast about it. We have given 250000 laptops to schools in Nigeria, or Ghana, or Basingstoke, and aren’t we good. We are sharing our good fortune, thanks to your generosity, and these lovely children with no shoes can post on Facebook that they don’t have anything to eat tonight.

But it’s ok, because someone will earn a pittance helping to bury OUR waste in THEIR land in a few months or so. Because there is no mention of these ‘charities’ bringing the kit back when it breaks down, is there?

I am quite prepared to listen if some of these charitable ventures want to explain to me why this is a good thing. But let’s be clear about what they are actually doing here. They collect your old kit, nearly always for free, promising to remove your data and give you all the paperwork you will ever need, and then ‘donate’ it to those in need across the sea. So quite apart from the tricky problem of how they pay for the collection and processing of your equipment, how do they pay to get it Africa?

The only way this makes sense is if they sell it to someone. As I have said before on this blog that is easy to do, but it is not easy to do legally. I am sure some of it is done legally but I am equally sure that I don’t see how the economics work. As I say, if someone wants to explain it to me, I will be delighted to listen.

I want to see every child in this world owning a pair shoes and getting a good education, even in Basingstoke. No actually especially Basingstoke, because it won't end up in landfill down there. Not to mention healthcare and enough to eat and drink. I am not sure I care whether every child has a second hand laptop however. But I do care about hundreds of thousands of British WEEE ending up in African landfill.

I hope you do too.