Pharmaceutical Recycling: When 1st World Liability Means 3rd World Shortages





My  wife and I received a mail about a $500-something dollar epipen having reached its expiration date.  It made me curious whether the "obsolescence" of the pharmaceuticals equated to actual risk.

I found a decent 2012 Science-Based-Medicine journal article by Scott Gavura, seeking answers to the question, and found once-again that medical ethics are rich in direction for environmental ethics.  Human Health has been a concern for longer than Environmental Health.

So basically the article says that there is very little risk that expired medicine is bad for you.  It doesn't turn into poison (there was one possible case of that from a medicine that was long ago banned from the market... think of the liability if people died from not reading the date on your label).

When a new medicine is approved by FDA, no Pharma company can afford to then test it by putting it on the shelf for several years to determine its expiration date.  They do run tests on exposure to moisture and light, and use those to predict shelf life.  But like food, an open can of stuff doesn't stay good for as long as a closed can of stuff, so the expiration date is majorly affected by whether it is pre-consumer (unopened at a pharmacy) or post-consumer (excess from a once opened bottle).

And this is hot topic in Waste Policy... see all the national pharma take-back day events this month.































How We Knew About Apple's "Recycled Content" Plan 2 Years Ago!

Big announcement, just out, from Apple CEO - Apple will produce its electronics from 100% recycled material, not from virgin mining.

It's reported from Apple's just-released 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report.  It's bound to hit all the Earth Day news outlets this weekend.

Sourcing recycled content, creating a demand-pull effect, was what we were working on when I started at Massachusetts DEP in 1992.  It can be very big news.

Question:  How did I know about this almost 2 years before Apple's announcement?

Apple doesn't make its own stuff.  It's generally put together by a Shenzhen contract manufacturer like Foxconn or Wistron, which the blog has focused on many times.

Guess how we knew about Hong Kong EcoPark when we allowed a trial load of printers to go to Hong Kong - when our E-Steward downstream wouldn't pick up after several loads to their shredder?  When the BAN GPS Tracker was in our facility, and suddenly our shipments were mysteriously cancelled?

When I did background check on why Hong Kong would be paying for printer scrap again, before approving to the Chicago downstream replacing the E-Steward, I found that the $550M EcoPark tenants were sourcing scrap for plastic to be sold to a contract manufacturer in Shenzhen.   One who made devices with a major brand name label.

Lifecycle Analysis: CleanTech, "BrownTech", and Export Markets


What is the tension between "CleanTech" - e.g. a new hybrid car - and (what I'll call) "BrownTech"?  Repairing an older gas guzzler to run another year before mining, refining, consuming for new?

Early adapters proudly display their new CleanTech device.  As they should. By electively upgrading to a newer, environmentally-efficient device, they are sending signals to the market and to investors.  The early adapters are on the front lines, bringing the scalability (lowered cost and efficiency) to the new wind, solar, sustainable, recycled-content, non-toxic, etc. markets.

But being able to afford these elective #CleanTech upgrades is a privilege not shared by poor people, especially those in Emerging Markets (so-called "third world" countries).  For them, they are upgrading from a black and white 1967 television to a color 19" CRT.  From not having a phone at all to a flip Motorola.

The new #cleantech device trade shows are exciting.  So are ghetto repair shops. We are on the same spectrum of Life Cycle Analysis.  The differences are economic and cultural.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/Mariordo


2002 Article In Recycling Today Foreshadows WR3A, IFixIT, E-Stewards

While looking to upload some papers in Academia.edu, I ran across an article published by Recycling Today magazine in 2002 - by yours truly.  "Setting a Higher Standard" explained that boycotting the export market would be a "war on drugs" approach, forcing legit oversees reuse and recycling operations to meet demand via "back alleys".

Here are 3 conclusions about e-waste export policy at the end of the article (edited by Brian Taylor).

Looks sound.

1) Send Quality.  Meet the customers and find out what they want.  Just export that.  Don't throw a piece of junk on the container that you don't know what to do with.  This would become the foundation of WR3A.org and Fair Trade Recycling.

2) Support Reuse and Repair.  This forshadowed Ifixit.org, was influenced by repairfaq.org's Silicon Sam.  I'd used Sam's repair instructions while reviewing Chinese purchase orders, and found the Chinese buyers were giving instructions that would eliminate non-repairable units.  This led to the realization that China was not buying ANY CRT Televisions, only specific 15" and 17" CRTs, which meant the trade was not driven by cost externalization.  California SB20 went off a cliff that year.

3) Support Reputable USA companies.  This forshadowed R2 and E-Stewards.

Basel Action Network attacked me for writing the article, personally, and that is how I met Jim Puckett.  He blasted a response to the article via "Microsoft Outlook" and cc'd dozens of people whom I'd never met, but with whom I'd become acquainted over the years.

The article was sent to some folks at US EPA, who later hired me as a consultant for the 2006 Federal Register CRT Rule, which funded my second trip to Asia - this time bringing Craig Lorch of Total Reclaim and Lin King of UC Davis, to visit some of the "Big Secret Factories" that BAN was racially profiling as "primitive rice paddies".  (If you are researching MIT Senseable City Lab and BAN's Monitour project, there's a chestnut about this at the bottom of this blog).