More on E-waste

As we have discussed in class, e-waste is an enormous issue within the developing world. This is why the EU set an ambitious goal for 2021: to collect 65% of the electronic equipment and lamps used globally in the past three years and recycle it.[1] Unfortunately evidence from a scientific research project suggests that this will be impossible if governments do not add legal measures.

This project maps the e-waste flow in the Netherlands by tracking the origin and destination of electronic products. This has proven hard to handle, as there are a number of things that can happen to an electronic product once it is sold.


-Collected (by one of the two government programs)

-Recycled (by national recyclers on second-hand shops)

-Exported illegally

During the e-conference held on March 15th numerous representatives from places like the UN, Japan, and the U.S. discussed the findings of the study. From there it was concluded that more e-waste could be collected if various measures were put into place.

This article outlines various suggestions including “a registration mandate for collectors and recyclers” as well as, “mandating that local governments and small retailers hand in a certain amount of e-waste each year”. Most importantly it was suggested that all goods shipped to developing countries for reuse must be certified that they are in good working order.

Although the goal set by the UN has been criticized for being “too soft too slow” this study does suggest the goal is over ambitious without assistance from the government.[2]  Stephane Arditi stated that, “The main problem is the fact that we don’t have a proper collection system or an economic system to incentivize proper collection and treatment of e-waste.”[3]

Clearly there is work to be done if the amount of un-recycled e-waste is to be lowered.

The original study can be viewed here

[1] Defreitas, Susan. “EU E-Waste Message: Gonna Take More Work.” Earth Techling. 23 Mar. 2012. Web. 24 Mar. 2012. Link.

[2] “EU E-waste Recycling Goals Criticized.” UPI. 18 Mar. 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2012. Link.

[3] Ibid

About hmfraser

Student of Environmental Studies and International Development View all posts by hmfraser

3 responses to “More on E-waste

  • sophiwaterr

    I like how Stephane Arditi said that the main problem comes from not having a proper system in place and so forth. So it seems like the main problem… IS THE PROJECT ITSELF. If your goal is to improve recycling, then you can’t say that the problem is in the collection and recycling center. That’s the entire point, you see a problem, and SOLVE it. If the goal is to reduce the obesity rates of American children, the problem can’t be over eating or malnutrition. Those are exactly what you need to be targeting.

    “‘the fact that we don’t have a proper collection system or an economic system to incentivize proper collection and treatment of e-waste.’ [3]” ->> This simply can not be the problem. It can’t be the problem because that simply is the problem they’re targeting.
    This annoys me, don’t set ambitious impossible goals, if you’re just going to use the problems as an excuse for why you’re not doing well. I’m probably being too harsh, but it just seemed obvious. Great, you see the problems in the system, now change them, go!

  • hmfraser

    Arditi was just commenting on the goal itself and was not part of the project in any way. The study (which Arditi also was not connected with) did point out specific changes to the system that were in need of change, which I feel is constructive. It was probably redundant to take that quote out of context.

  • wstewar

    Another side effect of the use of electronics that has recently crossed my mind was the amount of energy people use. This was brought to my attention by considering how in developing countries people will share cell phones to conserve the battery because energy is scarce.

    So when I am charging my phone or my laptop, I am using energy. This means playing music, surfing the internet, texting, talking on the phone, or wasting endless hours on applications such as facebook, pinterest, tumblr etc is actually costing me money! (I pay my own electricity bill)

    Would it make a significant difference in regards to the energy use of America if everyone closed their laptops, powered down their phones, or reduced the amount of time spent listening to music?

    The energy spent may be considered waste if we are not using technology for productive things, however entertaining these alternatives may be.

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