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Article

Electronic Waste, an Environmental Problem Exported to Developing Countries: The GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY

1
Murray Foundation, Brabners LLP, Horton House, Exchange Street, Liverpool L2 3YL, UK
2
CIMA, FCT-Gambelas Campus, University of Algarve, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
3
Laboratory of Geoscience, Water and Environment, (LG2E-CERNE2D), Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Sciences, Mohammed V University of Rabat, Rabat 10000, Morocco
4
Sagremarisco, Apt 21, 8650-999 Vila do Bispo, Portugal
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Silvia Fiore
Sustainability 2021, 13(9), 5302; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13095302
Received: 3 March 2021 / Revised: 15 April 2021 / Accepted: 27 April 2021 / Published: 10 May 2021
Electronic waste (e-waste) is a rapidly developing environmental problem particularly for the most developed countries. There are technological solutions for processing it, but these are costly, and the cheaper option for most developed countries has been to export most of the waste to less developed countries. There are various laws and policies for regulating the processing of e-waste at different governance scales such as the international Basel Convention, the regional Bamoko Convention, and various national laws. However, many of the regulations are not fully implemented and there is substantial financial pressure to maintain the jobs created for processing e-waste. Mexico, Brazil, Ghana Nigeria, India, and China have been selected for a more detailed study of the transboundary movements of e-waste. This includes a systematic review of existing literature, the application of the Driver, Pressure, State, Impact, Response (DPSIR) framework for analysing complex problems associated with social ecological systems, and the application of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for evaluating the environmental impact of electronic devices from their manufacture through to their final disposal. Japan, Italy, Switzerland, and Norway have been selected for the LCA to show how e-waste is diverted to developing countries, as there is not sufficient data available for the assessment from the selected developing countries. GOOD, BAD and UGLY outcomes have been identified from this study: the GOOD is the creation of jobs and the use of e-waste as a source of raw materials; the BAD is the exacerbation of the already poor environmental conditions in developing countries; the UGLY is the negative impact on the health of workers processing e-waste due to a wide range of toxic components in this waste. There are a number of management options that are available to reduce the impact of the BAD and the UGLY, such as adopting the concept of a circular economy, urban mining, reducing loopholes and improving existing policies and regulations, as well as reducing the disparity in income between the top and bottom of the management hierarchy for e-waste disposal. The overarching message is a request for developed countries to help developing countries in the fight against e-waste, rather than exporting their environmental problems to these poorer regions. View Full-Text
Keywords: e-waste; DPSIR; environment; formal and informal activities; LCA e-waste; DPSIR; environment; formal and informal activities; LCA
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MDPI and ACS Style

Abalansa, S.; El Mahrad, B.; Icely, J.; Newton, A. Electronic Waste, an Environmental Problem Exported to Developing Countries: The GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY. Sustainability 2021, 13, 5302. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13095302

AMA Style

Abalansa S, El Mahrad B, Icely J, Newton A. Electronic Waste, an Environmental Problem Exported to Developing Countries: The GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY. Sustainability. 2021; 13(9):5302. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13095302

Chicago/Turabian Style

Abalansa, Samuel, Badr El Mahrad, John Icely, and Alice Newton. 2021. "Electronic Waste, an Environmental Problem Exported to Developing Countries: The GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY" Sustainability 13, no. 9: 5302. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13095302

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