Handling e-waste in developed and developing countries: Initiatives, practices, and consequences

Suthipong Sthiannopkao*, Ming Hung WONG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

390 Citations (Scopus)


Discarded electronic goods contain a range of toxic materials requiring special handling. Developed countries have conventions, directives, and laws to regulate their disposal, most based on extended producer responsibility. Manufacturers take back items collected by retailers and local governments for safe destruction or recovery of materials. Compliance, however, is difficult to assure, and frequently runs against economic incentives. The expense of proper disposal leads to the shipment of large amounts of e-waste to China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and other developing countries. Shipment is often through middlemen, and under tariff classifications that make quantities difficult to assess. There, despite the intents of national regulations and hazardous waste laws, most e-waste is treated as general refuse, or crudely processed, often by burning or acid baths, with recovery of only a few materials of value. As dioxins, furans, and heavy metals are released, harm to the environment, workers, and area residents is inevitable.The faster growth of e-waste generated in the developing than in the developed world presages continued expansion of a pervasive and inexpensive informal processing sector, efficient in its own way, but inherently hazard-ridden.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1147-1153
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

User-Defined Keywords

  • E-waste
  • E-waste recycling
  • Extended producer responsibility
  • Management
  • Take-back


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