When and for whom would e-waste be a treasure trove? Insights from a network equilibrium model of e-waste flows

Tina Wakolbinger, Fuminori Toyasaki, Thomas Nowak, Anna Nagurney

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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Electrical and electronic equipment waste (e-waste) is growing fast. Due to its potential economic value as well as its possible negative impacts on the environment, tracing e-waste flow is a major concern for stakeholders of e-waste management. Especially, whether or not adequate amounts of electrical and electronic equipment waste (WEEE) flow into the designed recycling systems is a fundamental issue for sustainable operations. In this paper, we analyze how technical, market, and legislative factors influence the total amount of e-waste that is collected, recycled, exported and (legally and illegally) disposed off. We formulate the e-waste network flow model as a variational inequality problem. The results of the numerical examples highlight the importance of considering the interaction between the supply and the demand side for precious materials in policy-decisions. Low collection rates of e-waste lead to low profits for stakeholders and make it difficult to establish sustainable recycling operations. Increasing WEEE collection rates increases recyclers' profits; however, it only increases smelters' profits up to a certain limit, after which smelters cannot benefit further due to limited demand for precious materials. Furthermore, the results emphasize the importance of establishing international control regimes for WEEE flows and reveal possible negative consequences of the recent trend of dematerialization. More precisely, product dematerialization tends to decrease recyles' and smelters' profits as well as to increase the outflow of e-waste from the designated recycling system. (authors' abstract)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263 - 273
JournalInternational Journal of Production Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2014

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