Overview of Key Actors Involved

Research has shown that there is a very wide range of actors who are either directly or indirectly involved in the illegal export of e-waste from the EU to China (Bisschop 2012; Huisman et al. 2015). The export chain starts with the electrical and electronic equipment producers, retailers, and consumers, followed by formal and informal collectors, refurbishers, recyclers—a point where organised crime groups also link in—and ends with the informal dismantling and recycling sector in China. Figure 6.2 provides an overview of these actors and the linkages between them.

On-site investigations by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) confirmed that after e-waste is disposed by consumers at collection points, the waste passes through a large number of hands before it reaches its final destination in developing and newly industrialised economies (EIA 2011). In view of this complex chain, civic amenity sites play an important role; on-site investigations in the UK, for instance, found that such sites routinely sell the disposed e-waste to external companies which then illegally export the e-waste from the EU to developing and newly industrialised economies (EIA 2011), but waste brokers, as well as waste tourists,[1] can also play an important role at this point of the export chain (Interpol 2009, pp. 20-23). At the same time, in contrast to illegal e-waste shipments to Africa, forwarding agents do not take an important part in illegal e-waste shipments to East Asia where shipping companies directly handle these shipments (Sander and Schilling 2010, pp. 61—65).

Even though the import of e-waste has been officially banned in China since 2000, vast amounts of e-waste are still crossing the Chinese border via a number of different routes. It then ends up in the informal dismantling and recycling sector that has been growing since the 1990s when imported e-waste began to enter China and individual recyclers started to use imported e-waste as sources for raw materials (Wang et al. 2013, pp. 21—28). The informal recycling sector primarily employs rural migrants

Overview of key actors involved. (Source

Fig. 6.2 Overview of key actors involved. (Source: authors' compilation based on Bisschop (2012) and Huisman etal. (2015)) from the agrarian regions of China, who are paid very low wages (on average USD 1.5 per day, Wang et al. 2013, pp. 21-28). The informally and illegally processed products are then, in most cases, sold by waste brokers to the manufacturing sector, both formal and informal (UNODC 2013). Nevertheless, compared to the unregulated informal sector, the formal state-regulated recycling sector is still at its early stages and mainly deals with domestically generated e-waste in China.

  • [1] Waste tourists, who are in many cases involved in illegal activities, are individuals or groups whocome from the destination countries and specifically travel to the EU to buy e-waste for exportand/or sale (Interpol, 2009).
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