Motivations and Drivers behind the Illegal E-waste Shipments

The motivations and drivers behind the illegal e-waste shipments from advanced economies to developing and newly industrialised economies are characterised by three components (Bisschop 2012):

  • • Push factors are those forces that drive illegal shipments of e-waste from their origin. These factors are also called supply-side factors. One of the key push factors is linked to the historical development of the e-waste problem; today e-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams, and given the exponential consumption of electrical and electronic equipment, it is projected to further increase (Bisschop 2012). Stringent e-waste legislation in the EU increasing the costs of treatment and disposal (OECD 2012) is also important. Furthermore, the recent financial crisis seems to have made recycling and dismantling businesses more willing to avoid the costs of legitimate e-waste processing (Eurojust 2014), and poor enforcement in the EU, in particular the low level of penalties, also plays a major role (BAN and SVTC 2002; ILO 2012; OECD 2012).
  • • Pull factors are forces that draw illegal shipments of e-waste to their destination. These factors are also called demand-side factors. The profits arising from the differences in the costs of treatment and disposal, as well as from the resale of functioning electrical and electronic products and e-waste components form an important pull factor (Liddick 2011; Odeyingbo 2011). In fact, large groups in China are dependent on the income from such illegal activities
  • (Li 2012). Furthermore, China’s manufacturing sector has been gradually increasing the demand for such activities where the illegal activities feed into the legal e-waste industry (Bisschop 2012).
  • • Facilitating factors (i.e. factors that are contextual elements that make illegal shipments of e-waste possible) are low transportation costs to Asia, given that cargo ships from southeast Asia to Europe sail back to Asia in many cases with empty containers (Salehabadi 2013); the anonymity of containers (Bisschop 2012); the inadequate protection of e-waste collection points against theft (CWIT 2014), and the fact that e-waste can be easily mixed up or sold as second-hand electrical and electronic goods (Baird et al. 2014; Bisschop 2012).
 
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