Reassembling Rubbish

Mapping E-waste as a Controversy: From Statements to Debates II

As I suggested in my discussion of Adam Minter's (2013) article, an important part of the e-waste controversy is the trustworthiness of statistics cited to characterize the scope of e-waste as a problem. One of the key figures that circulates in the peer reviewed literature about e-waste is the claim from BAN (2002) that 50-80 percent of electronics collected for recycling in the US are exported. I have followed that statement along a trajectory into the realm of formal politics where BAN's figure plays an explicit role in framing the debate about e-waste in the US (United States Congress, 2009). What happens when we follow another trajectory, one defined by the peer reviewed literature that cites BAN's (2002) report Exporting Harm?

To follow this trajectory we can do a cited reference search using Scopus, a scholarly article database. Scopus data indicates that as of 7 April 2016 Exporting Harm (BAN, 2002) has been cited 254 times. Using the "Analyze Results" function of Scopus offers a sense of how BAN's report has been incorporated into the peer reviewed literature over time (the drop in 2015-2016 is merely a function of the date of the search performed on Scopus. Even in April of 2016, not all of 2015's published literature will be in the database and, of course, there is the remainder of 2016 still to go). The citation report indicates a robust presence of BAN's report in the peer reviewed literature. As of 7 April 2016 there are 1,732 peer reviewed articles with "e-waste" or "electronic waste" in their title, abstract, and/or keywords. Examining the citation report for those 1,732 articles reveals that if Exporting Harm were a peer reviewed article it would rank as the 2nd most cited article amongst this larger group of 1,732 articles.

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