The e-waste debate is a relatively recent controversy, as the publication date of all source documents ranged from 2003 – 2016. Source documents have increased exponentially over this time, with a significant increase in publications after 2008. In the following section, we breakdown the publication date of source documents informing each meta-issue in the e-waste debate to portray how the controversy has shifted over time (see image above and click here for procedure).
Issue 1: How much e-waste is exported from “developed” to “developing” countries?
Source documents debating the quantity of e-waste exported from “developed” to “developing” countries were the most recent, ranging from 2012-2014, although some of these articles cite previous reports and studies dating back to 2002 (e.g. BAN’s controversial estimate that 50-80% of e-waste is exported to “developing” countries). This controversy heightened in 2012 when a US report refuted BAN’s 2002 study, claiming that almost 80% of US e-waste is processed domestically, which was then followed by several articles in 2013 and 2014 deconstructing and critiquing both viewpoints.
Issue 2: Should e-waste be exported from “developed” to “developing” countries?
Source documents informing this meta-issue were published from 2005 – 2015. The earliest arguments debated the health risks of e-waste processing in “developing” countries with source documents published in 2005 and 2008, and continuing until 2014. This was followed by documents debating the benefits of electronics reuse in “developing” countries, which were published in 2007 and 2009. More recent arguments from 2011 – 2014 discuss the impact of domestic e-waste in “developing” countries vs. imported e-waste, and articles from 2011 to 2015 recognized and debated the economic, environmental, and efficiency benefits of North-South e-waste trade.
Issue 3: How to regulate e-waste export from “developed” to “developing” countries?
Source documents debating regulatory challenges of e-waste export from “developed” to “developing” countries were published from 2003 – 2014, the bulk of which were published in 2008 and 2009. Within this meta-issue, controversies between whether e-waste export should be voluntary or mandatory were debated in documents published from 2007 – 2012, and documents debating the distinction between e-waste intended for repair vs. disposal were debated between 2009 – 2014, with the exception of one source document published in 2003.
Issue 4: How to implement EPR as a national e-waste management solution?
Source documents debating the structure and impacts of extended producer responsibility were debated in source documents published from 2006 – 2016. Micro-debates embedded within this meta-issue fluctuated over time: Documents debating the merits and drawbacks of collective vs. individual producer responsibility ranged from 2006-2009; Documents discussing the creation of green e-waste jobs occurred in 2009-2010; Documents debating EPR finance mechanisms ranged from 2006-2015 – with the bulk of documents published from 2008-2013; Documents debating voluntary vs. regulatory EPR structures were mostly discussed in 2008 and 2011.