Transboundary E-waste

Key findings.

Key Findings from Mapping the Controversy on the Web

1) Four interlinked meta-issues were identified in the web corpus:

Issue 1: How much e-waste is exported from “developed” to “developing” countries?
Issue 2: Should e-waste be exported from “developed” to “developing” countries?
Issue 3: How to regulate e-waste export from “developed” to “developing” countries?
Issue 4: How to implement EPR as a national e-waste management solution?
(See: From Statements to Debates: Meta-Issues on the Web)

2) Meta-actors identified from their URLs show that the categories Journalism (23%), Scientific Community (20%), and Business (19.9%) represent the three most common meta-actors informing the e-waste debate indexed by Google. Not-for-Profit (14%), Government (10%), QUANGOS (7%), and Other (6%) make up the rest. Given the prominence of Journalism actors, StEP members may wish to consider strategies the organization might use to productively contribute  more directly to the narratives curated by these actors. (See:  From Debates to Actors I: Who makes what statements on the web?)

3) Four key issues over which actors exhibit disagreement were found. These issues are:

How much e-waste is exported from North to South?
How to create an Extended Producer Responsibility [EPR] based national recycling industry?
How to regulate North-South trade?
Should e-waste be traded from North to South at all?
(See: From Debates to Actors II: who makes what statements on the web?)

4) Wikipedia pages appear among the top search results based on the statement used to initiate the controversy map. An analysis of the edit histories of these pages identified three issues over which disagreement amongst Wikipedia contributors exist:

How effective is e-waste related policy?
What qualifies as e-waste?
Perceived dangers of e-waste disposal and processing.
(See: A Detour Through the Wikiweb I and A Detour Through the Wikiweb II)

5) The two most prominent websites in terms of receiving inlinks from other webpages in the corpus are the Basel Action Network (BAN) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Both these organizations receive the same number of inlinks from other websites in the corpus, a remarkable finding given the very different relative sizes of these organizations in terms of number of employees and budgets. Other important organizations appear in the network of actors, including the Basel Convention, the United Nations Environmental Programme [UNEP], and United Nations University [UNU]. Yet all of these latter organizations receive fewer inlinks than do BAN or EPA. (See: From Actors to Networks on the Web)

6) The vast majority of meta-actors webpages are hosted on servers in the United States or Western Europe. Only three of the total URLs identified in the study [approximately 1200] are hosted on servers anywhere in Africa. Thus, the Anglophone web indexed by is very unlikely to return results presenting views from Africa even when they are written in English. This finding poses important question for those interested in the transboundary e-waste issue: who speaks for and about whom? On whose terms and under what conditions? (See: From Networks to Locations)


Key Findings from Mapping the Controversy on the Scholarly Web

1) ‘Recycling’ is the most prominent keyword used by authors to situate their published research. In contrast, only three of 456 references use the keyword ‘reuse’ to situate their work. None relate e-waste to ‘manufacturing’ or ‘design’. (See: Main authors, keywords, and journals, The landscape of keywords, and Scholarly debates over time)

2) Seven issues comprise the areas of debate amongst scholars identified in the scholarly corpus:

Appropriateness of analytical concepts
Engineering Education
Environmental Justice
Governance | Regulation
Labour Justice
Substitutability of non-hazardous materials
(See: Debates in the scholarly literature)

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