Worlding Electronic Waste

Figure 4.1. Global Flows of E-waste.

Figure 4.1. Global Flows of E-waste for the year 2012 (click here to launch the cartogram in a full browser window).

This cartogram depicts data available from the United Nations Statistics Division's "COMTRADE" database. The data are organized into territories and the flows of e-waste that connect them. Territories are color coded by continent. The larger the circle representing a given territory (e.g., Canada) the more other territories report receiving e-waste shipments from it.

The flow lines depict the volume and direction of e-waste flows between territories. They are color coded to reflect their source territory. To understand flow direction, follow flow lines in a clockwise direction from one node to another. The thicker the flow lines, the larger the volume of the flow. Currently the software used to create the cartograms (discussed below) does not easily allow labeling of the flows (i.e., displaying the actual number representing the weight of the flow volume).

The data come with some extremely important caveats and limits. These are discussed fully in the Methods section of Lepawsky (2015). In summary, the caveats and limits of the data include:

To view the cartograms, move your mouse over one of the cartograms and click the "Source" button when it appears beneath it. This will open the cartogram in a full sized window (they do not have full functionality on mobile platforms). Also:

A full discussion of the methods used to build these visualizations is available in Lepawsky (2015). To summarize the process:

The Gephi networks exported using Sigmajs Exporter currently have some limitations that control the 'look' of the cartograms. These are largely aesthetic, but do have some implications for interpreting the cartograms. For example, it is not currently possible with Sigmajs Exporter to display the value of trade flows (e.g., with a data value adjacent to a given flow line). Thus interpretation of trade volumes is currently limited to visual comparisons of flow line thickness (thicker lines equal greater volumes of flow and vice versa). Also, some flow line colors render inconsistently. This is an artefact of the Sigmajs Exporter plugin and amounts to an aesthetic issue and should not be interpreted as having anything to do with the underlying data.

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