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Informal Electronic Waste Recycling in Pakistan

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The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is growing dramatically all over the world. The fast growth and diffusion of ICTs, their early obsolescence and short life have made electronic waste (e-waste) to the fastest growing waste stream in the world. This waste stream is valuable and highly toxic at the same time, and therefore it requires proper handling. Most e-waste currently ends up in developing countries, like Pakistan, where it is usually recycled informally. Informal recycling involves crude processes, which harm the environment and have severe impacts on the health of recycling workers. This paper analyses the e-waste flows and the informal recycling system in Pakistan, and related governance challenges. Based on field studies in three major cities in Pakistan, we investigate why the e-waste flows keep entering the country, the routes through which they end up in the informal recycling, the actual recycling processes, and identify the various stakeholders and their roles. The analysis illustrates the poor governance that results from weak enforcement of legislation, the complexities emerging with numerous stakeholders, the profitability of informal recycling, little concern for the health damaging exposure for workers from poorest and most vulnerable people in society, and the lack of awareness of the hazards involved. The paper highlights how this business is a market driven entity without priority for proper e-waste handling, which is also hampered by lacking characteristics of good governance, which make it a challenge to control this business.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2016

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