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Waste Manag. 2012 Nov;32(11):2134-46. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2012.03.029. Epub 2012 May 3.

The Best-of-2-Worlds philosophy: developing local dismantling and global infrastructure network for sustainable e-waste treatment in emerging economies.

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United Nations University, Institute for Sustainability and Peace, Bonn 53113, Germany.


E-waste is a complex waste category containing both hazardous and valuable substances. It demands for a cost-efficient treatment system which simultaneously liberates and refines target fractions in an environmentally sound way. In most developing countries there is a lack of systems covering all steps from disposal until final processing due to limited infrastructure and access to technologies and investment. This paper introduces the 'Best-of-2-Worlds' philosophy (Bo2W), which provides a network and pragmatic solution for e-waste treatment in emerging economies. It seeks technical and logistic integration of 'best' pre-processing in developing countries to manually dismantle e-waste and 'best' end-processing to treat hazardous and complex fractions in international state-of-the-art end-processing facilities. A series of dismantling trials was conducted on waste desktop computers, IT equipment, large and small household appliances, in order to compare the environmental and economic performances of the Bo2W philosophy with other conventional recycling scenarios. The assessment showed that the performance of the Bo2W scenario is more eco-efficient than mechanical separation scenarios and other local treatment solutions. For equipment containing substantial hazardous substances, it demands the assistance from domestic legislation for mandatory removal and safe handling of such fractions together with proper financing to cover the costs. Experience from Bo2W pilot projects in China and India highlighted key societal factors influencing successful implementation. These include market size, informal competitors, availability of national e-waste legislation, formal take-back systems, financing and trust between industrial players. The Bo2W philosophy can serve as a pragmatic and environmentally responsible transition before establishment of end-processing facilities in developing countries is made feasible. The executive models of Bo2W should be flexibly differentiated for various countries by adjusting to local conditions related to operational scale, level of centralized operations, dismantling depth, combination with mechanical processing and optimized logistics to international end-processors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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