Innovative Platform and Incentive Mechanism Are the Keys for Electronic Waste Collection in Developing Countries Mianqiang Xue and Zhenming Xu* School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 800 Dongchuan Road, Shanghai 200240, P. R. China and Tianjin Datong with high annual capacity were implemented to explore more suitable management systems.4 The pilot programs have been scaled up; more and more formal facilities, equipped with advanced technologies, have been established due to increasing investment in this field. However, these formal facilities failed to collect enough electronic waste as a result of the domination by informal street collectors. Only 10% of electronic waste flowed into formal sectors in 2007.5 In such circumstances, the industry and academia have been designing more efficient collection systems. Two case studies were analyzed as below.

CASE STUDY 1 Shenzhen GEM High-tech Co., Ltd. initiated the “3R” recycling community store, as shown in Figure 1. According to the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Principle, the “3R” stores provide an accessible platform for second-hand product consignment sales, renewable resources deals and low carbon product sales. Apart from producing an income, consumers get corresponding carbon credits through making these deals. Then, the carbon credits can be used to exchange low carbon products in “3R” stores and other cooperative stores. This incentive mechanism encourages citizens to participate in these environmental protection programs. At the same time, people are educated by enhancing their environmental awareness, which must be considered in designing electronic waste collection systems. By 2012, more than 20 “3R” stores had been built in the Hubei Province covering 3000 communities, 1000 government agencies, and 500 schools. Although the problems associated with store expansion and holistic system establishment still need to be solved, the “3R” store model upgrades the electronic waste collection in China.


lectronic waste is ubiquitous with the development of information technology and replacement of electronic products. The volume of electronic waste worldwide was 50 million tons in 2012, which will increase by thirty-three percent by 2017.1 Developing a circular economy is an important way to construct an environmentally friendly society and achieve sustainability. For an end-of-life electronic product, collecting and recycling close its life cycle loop by sending the materials back into the industrial chain. Efficient collection of electronic waste is a prerequisite for formal recycling. In this viewpoint, we argue that an innovative platform and incentive mechanism are the keys for electronic waste collection. Due to certain economic and societal reasons, informal activities are still the dominant method for the processing of electronic waste in developing countries.2 These informal activities can cause serious pollution to the environment. Also, workers without protective measures face great health risks from exposure to high levels of heavy metals and persistent halogenated hydrocarbons.3 China generates the most electronic waste in the word.1 Driven by the demand of secondary utilization and raw materials for manufacturing, large quantities of electronic waste are being transported to developing countries. Seventy percent of the world’s electronic waste, therefore, ends up in China.3 In response to this situation, great effort has been made to promote formal approaches for electronic waste management. For example, four national pilot programs in Hangzhou Dadi, Qingdao Haier, Beijing Huaxing, © 2014 American Chemical Society

CASE STUDY 2 Shanghai Xin Jinqiao Environmental Protection Co., Ltd. launched a collection system based on the conception of the “internet of things”. For instance, small electronic waste such as cell phone and toner cartridge can be delivered directly into the intelligent collection bins located in each community. Citizens print an identification code using the intelligent collection bin and stick it to the electronic waste for the payments and credits. The intelligent collection bin will alert the information control center when it is full and a delivery vehicle will be dispatched to transport the electronic waste to the transit center. For large electronic waste such as air conditioners and washing machines, consumers can make an appointment online, by phone or Received: September 24, 2014 Published: November 5, 2014 13034 | Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, 48, 13034−13035

Environmental Science & Technology


Figure 1. Innovative platform and incentive mechanism model of electronic waste collection.

(2012AA063206), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51178262) and the State Scholarship Fund. We are also thankful to the Shanghai Tongji Gao Tingyao Environmental Science and Technology Development Foundation.

applications. Pick-up services will be provided for collecting the large electronic waste in a timely manner. More than 100 000 people applied for this card for credits and more than 300 collection sites were set up in Shanghai. The platform in this collection system features intelligence: information and communication technologies, radio frequency identification, and geographic information service technologies will be integrated into this system. The collection and transportation process will become more automatic, intelligent, and transparent in the future. In developing countries, end-of-life electronic products are considered resources more than waste. Legislation is a guarantee for environmentally friendly management of electronic waste, but that alone is not enough, especially in the collection stage. The practical experience in China could provide a reference for better electronic waste management in other emerging economies. According to the analysis of two case studies, an innovative platform and incentive mechanism are two key factors in establishing new collection models. The innovative platform serves as the link between consumers and recycling facilities, whereas the incentive mechanism is the impetus for electronic waste take-back. The objective of electronic waste management is to minimize the environmental impact and resource consumption in the life cycle, including manufacture, distribution, use, collection and recycling. Currently, the first priority is to establish efficient collection systems to overcome the bottleneck (collection stage) in this industrial chain. So the crisis of electronic waste management could be converted into the opportunity for an emerging industry’s sustainable development. In the future, research on development of platform and incentive mechanisms would be extremely helpful for new collection model establishment.


(1) Yale Environment 360 Website; volume_of_e-waste__projected_to_soar_by_2017_study_says/ 4027/. (2) Zhang, K.; Schnoor, J. L.; Zeng, E. Y. E-waste recycling: Where does it go from here? Environ. Sci. Technol. 2012, 46, 10861−10867. (3) Stone, R. Confronting a toxic blowback from the electronics trade. Science 2009, 325, 1055−1055. (4) Chi, X.; Streicher-Porte, M.; Wang, M. Y. L.; Reuter, M. A. Informal electronic waste recycling: A sector review with special focus on China. Waste Manage. 2011, 31, 731−742. (5) Zhou, L.; Xu, Z. M. Response to waste electrical and electronic equipments in China: Legislation, recycling system, and advanced integrated process. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2012, 46, 4713−4724.


Corresponding Author

*Phone:+86 21 54747495; fax:+86 21 54747495; e-mail: [email protected] Notes

The authors declare no competing financial interest.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This work was supported by the National High Technology Research and Development Program of China 13035 | Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, 48, 13034−13035

Innovative platform and incentive mechanism are the keys for electronic waste collection in developing countries.

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