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Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) management in Australia and Brazil
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 02:13 authored by Pablo Ribeiro Dias
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (e-waste) is a current global challenge due to its exponential growth, toxic potential and precious/rare materials in its composition lost when landfilled. These challenges make e-waste management crucial economically and environmentally. The ideal e-waste management approach is a matter of research given it currently varies greatly among countries and the world has not yet found an efficient and effective solution. This thesis studies two countries that share enough similarities (same territory size, similar e-waste generated per purchasing power and recent policy framework towards e-waste) and precise discrepancies to allow comparison: Australia and Brazil. Australia being a developed country that has defined the roles and responsibilities of e-waste stakeholders, and Brazil being a developing country that left most of it to free market. The thesis combines three individual manuscripts published in scientific journals: the first two characterize the current e-waste management in Brazil and Australia, respectively, showing the distribution of e-waste recyclers, the main collection channels and the processes being undertaken. They also relate specific management issues found and explain the international e-waste trade (what is exported and where to). The third paper uses quantitative information obtained in Australia to assess the international trade and explain why some WEEE are exported, while some are processed domestically. The results obtained allow to discuss the importance of regulations for e-waste management and to what extent free market can operate without compromising the environment. It is shown that collection in metropolitan areas and downstream recycling where infrastructure is available can be left to the free market, while collection in remote areas and downstream recycling where there is no infrastructure can only be achieved through regulations. First stage recycling, however, is dependable on the country's workforce cost. Where labor is cheap, it will be driven by free market and needs regulations only to prohibit environmentally damaging processes.