Key drivers of the e-waste recycling system: Assessing and modelling e-waste processing in the informal sector in Delhi

The management and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment WEEE was assessed in the city of Delhi, India. In order to do this, the personal computer was defined as the tracer for which a model was designed. The model depicts the entire life cycle of the tracer, from production through sale and consumption—including reuse and refurbishment—to the material recovery in the mainly informal recycling industry. The field work included interviews with the relevant stakeholders, transect walks and literature study, which was followed by a software-supported material flow analysis (MFA) of the whole life cycle chain of the tracer item. In addition to the MFA, several economic aspects of the recycling system were investigated. The study revealed that the life span of a personal computer has considerable influence upon the system, most notably in the following two aspects: (i) a prolonged life span creates value by means of refurbishing and upgrading activities, and (ii) it slows down the flow rate of the whole system. This is one of the simplest ways of preventing an uncontrolled increase in environmentally hazardous emissions by the recycling sector. The material recovery of the system is mainly driven by the precious metal content of personal computers. A first estimate showed that precious metal recovery contributes to over 80% of the personal computer materials' market value, despite the small quantity of them found in computers.

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