Defining an equitable Israeli-Palestinian e-waste economy

Davis, John-Michael (2017) Defining an equitable Israeli-Palestinian e-waste economy. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) crisis is a key and pressing environmental problem, with considerable attention focused on the transboundary movement of discarded electronics from the global North to informal e-waste processing hubs in the global South. Initial, and still dominant, discussion of these flows and the destination hubs was a somewhat caricatured portrayal of the toxic transfer to “digital dumps” in the South of the refuse resulting from overconsumption in the North, giving rise to e-waste trade bans as accepted solutions to the problem. More recently, scholars have considered the tensions between the economic gains and environmental efficiencies of processing e-waste in the South and the health and environmental risks it poses, especially to the local communities. To date, however, little work has explored the development desires of e-waste dependent communities nor strategies to transform informal e-waste hubs into sustainable and clean industrial sectors formally integrated with e-waste management systems from exporting countries. This dissertation addresses this knowledge gap by conducting a Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology on one instance of North-to-South e-waste trade between Israel and the West Bank from June 2014 – December 2015. Based in the West Line informal e-waste hub in South-West Hebron, West Bank, this dissertation describes a PAR method that worked with the West Line community to articulate an improved e-waste industry and implement tangible initiatives to achieve it. The participatory process revealed that this long-term informal e-waste hub has grown economically dependent on imported e-waste, and in contrast to mainstream solutions that seek to ban North-to-South e-waste trade, the local community articulated a development trajectory to regulate and transition this industry in an equitable and environmentally-friendly manner. This dissertation is divided into five components: an introduction, three manuscripts, and a conclusion. The introduction begins with a broad overview of the e-waste literature with a focus on geographer’s contribution to this field, followed by the specific objectives and research questions that guided this dissertation. I then provide the geopolitical context of the Israel-West Bank e-waste economy along with a description of the PAR method that guided this research. The first manuscript describes the PAR approach carried out in the West Line community to upgrade the social and environmental conditions of the West Line e-waste hub. This approach contributed to the critique of “rapid participatory development” and the search for ways to recover its initial goals, detailing a unique adaptation of the Delphi-method that allowed the facilitation of a broadly endorsed development trajectory within a heterogeneous and conflicted community. The second manuscript details a multi-method study that triangulates information from over 300 qualitative interviews, field observations, and structured interviews from a systematic stratified randomized sample drawn from all operating e-waste businesses in the West Line. This study uncovered an e-waste processing industry that imported 16,958 – 25,168 tons of e-waste in 2015, creating 381 enterprises, 1,098 jobs, and USD $28.5 million gross value added to the national economy. This study not only reveals the magnitude of a largely hidden industry, but also details an adaptable method to analyze the quantities of e-waste flows and economic gains of analogous informal e-waste processing hubs. The third manuscript employs a dis/articulations perspective to analyze the inclusionary and exclusionary impacts of Israel’s new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy and subsequent creation of a regulated e-waste commodity chain. Through a detailed historical analysis of the West Line e-waste industry, I reveal the geopolitical and economic forces that delinked this region from an economy dependent on Israeli employment and subsequently linked it to the Israeli e-waste commodity chain. This manuscript challenges conceptions of “extended” and “responsibility” in EPR laws to integrate pre-existing e-waste economies into regulated e-waste commodity chains. The conclusion reflects on the PAR process to achieve the West Line communities articulated goal of regulating a local e-waste industry and the levels of friction encountered by various Israeli and Palestinian stakeholders that control or influence this industry. I extend findings from this study to challenge international e-waste policy to incorporate the voices of e-waste dependent communities in the South as a moral compass to determine how to best manage transboundary e-waste trade.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 13003
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references.
Keywords: e-waste, Transboundary, Informal, Community Participation, Palestine, Israel
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Geography
Date: October 2017
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Electronic waste -- Economic aspects -- Israel Electronic waste -- Economic aspects -- West Bank

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