Clean and inclusive? Recycling e-waste in China and India

E-waste – electrical and electronic waste – is one of today’s fastest growing waste streams. By managing it well, we can recover valuable raw materials and reusable parts, with significant associated emissions savings. But much of its potential is lost when improperly processed by informal and unregulated enterprises. This can damage both people’s health and the environment and intensify the vulnerability of workers. Informal markets are where most of the world’s poor produce, consume and trade goods. Using case studies from China and India – both with huge informal e-waste sectors – this paper explores how to build inclusive, greener economies that retain the benefits of informal markets, while addressing how and why people are excluded from formal activities. Both countries are stepping up efforts to regulate but are failing to take into account the importance of engaging with the informal e-waste sector. How can drives to clean up harmful practices take their experience and expertise into account? And how can we develop effective policies to tackle pollution while supporting the health, livelihoods and economic activities of the poor and vulnerable?

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