The Stability and Profitability of the Informal WEEE Collector in Developing Countries: A Case Study of China

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Different attitudes and practices toward WEEE recovery and recycling are found in developed and developing countries. As the largest developing country in the world, China's WEEE is widely regarded as a valuable product, and the resources contained in it offer potential profit for informal collectors. Unlike the formal collectors, who are supported by the government, informal collectors can only rely on themselves. However, formal and informal collectors often comfortably coexist in developing countries and there are even cases of informal collectors dominating the market. Obsolete television (OTV) in Beijing is employed as a case study. Questionnaire survey and multi-agent cost-benefit analysis are used to analyze the stability and profitability of the informal collector. The results show the following: (1) The factors of price, convenience and canonicity can affect consumers’ motivations when selecting a collector, with price and convenience having the strongest impact. And informal collectors can better meet consumers’ demands. (2) Stable cooperation within tier two collectors is formed by profit-driven individuals. The secondhand market can expand the profits of the first-tier collectors, while the remaining OTV, which cannot be reused, is delivered to the middleman, ensuring that the first-tier collectors are not menaced from the “rear”. (3) The informal backyard recycler expands the profit of the middleman. Meanwhile, the WEEE processing fund is mostly shared by collectors and intensifies the confusion of the recovery market. We then create a new fund system to improve the regulation of OTV recovery. To make formal collections work, we suggest that the government charges an extra 40 Yuan fund when consumers buy new TVs and distribute it to formal collectors in order to exclude the informal collectors.

Informal collector
Developing countries
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Resources, Conservation and Recycling
Date Published: 
February, 2016
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Full Citation: 
Gu, Yifan, Yufeng Wu, Ming Xu, Huaidong Wang and Tieyong Zuo. (2016) “The stability and profitability of the informal WEEE collector in development countries: a case study of China.” Resources, Conservation & Recycling. 107, 18-26.
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