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Product or Waste? Importation and End-of-Life Processing of Computers in Peru

TitleProduct or Waste? Importation and End-of-Life Processing of Computers in Peru
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsKahhat R, Williams E
Journal TitleEnvironmental Science & Technology
ISBN Number0013-936X

This paper considers the importation of used personal computers (PCs) in Peru and domestic practices in their production, reuse, and end-of-life processing. The empirical pillars of this study are analysis of government data describing trade in used and new computers and surveys and interviews of computer sellers, refurbishers, and recyclers. The United States is the primary source of used PCs imported to Peru. Analysis of shipment value (asmeasuredbytrade statistics)shows that 87-88% of imported used computers had a price higher than the ideal recycle value of constituent materials. The official trade in end-of-life computers is thus driven by reuse as opposed to recycling. The domestic reverse supply chain of PCs is well developed with extensive collection, reuse, and recycling. Environmental problems identified include open burning of copper-bearing wires to remove insulation and landfilling of CRT glass. Distinct from informal recycling in China and India, printed circuit boards are usually not recycled domestically but exported to Europe for advanced recycling or to China for (presumably) informal recycling. It is notable that purely economic considerations lead to circuit boards being exported to Europe where environmental standards are stringent, presumably due to higher recovery of precious metals.

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