Electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing form of waste worldwide, associated with a range of environmental, health, and justice problems. Unfortunately, disposal and recycling are hindered by a tendency of consumers to resist recycling their e-waste. This backlog of un-discarded e-waste poses significant challenges for the future. This paper addresses the reasons why many people might continue to value their technological artifacts and therefore to hoard them, suggesting that many of these common explanations are deficient in some way. It argues instead for a derivative kind of value, here labelled “system value”. Addressing the problem of hoarding by invoking the idea of system value, the authors conjecture, could offer some clarity about how to move forward with more successful e-waste management programs.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Arthur, C. (2012). Apple rejoins EPEAT environmental ratings system. Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/jul/16/apple-rejoins-epeat. Accessed 26 May 2017.
Boone, T., & Ganeshan, R. (2012). A primer on e-waste. In Sustainable supply chains (pp. 107-127). Springer, New York, NY.
Boudier, F., & Bensebaa, F. (2011). Hazardous waste management and corporate social responsibility: Illegal trade of electrical and electronic waste. Business and Society Review,116(1), 29–53.
Bouvier, R., & Wagner, T. (2011). The influence of collection facility attributes on household collection rates of electronic waste: The case of televisions and computer monitors. Resources, Conservation and Recycling,55(11), 1051–1059.
Darby, L., & Obara, L. (2005). Household recycling behavior and attitudes towards the disposal of small electrical and electronic equipment. Resources, Conservation and Recycling,44(1), 17–35.
Duan, H., Miller, T. R., Gregory, J., Kirchain, R., & Linnell, J. (2013). Quantitative characterization of domestic and transboundary flows of used electronics. MIT Materials Systems Laboratory.
EcoLog. (2013). E-waste recycling slow to enter Canadian tech culture, poll says. Ecolog.com. Accessed 23 February 2017.
Fu, J., Zhou, Q., Liu, J., Liu, W., Wang, T., Zhang, Q., et al. (2008). High levels of heavy metals in rice (Oryza sativa L.) from a typical E-waste recycling area in southeast China and its potential risk to human health. Chemosphere,71(7), 1269–1275.
Garfinkel, S. L., & Shelat, A. (2003). Remembrance of data passed: A study of disk sanitization practices. IEEE Security and Privacy,99(1), 17–27.
Gettleman, J. (2013). The price of precious. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2013/10/conflict-minerals/. Accessed 4 January 2016.
Gibbs, C., McGarrell, E. F., Axelrod, M., & Rivers, L. (2011). Conservation criminology and the global trade in electronic waste: Applying a multi-disciplinary research framework. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice,35(4), 269–291.
Habermas, J. (1987). The theory of communicative action: Lifeworld and system, Vol. 2 (T. McCarthy, Trans. Vol. 2). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Husserl, E. (1970). The crisis of European sciences and transcendental phenomenology: An introduction to phenomenological philosophy. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
Kahhat, R., Kim, J., Xu, M., Allenby, B., Williams, E., & Zhang, P. (2008). Exploring e-waste management systems in the United States. Resources, Conservation and Recycling,52(7), 955–964.
Kang, H. Y., & Schoenung, J. M. (2005). Electronic waste recycling: A review of US infrastructure and technology options. Resources, Conservation and Recycling,45(4), 368–400.
Knussen, C., & Yule, F. (2008). “I’m not in the habit of recycling” the role of habitual behavior in the disposal of household waste. Environment and Behavior,40(5), 683–702.
Knussen, C., Yule, F., MacKenzie, J., & Wells, M. (2004). An analysis of intentions to recycle household waste: The roles of past behavior, perceived habit, and perceived lack of facilities. Journal of Environmental Psychology,24(2), 237–246.
Lepawsky, J. (2012). Legal geographies of e-waste legislation in Canada and the US: Jurisdiction, responsibility and the taboo of production. Geoforum,43(6), 1194–1206.
Lepawsky, J., & Mather, C. (2011). From beginnings and endings to boundaries and edges: rethinking circulation and exchange through electronic waste. Area,43(3), 242–249.
Leung, A. O. W., Duzgoren-Aydin, N. S., Cheung, K. C., & Wong, M. H. (2008). Heavy metals concentrations of surface dust from e-waste recycling and its human health implications in Southeast China. Environmental Science and Technology,42(7), 2674–2680.
Luther, L. (2008). Managing electronic waste: An analysis of state e-waste legislation. Congressional Research Service, pp. 1–25.
Luther, L. (2010). Managing electronic waste: Issues with exporting e-waste. Congressional Research Service, pp. 1–16.
McAllister, L. (2012). Field notes. New Delhi, India. University of Colorado Boulder IRB Protocol #: 12-0645.
McAllister, L., Magee, A., & Hale, B. (2014). Women, e-waste, and technical solutions to climate change. Health and Human Rights,16(1), 166–178.
Myyry, L., & Helkama, K. (2002). The role of value priorities and professional ethics training in moral sensitivity. Journal of Moral Education,31(1), 35–50.
Ogunseitan, O. A., Schoenung, J. M., Saphores, J. D. M., & Shapiro, A. A. (2009). The electronics revolution: From e-wonderland to e-wasteland. Science,326(5953), 670–671.
Parsons, T. (1991). The social system. London: Psychology Press.
Perugini, M., & Bagozzi, R. P. (2001). The role of desires and anticipated emotions in goal-directed behaviors: Broadening and deepening the theory of planned behavior. British Journal of Social Psychology,40(1), 79–98.
Pickren, G. (2014). Political ecologies of electronic waste: uncertainty and legitimacy in the governance of e-waste geographies. Environment and Planning A,46(1), 26–45.
Prather, M. J., & Hsu, J. (2008). NF3, the greenhouse gas missing from Kyoto. Geophysical Research Letters,35(12), L20821.
Riley, M. (2008). From salvage to recycling–new agendas or same old rubbish? Area,40(1), 79–89.
Ritter, B. A. (2006). Can business ethics be trained? A study of the ethical decision-making process in business students. Journal of Business Ethics,68(2), 153–164.
Robinson, B. H. (2009). E-waste: An assessment of global production and environmental impacts. Science of the Total Environment,408(2), 183–191.
Saphores, J. D. M., Nixon, H., Ogunseitan, O. A., & Shapiro, A. A. (2009). How much e-waste is there in US basements and attics? Results from a national survey. Journal of Environmental Management,90(11), 3322–3331.
Saphores, J. D. M., Ogunseitan, O. A., & Shapiro, A. A. (2012). Willingness to engage in a pro-environmental behavior: An analysis of e-waste recycling based on a national survey of US households. Resources, Conservation and Recycling,60, 49–63.
Savitz, E. (2012). Carriers to take EPS Hit with arrival of Apple iPhone 5. Forbes.com. Accessed 6 August 2014.
Sepúlveda, A., Schluep, M., Renaud, F. G., Streicher, M., Kuehr, R., Hagelüken, C., et al. (2010). A review of the environmental fate and effects of hazardous substances released from electrical and electronic equipments during recycling: Examples from China and India. Environmental Impact Assessment Review,30(1), 28–41.
Sthiannopkao, S. (2012). Managing e-waste in developed and developing countries. In Global risk-based management of chemical additives II, Springer, pp. 263–278. http://link.springer.com/10.1007/698_2012_195. Accessed 27 October 2013.
Strickland, E. (2011). Cracking down on conflict minerals. Spectrum.ieee.org. Accessed 27 October 2013.
Sunstein, C., & Thaler, R. (2008). Nudge. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Thøgersen, J. (1994). A model of recycling behavior, with evidence from Danish source separation programmes. International Journal of Research in Marketing,11(2), 145–163.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Hale, B., McAllister, L. From Treasure to Trash: The Lingering Value of Technological Artifacts. Sci Eng Ethics 26, 619–640 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-019-00107-1
- System value