Electronic Waste in the Technology Triangle
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A contemporary planning issue is how to strategically handle electronic waste (e-waste) within urban environments. E-waste is a fast growing waste stream, resulting in increasingly toxic hazards. This thesis employs qualitative research methods to investigate how key actors in a corporate environment mobilize e-waste in the Region of Waterloo. Additionally, the thesis examines the motivational factors, which instigate how e-waste transitions from being an outdated electronic device to being repurposed. Participants were recruited and interviewed from fifteen companies located in the Region of Waterloo to explore how e-waste is understood and what policies exist, if any, to handle a company’s old electronic devices. These participants represent companies where electronics are manufactured, used on a large scale, or where participants were involved in the waste-processing sector. The data collected from the interviews was subjected to a methodology of open coding and axial coding techniques to look for patterns in terms of how e-waste is managed. The results of these interviews revealed that most participants are uncertain how to handle e-waste and that the Region lacks a comprehensive framework for guiding companies in handling their e-waste. The ease of recycling tends to balance on the convenience of e-waste receptacles; financial incentives that enable recycling to be a cost-neutral or a profitable process; and a dependency on the secondhand market for electronics. Furthermore, the results of this thesis indicate that the security of data on the electronic hard drives is critical to e-waste management and that the type of e-waste can often determine the disposal strategy a company utilizes. Recommendations for this thesis include seven strategies to effectively communicate and foster better e-waste management using traditional planning tools and policies aimed at urban planners and corporate strategists.