UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The Social Cost of Informal Electronic Waste Processing in Southern China Boardman, Anthony; Geng, Jeff; Lam, Bruno


Large amounts of e-waste are processed “informally” in lower income countries. Such processing releases dangerous pollutants, which increase mortality and reduce cognitive functioning. This paper estimates the social cost of informal e-waste processing in Southern China. This parameter may be “plugged-in” to cost-benefit analyses that evaluate the economic efficiency of policies to reduce informal e-waste processing in China or other lower income countries. It may also be used in the estimation of the social benefits (or costs) of new or proposed e-waste processing policies in higher income countries. We estimate that the social cost of informal e-waste processing in Guiyu is about $529 million. This amount is equivalent to about $423 per tonne (in 2018 US dollars) or $3528 per person, which is over half the gross income per capita of the residents of Guiyu. We also perform sensitivity analysis that varies the estimated mortality outcomes, the value of a statistical life and the amount of e-waste processed.

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