E-waste Recycling

U-M Team Members

Rick Neitzel (PI) – School of Public Health, Environmental Health Sciences
Olivier Jolliet – School of Public Health, Environmental Health Sciences
Sara Adar – School of Public Health, Epidemiology
Shobita Parthasarathy – Ford School of Public Policy
Jesse Austin-Breneman – College of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
Jose Alfaro – School of Natural Resources and Environment; College of Engineering, Electrical Engineerin and Computer Science
Andrew Jones – School of Public Health, Nutrition
Stephanie Sayler – School of Public Health, Research Area Specialist Senior 

International Partners

Nirawan Sanphoti – Kasetsart University, Public Health
Kowit Nambunmee – Mae Fah Luang University, Medical Science
Siripond Jindaphong – Mae Fah Luang University
Kalasin Provincial Public Health Office
Thai National Ministry of Public Health
Pablo Ruiz - University of Chile
Daniela Pinto - University of Chile
Gloria Baigorrotegui - University of Santiago, Chile
Uca Silva - Plataforma RELAC (Regional Platform for Electronic Residues in Latin America and the Caribbean)
Alejandra Parra - ACCIONA: Sustainable Infrastructure and Renewable Energy

External Advisors

Elena Page – U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Anneli Julander – Karolinska University, Sweden
Katie Schindall – EMC, Inc.

Project Summary

E-waste—electronic waste, or discarded household or business products that contain circuitry or electrical components—is a global and growing threat to human and ecosystem health. Low-income countries bear a disproportionate burden of the impacts of e-waste, as higher-income countries often export waste to be recycled or disposed of in these less expensive settings. This creates much-needed employment opportunities in low-income countries, but the informal recycling and disposal approaches currently used in these resource-constrained settings recover only a fraction of potentially recyclable materials while exposing workers and communities to hazardous agents.  
With support from the Graham Institute, University of Michigan researchers are developing a research-to-practice project to explore solutions to comprehensively address the challenging and complex issues surrounding e-waste recycling. 
In collaboration with their Thai colleagues, over a dozen students from U-M and universities in Thailand, and local public health staff, the team completed two comprehensive assessments of exposures among e-waste workers performing recycling and dismantling on domestic waste in Kalasin, Thailand. With its partners in Chile, the team has also completed an analagous assessment of exposures among workers performing recycling and repair on discarded  electronics in communities throughout Santiago and Temuco, Chile, and workers within a small e-waste recycling factory in Chillán, Chile.
In April 2018 the team brought together project collaborators and other expertsfor a three-day multidisciplinary, international event at the Univeristy of Michigan campus. The team shared their work with the public during an all day event Changing the Global E-Waste Cycle and spent the following two days in working sessions to identify next steps and recommendations. 


For more details, visit the team's project webpage and view the presentations from the Changing the Global E-Waste Cycle event in April 2018.
This project received a $250,000 Integrated Assessment Grant in 2016.