E-Waste and Sustainable Supply Chain A Thai Reverse Logistics Perspective

Hermann Gruenwald


This paper provides a Thai logistics perspective on electronic waste (e-waste). Thailand is in a unique position where it is a recipient of electronic waste as well as a producer of electronic waste. Electronic waste by definition is electronic devices at the end or near the end of their useful lives. E-waste represents 2% of America's trash in the landfills but equals 70% of overall toxic waste. Electronic items that are considered to be hazardous include, but are not limited to: television sets and computer monitors that contain cathode ray tubes, LCD desktop monitors, LCD televisions, plasma televisions, portable DVD players with LCD screens and mobile phones. Cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals like gold or silver. Americans annually dump phones containing over $60 million in gold/silver. For every one million mobile phones that are recycled, 35,274 lbs of copper, 772 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, and 33 lbs of palladium can be recovered. Only 12.5% of e-waste is currently recycled. This study used an on-line survey to measure the perception of young logistics professionals in relation to e-waste. How they deal with the ethical issue of e-waste on a personal and professional level, as well as their technical knowledge in relation to e-waste and supply chain management and their applications in a Thai context. Outdated and damaged electronics are shipped from the USA and Europe to Thailand to be resold, and many end up on the street markets an MBK and Panthip Plaza as second-hand computers and mobile phones. But the vast majority are actually e-waste and are harvested for their precious metal content under mostly unsafe conditions for the environment and migrant labor workers in Thailand and the neighboring countries. The domestic production of e-waste in Thailand is an even bigger issue as Thai people replace their old TV sets for digital LCD TVs, replace their old computers for tablet PCs and most of all upgrade and exchange their mobile phones on less than annual basis. The e-waste is not only generated on a personal level but also by corporations and government agencies replacing their infrastructure often just before October 1, the start of the new physical year for government agencies. The study found that the awareness of e-waste in the Thai population is relative low and the participants were not aware what e-waste is and the magnitude of problems to caused by it as well as the global supply chain consequences. Sustainable supply chain solutions allow for the reuse, recycle and recover options for e-waste under controlled conditions and can be very profitable for society as well as the reverse logistics companies recovering the commodities.


e-waste; IT; recycling; reverse logistics; sustainable supply chain

Full Text:



Alter H (2000). Environmentally sound management of the recycling of hazardous wastes in the context of the Basel Convention. Resource Conserve Recycling 29:111– Anderson, R.E. Social impacts of computing:

Codes of professional ethics. Social Science Computing Review 1992; 10, 2:453-469.

Gmünder, S. Recycling – From Waste to Resource – Assessment of optimal manual dismantling depth of a desktop PC in China based on eco- efficiency calculations. Diploma thesis, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich , Zürich :2007.

Jain A, Sareen R E-waste in India: assessment, validation and future implications. In: Proceedings of The Third Workshop on Material Cycles and Waste Management in Asia (NIES E-waste Workshop), December 14–15, NIES, Tsukuba, Japan :2004.

Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA) Report on the recovery, treatment and recycling of IT equipment. JEITA, Tokyo :2005.

Kojima M, Yoshida A International recycling of E-waste in Asian countries. In: Proceedings of The Third Workshop on Material Cycles and Waste Management in Asia (NIES_E-waste Workshop), December 14–15, NIES, Tsukuba, Japan :2004.

Mungcharoen T Current status and issues of E-waste recycling in Thailand. In: Proceedings of The Third Workshop on Material Cycles and Waste Management in Asia (NIES E-waste Workshop), December 14–15, NIES, Tsukuba, Japan :2004.

Salhofer S. and Tesar,M. (2010). Assessment of removal of components containing hazardous substances from small WEEE in Austria Journal of Hazardous Materials 2011 ;186: 1481–1488.

WEEE-Directive Directive 2002/96/EC of the European parliament and of the council on waste electrical and electronic equipment 27 January 2003.