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Treasured trash? A consumer perspective on small Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) divestment in Ireland

Casey, K., Lichrou, M. and Fitzpatrick, C. (2019) Treasured trash? A consumer perspective on small Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) divestment in Ireland. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 145. pp. 179-189. ISSN 0921-3449

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2019.02.015


Small Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (sWEEE) is a particularly problematic category of electronic waste. A growing body of research indicates that sWEEE tends to be either stockpiled or disposed of improperly (references). However, despite this, little attention has been given to the meanings people ascribe to their electronic and electrical possessions; meanings which continue to apply even when they are disused or broken. The purpose of this study was to generate insight into this area and to identify opportunities for intervention to increase sWEEE recycling. A quasi-ethnographic approach was used to investigate sWEEE disposal behaviour from the perspective of Irish consumers. The rationale for this approach was the need to reconcile the policy perspective on sWEEE with the subjective experiences and interpretations that drive people’s behaviour. The findings reveal that from the time electronic and electrical devices enter consumers’ lives until their disposal, they exist in fluid in-between states of meaning and have perceived value. Before divestment, sWEEE typically undergoes a four-stage journey: a) once electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is no longer used, it tends to be either consciously stored or abandoned in the home (inactive EEE); b) a trigger prompts consumers to divest of the inactive EEE (critical moment); c) provoked to take action, consumers must decide precisely what to discard and how (transition from EEE to WEEE); d) consumers decide to recycle or not (divestment). The paper concludes by discussing the implications of these findings in terms of encouraging increased sWEEE recycling.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > Marketing and Reputation
ID Code:89551


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