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Electronic waste and informal recycling in Kathmandu, Nepal: challenges and opportunities


In the absence of relevant policies and supporting infrastructure, many developing countries are struggling to establish a resource-oriented waste management system. In countries like Nepal, where informal recycling practices are prevalent, the lack of understanding of the existing system hinders any advancement in this sector. We characterize the informal recycling chain in Kathmandu, where a workforce of more than 10,000 people handles the recyclable items in various waste streams, including electronic waste (e-waste). A field study, supported by key informant interviews, questionnaire surveys, and site observations was conducted to understand the local recycling sector, the lifecycle of electronic products, and the relevant stakeholders. E-waste is found to be an integral part of the existing solid waste management chain and, therefore, needs to be addressed collectively. We identify the challenges and opportunities towards building a sustainable system for managing e-waste, and offer propositions for a resource-oriented waste management system. This study can serve as a baseline for future research on informal waste recycling, e-waste in particular, in Nepal and similar developing economies that have not attracted a lot of attention until now.

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  1. Shops officially authorized by the suppliers (e.g., Dell, LG, Samsung, etc.) to sale their products.

  2. Institutions include offices of government and non-government organizations, schools and similar setups.

  3. The target material or component is separated from the waste stream.

  4. Not a fee or tax, but more like bribe that has to be paid to local dons/gangs to safely run one’s business.


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We are grateful to Foundation Idella for supporting this work. We thank the officials of municipalities for providing the links to other stakeholders. Special thanks go to the scavengers, scrap dealers, and electronics sales and repair shops in Kathmandu for participating in the research and to the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions.

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Correspondence to Keshav Parajuly.

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Parajuly, K., Thapa, K.B., Cimpan, C. et al. Electronic waste and informal recycling in Kathmandu, Nepal: challenges and opportunities. J Mater Cycles Waste Manag 20, 656–666 (2018).

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  • Electronic waste
  • Developing country
  • E-waste
  • Informal sector
  • Nepal