Regional development or resource preservation? A perspective from Japanese appliance exports
This paper examines Japanese resource outflows in the form of exported used (and functional) products in 2007 by quantifying the unintentional metal exports for a number of specialty metals typically used in electronics and electrical equipment. We find that more than half of the indium and 20-30% of the barium, lead, antimony, strontium, zirconium, silver, gold, and tin in domestically discarded products were not recycled in Japan, but rather were exported in products to be used elsewhere. The destinations of these metals were mainly Asian countries with rudimentary recycling technology. These results demonstrate that although these metals could have been stockpiled domestically for future recovery and recycling, they were instead sent to countries where recycling of these scarce metals is unlikely. From a resource perspective, therefore, the free trade of used Japanese products compromises long-term domestic resource availability as it increases the quality of life in developing countries.
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