Quantifying flows and economies of informal e-waste hubs: Learning from the Israeli–Palestinian e-waste sector

John Michael Davis, Yaakov Garb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Despite increasing academic attention and the pressing development and environmental importance of informal e-waste economies in the global South, there remains a dearth of reliable quantitative data to guide theory and appropriate policy responses. We illustrate this problem through a review of the thin and patchy data presented in existing studies that attempt to quantify the flows and economic impact of informal e-waste hubs. We then describe a way forward through our analysis of a less well known e-waste hub in south-west Hebron, Palestine, which provides a methodological model for robust and systematic quantification. We achieved this by leveraging the relatively closed regional-geographic nature of this hub, triangulating several approaches used in studies of the informal economy (anecdotal/ethnographic, micro- and macro-level data), and contrasting data before and after a key shift in the sector. Our study shows how this hub, though barely registering in official economic and trade data, houses a large, vital and differentiated cluster of businesses, which have processed almost half of Israel's e-waste for over a decade, and constitute an important export sector and local economic contributor. In 2015, even operating at levels 40% below those sustained over the prior decade, the hub imported and processed 16–25,000 tonnes of e-waste, creating 381 enterprises, 1,098 jobs and US$28.5 million gross value added to the Palestinian economy. This study demonstrates methodological approaches for studying informal e-waste flows and economies and the substantive insights these produce, and argues for the relevance of both to analogous hubs across the global South.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-95
Number of pages14
JournalGeographical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Israel
  • Palestine
  • e-waste
  • import
  • informal economies
  • transboundary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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