Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Jesse T. Richman

Committee Member

David C. Earnest

Committee Member

Ed Markowski


During the 1970s-1980s waste, specifically toxic waste from manufacturing, became a globally traded commodity. By the late 1980s, waste trade became a global political and environmental topic because many believed that developed countries were ‘dumping’ hazardous material on less developed nations despite knowing that less developed countries often lack adequate infrastructure to dispose of waste in an environmentally responsible manner, prompting international regulatory responses.

This study focuses on the fastest growing category of traded toxic waste – electronic waste. In 2014, approximately 41.8 million tons of electronic waste was generated globally. During this same period 1.6 million tons were traded in the global economy. Electronic waste is particularly intriguing because of its mix of toxic dangers and high value opportunities. Unlike other hazardous waste, electronic waste is composed of toxic materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated retardants that can adversely affect human health and the environment and valuable recyclables such as iron, copper, gold, silver, and rare earth metals.

Scholars debate whether the domestic political structure, international environmental agreements or economic factor is the primary determinant that induce states to import hazardous waste. The aim of this study is to provide insight to this puzzling question.

The study creates a Waste Trade Framework that is a compilation of political, economic and environmental determinants. The framework is then tested using partial least squares-structural equation modeling. The study finds that when developed and developing countries are evaluated jointly, the economic factor has the largest impact on electronic waste import volume. When developed and developing countries are modeled independently, electronic waste import volume in both country types is most influenced by the political economic factor (the interaction of politics and the economy).


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