Electronic Waste Management: An Overview

by | Apr 13, 2023 | Trending, Waste Management

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In today’s world, gadgets and devices have become an integral part of our lives! From smartphones to laptops, from smart TVs to smartwatches, we are surrounded by electronic devices that have transformed the way we live and work. However, with the rapid pace of technological advancement, the dark side of this convenience has also emerged – electronic waste. E-waste has now become a global phenomenon and poses a growing threat to our environment and health. But fear not! In this article, we will explore the world of e-waste and learn about electronic waste management, exploring the challenges, solutions, and importance of responsible e-waste disposal.

What is Electronic Waste?

Electronic waste, often known as e-waste, is produced when electrical and electronic devices stop working correctly or have passed their expiration dates. E-waste includes computers, servers, mainframes, monitors, CDs, printers, scanners, copiers, calculators, fax machines, battery packs, cell phones, transceivers, TVs, iPods, medical equipment, washing machines, refrigerators, and air conditioners (when unfit for use) because to the rapid development of new electronic equipment and the rapid replacement of older generations, these electronic devices. E-waste generation has increased exponentially as a result of this. Consumers frequently upgrade to newer versions, and product lifespans have likewise gotten shorter.

Metals, polymers, cathode ray tubes (CRTs), printed circuit boards, cables, and other materials are frequently found in e-waste. If e-wastes are handled scientifically, valuable metals, including copper, silver, gold, and platinum, may be recovered. Suppose e-waste is disassembled and processed in a crude manner using rudimentary techniques. In that case, it is highly hazardous due to toxic substances like liquid crystal, lithium, mercury, nickel, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), selenium, arsenic, barium, brominated flame retardants, cadmium, chrome, cobalt, copper, and lead. E-waste poses a severe threat to people, pets, and the environment. Heavy metals and highly poisonous compounds like mercury, lead, beryllium, and cadmium pose a severe environmental hazard, even in trace amounts.

What Are The Impacts of Electronic Waste?

Due to the usage of harmful components during the production of electronic products, electronic wastes have the potential to cause extensive environmental harm. Such wastes mainly consist of Cathode ray tubes (CRTs), Printed board assemblies, Capacitors, Mercury switches and relays, Batteries, Liquid crystal displays (LCDs), Cartridges from photocopying machines, Selenium drums (photocopier), and Electrolytes, which all contain hazardous materials like lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium in one way or another. Even though they are little known, toxic materials found in e-waste include lead and cadmium in circuit boards, lead oxide and cadmium in monitor cathode ray tubes (CRTs), mercury in switches and flat-screen monitors, cadmium in computer batteries, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in older capacitors and transformers, and brominated flame retardants on printed circuit boards, plastic casings, cables.

Lead leaching into groundwater may result from the disposal of electronic garbage. The CRT releases poisonous gases into the air when it is smashed and burned. Many different types of rechargeable batteries are used in these products, many of which contain dangerous materials that can pollute the environment when burned in incinerators or dumped in landfills. One cell phone battery’s cadmium content can contaminate 600 m3 of water. Cadmium is present in significant amounts in landfill sites, and its unavoidable medium- and long-term effects on leaking into the soil nearby result in significant toxic contamination.

What Are The Strategies For Electronic Waste Management?

Reducing the volume is the best action for dealing with E wastes. According to designers, the product should be created to be reusable, repairable, and upgradeable. The use of less hazardous, readily recoverable, recyclable materials that may be removed for renovation, remanufacturing, disassembly, and reuse should be emphasized. Material recycling and reuse are the next steps of potential strategies to lessen e-waste. The amount of e-waste is decreased by recovering metals, plastic, glass, and other materials. These alternatives can save energy and prevent the release of harmful materials into the environment.

Electronic Waste Management

An “e-waste policy” and national regulatory framework are essential for promoting such operations. It is best for people familiar with the issues to draught an e-waste policy. So, the industry should start collective policy creation while involving users. The effectiveness of collection and recycling systems must be increased (for example, through public-private partnerships to establish buy-back or drop-off centers). The design must include additional financing, such as advance recycling fees.

What is E-waste Recycling?

Many abandoned machines have salvageable components that might be merged with other used machinery to build a functional unit. Removing, testing, and inspecting individual components before compiling them to form fully functional machines takes a lot of work. For the environmentally sound management of e-wastes, institutional infrastructures, including e-waste collection, transportation, treatment, storage, recovery, and disposal, must be built at national and regional levels. The regulatory authorities should authorize these facilities and, if necessary, offer appropriate incentives. Establishing e-waste collection, exchange, and recycling facilities in collaboration with governments, NGOs, and manufacturers should be encouraged.

E-waste recycling that is both environmentally responsible and cost-effective demands complex technology and expensive methods that require specialized knowledge and training. It takes expertise to identify or ascertain the presence of hazardous or potentially hazardous constituents and desirable constituents (i.e., those with recoverable value) and then the ability to apply the company’s capabilities and process systems to recycle both of these streams properly. This is necessary for the recycling of complex materials. Appropriate air pollution control technologies are needed for fugitive and point source emissions. Guidelines must be devised to recycle E Wastes in an environmentally responsible manner. Once they are confident in the profits, the private sector is stepping forward to invest in e-waste projects.

Electronic Waste Management Status in India

There are numerous environmental laws in India. However, no specific regulations or rules exist for electronic or computer trash. E-waste is not considered hazardous under the Hazardous Waste Regulations (1989) unless it can be demonstrated that it contains a greater concentration of a particular substance. A few grey areas need to be handled, even though PCBs and CRTs would always exceed these limits.

Due to concerns about mercury, lead, and cadmium, the Basel Convention has Waste Electronic Assemblies in A1180 and Mirror Entry in B1110. Under List-A and List-B of Schedule-3 of the Hazardous Wastes (Management & Handling) Regulations, 1989, as revised in 2000 and 2003, electronic waste is covered. Thus, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry must specifically approve the import of this garbage.

Although the country’s informal sector currently collects and recycles electronic garbage, the government has taken the following action(s) to raise public awareness about the environmentally sound management of electronic waste (CII, 2006):

1. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) organized several workshops on electronic waste management in association with Toxics Link, CII, etc.

2. The CPCB has taken steps to quickly estimate the amount of E-Waste produced in the nation’s largest cities.

3. A national working group has been established to develop a plan for managing e-waste.

4. The Department of Information Technology (DIT), Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, has prepared and widely disseminated a detailed technical reference on “Environmental Management for Information Technology Sector in India.”

5. The DIT has also established demonstration projects at Indian Telephone Industries to recover copper from printed circuit boards.

To Conclude

The invasion of e-waste, particularly computer garbage, complicates India’s already enormous challenge of managing solid waste. A thorough analysis of the present and future situation, including its dimensions, traits, current disposal procedures, environmental effects, etc., is urgently required. For the environmentally sound management of e-wastes, institutional infrastructures, including e-waste collection, transportation, treatment, storage, recovery, and disposal, must be built at national and regional levels. Everyone should be encouraged to establish e-waste collection, exchange, and recycling facilities in collaboration with private business owners and manufacturers.

It is planned to create prototype facilities that use technology and recovery techniques that are environmentally friendly. It will be necessary to develop criteria for the recovery and disposal of E Wastes. Interventions at the policy level should focus on e-waste regulation, e-waste import and export control, and infrastructure development facilitation. Reducing waste might be made possible by an efficient take-back scheme that incentivizes companies to create less wasteful products with less harmful components and is simpler to disassemble, reuse, and recycle. To encourage consumers to return electronic devices for collection, reuse, or recycling, it should set goals for collection and reuse/recycling, impose reporting requirements, enforce enforcement mechanisms, and offer deposit/refund programs. In the development of new electronic items, end-of-life management should be given top emphasis.


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  • Dr. Tanushree Kain

    Tanushree is a passionate Environmentalist with a Doctorate in Environmental Sciences. She is also a Gold medalist in Master of Science (M.Sc), Environmental Sciences. She has 6 years of experience as a guest faculty in Environmental Sciences. With her combination of technical knowledge and research expertise, she can create clear, accurate, and engaging content that helps users get the maximum information regarding environmental topics.

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