The continued reliance on technology and the ‘upgrade culture’ are some of the major reasons why demand for latest electronic devices is increasing – making a major chunk of devices obsolete and unusable. Eventually, most of the tech becomes e-waste. Around 130 million cell phones are thrown away each year and the number keep growing.

Today, most e-waste is being discarded in the general waste stream. It is hazardous, complex and expensive to treat in an environmentally sound manner. Further, there is a general lack of legislation or enforcement surrounding e-waste management. The main risks of e-waste are to human health and environment. This majorly comes from of heavy metals, flame retardants and other potentially hazardous substances. Lead and mercury are also present. Many such toxic substances if improperly managed pose a significant risk to the environment and human health.

An environment friendly e-waste recycling process consists of segregating components into subassemblies. Then certain materials are separated and removed so that they can be handled by separate chemical processes to minimize the impact. Many such electronic devices include batteries, fluorescent lamps, CRTs etc. After this, mechanical processing of the materials takes place which involves processing compatible plastic resins, metals or glass from CRTs to generate market-grade commodities. Metal refining and smelting and shredding is done. Thermal and chemical management processes are used to extract the metals.

Major Environmental impact of informal disposal of e-waste

There are three main pillars of the environment – air, water and soil – and e-waste impacts all three components of the environment. If e-waste is informally disposed, it ends up in landfills or is burnt along with other garbage. The burning of rubber, plastic and silicon from these electronic devices releases hazardous gases into the atmosphere and causes air pollution. E-waste in landfills leads to underground water pollution and chemical compounds can leach through the soil to reach underground water reservoirs. Water gets polluted. Well, the surface heaps of e-waste and buried e-waste both change the chemical composition of the surrounding soil too. Ultimately, if these e-waste materials are not recycled, they add to the greenhouse effect. It affects all the elements of nature – the earth, the air and the water.

How does all this affect the ecosystem?

These toxic waste from discarded electronics ultimately fine their way to plants, animals and even humans. Contaminated soil and water cause serious harm to vegetation. Animals and humans rely on the plants for food – so indirectly this contamination reaches humans too. The pollutants in air are inhaled by animals and humans. Hazardous concentrations of these materials enter the food chain and cause irreversible effects to the ecosystem.

Play your part

As we have seen, that informal disposal of e-waste impacts the environment, human health and the ecosystem too.  It’s time we play our part and take action to regulate the management of e-waste and conserving the environment. There are many ways in which we can do this:

Individually owned devices: Every time we buy a new device and discard the old one, we must make sure that the device is discarded within the e-waste management system. Make sure it is not disposed of in the regular garbage – otherwise it will end up in landfills and ultimately cause more harm to the environment.

Organizations and enterprises: Organizations and enterprises buy and discard electronics on a larger scale. This electronic waste that is generated needs to be disposed off in a systematic way. The first step is to look for e-Waste Management Companies in India and check out their services in your area.

How can you dispose e-waste?

e-waste disposal in India has become a very serious concern for our society and environment as a whole. Disposing and destroying electronics is not the answer. Reusing and recycling is. These electronic components have a number of reusable components and even parts that can be used in other devices to create a fulling working device. The components and even the materials can be extracted and used to repair or recycle electronic product and make them more useful.

There are a number of registered e-Waste Recyclers that can help with the systematic disposal of e-waste. These e-waste management companies help collect e-waste, segregate the usable and unusable parts, process and extract the usable materials and recycle or refurbish these devices. Many times, these companies help enterprises with complete asset management where they track electronic devices throughout their lifecycle and prepare a strategy in advance for its disposal. The end-of-life devices are continuously tracked. The end-of-life devices are firstly sanitized for all the data that they contain. Data security of enterprise devices is important too. After the data is safe the device is sent further for dismantling and destruction. Environment friendly disposal of e-waste is of utmost importance. Re-cycle, Re-use and Re-furbish – is the way to save the environment from the hazards of e-waste.

We as responsible citizens should be mindful of the dangers of e-waste to the environment and to human life. Ultimately technology is meant to serve us – not destroy our environment.

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