As technology becomes more and more integrated in every aspect of our lives, it is inevitable that large amounts of electronic devices are bought and equally large amounts of electronic devices are rendered obsolete. There is an obvious upsurge in e-waste such as semi-conductors, sensors, monitors, televisions and much more. Meanwhile, the life span of the devices is also getting shorter. Many products are thrown away. Companies too purchase the most updated equipment and the obsolete devices are simply discarded. Many times, it is simply much easier to buy a new device than repairing an old one. Plus, with the dropping prices of electronic devices, the demand for electronics has also increased. All this leads to more and more devices that are discarded and the amount of e-waste keeps rising.
So, what’s in the e-waste?
Electronic devices are made of complex materials – silver, gold, copper, platinum, palladium, cobalt, lithium and some other valuable elements. Recycling helps reclaim these precious materials. Other than these valuable materials, e-waste also consists of toxic materials. These include heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium, PVC plastic and other hazardous chemicals such as brominated flame retardants etc. that cause harm to no only the environment, but also human health. As more and more people buy electronic equipment, much more of this waste and reusable materials accumulate. But, unfortunately, only 20% of this is properly recycled, reused or recovered. Much of the rest is dumped as waste and ends up in landfills. This is where the problem starts. The e-waste that ends up in landfills ends up contaminating the soil and the underground water. e-waste disposal in India too needs to be evaluated for its potential risk to the environment.
Potential risk to the environment
E-waste is not biodegradable and accumulates in the environment. This includes the soil, water and air. Many times, open air burning and acid baths that are used to recover materials from electronic devices release toxins in the air. The effects of these procedures are also seen on the workers. These workers are exposed to high levels of lead, mercury, beryllium, thallium, cadmium and arsenic. It also includes brominated flame retardants and polychlorinated biphenyls. Some of the health hazards of these materials are irreversible.
Every device manufactured has produced a carbon footprint and is contribution to human – made global warming. For example, manufacturing a tonne of laptops potentially emits 10 tonnes of CO2. So, right from the manufacturing stage, e-waste contributes to the environmental pollution. However, the rates of recycling are very low. This lack of recycling weighs heavily on the global electronic industry and as devices become more complex, the issue escalates. The recovering of materials is also an expensive process. The remaining mass of materials that include plastics and some chemicals – poses an even greater problem for the environment.
So, how can we be more mindful about electronic waste and its effects on the environment?
To begin from the very basics, it has become a priority to design these goods such that they can later on be reused, remanufactured or at least disposed off efficiently. Modular designs where consumers can simply replace the damaged parts and keep using the same device could substantially reduce the e-waste footprint. The entire device need not be thrown away because a part of it was damaged or not working. Well, if that is currently not possible, the next best option is to choose a registered e-Waste Recycler in your area and make sure that you give away the unused electronics to these organizations to be disposed off in an environment friendly manner. These companies give you cash value for the electronics that you give them too!
Disposal of e-waste
e-waste can be disposed both formally and informally. Formal disposal of e-waste includes disassembling the electronics, separating and categorizing the contents and cleaning them for reuse. The items that are not usable as is, are mechanically shredded for further sorting with advanced separation technologies. The formal disposal of e-waste is mostly handled by e-waste management companies in India and they adhere to the health and safety rules and use pollution control technologies to reduce the health and environmental hazards of handling e-waste.
E-waste should be disposed of in a safe and standardized method. Wherever possible, it should be refurbished and reused to create complete products. When refurbishment is not possible, it should be dismantled by trained and well protected workers with advanced technology equipment. The e-waste recycling facilities should follow all the standardized procedures and comply by the regulations.
ECS is a leading e-waste management company in India that ensures that e-waste is handled by experts and disposed off with environment friendly methods. We have designated collection centers and also support door to door pickup. Our experts work with standardized processes to make the disposal as environment friendly as possible!