Currently, the amount of e-waste that is produced every year poses a threat to the environment and is intoxicating it. E-waste management is a procedure that is extremely necessary for survival in this generation. It is to be carried out legally by authorized recyclers only. E-waste is the waste that is produced due to electronic items like cell phones, smartphones, laptops, cables, kitchen appliances, etc which have ceased to be of any use to the user. In 2020, the global amount of electronic waste generated was about 55.5 million metric tonnes and is increasing this year at an alarming rate. I believe everyone should think twice before discarding this type of waste that decomposes at a very slow rate and takes up space for disposal. Electronic waste gets added up in the solid waste stream because of the growth of technology, we tend to discard our gadgets easily as they become obsolete even if they work just fine. The decrease in prices of newer electronics and innovation in technology have also lead to the increase in electronic waste. This rising problem needs an efficient solution that indirectly refers to better e-waste disposal and proficient ewaste management.
Why e-waste management?
The discarded computer parts and other items of the same material take years and years to decompose. Thus, an efficient solution is to be provided to this problem and e-waste management is a solution that has already been implemented in developing countries. E-waste is estimated to increase globally every year by forty million metric tonnes. E-waste has left a hazardous impact on the environment due to the toxic chemicals that are released into the atmosphere once the metals from this electronic waste leach. They leave a very bad impact on human health as well because they can lead to severe conditions like cancer, liver damage, peripheral brain damage, and can also harm the kidneys. There are many kids who indulge in the activity of rag-picking the electronic waste and it has proved to be harmful to their development and is still prevalent in some regions. E-waste management requires the enforcement of adequate measures that are to be followed strictly. Recycling of e-waste is quite informal in many countries including India as it is illegally carried out by unauthorized recyclers. Mostly the people involved in e-waste recycling are urban poor and are not very literate, therefore they have no awareness about maltreatment of this e-waste.
What is e-waste management?
E-waste management is an efficient technique to manage and recycle electronic waste and it is governed by regulations from the authorities in most countries. It includes both industrial as well as domestic methods to manage e-waste. Formal regulated e-waste management includes recycling e-waste using all protective measures in a controlled environment. It includes recycling e-waste using protective equipment like gloves, caps, masks, etc, and machines like dismantlers are used. On the contrary, informal e-waste recycling is not carried out in a protected environment (without safety precautions) and needs minimal investment but leads to many health hazards.
Process of e-waste management
The 4R’s of e-waste management are as follows:
- Reuse- the potentially working part can be reused, donated, or can be sold. This process continues the life of the product.
- Reduce- the process of reducing the electrical equipment and number of electronics.
- Recycle-Everyone is very well familiar with this word, it refers to the dismantling of the original product to manufacture new and better products.
- Recover-precious elements.
At domestic level:
A part of electronic waste management starts from home or office at a domestic level as it is necessary to segregate the waste and then dispose of it in a proper manner. A simple step that can be taken is to remove the battery from electronic items before disposing of them and to check for any glass surface that is broken. Everyone should make sure that they discard their electronic waste including batteries, appliances, etc at their nearest authorized e-waste collection point that too only when they have reached their expiry date. The after-life equipment handling is generally mentioned in the product catalog. Individuals should also check that their e-waste at all times is handled by authorized recyclers only. It is not advised to dismantle the parts of electronic items on your own and to dispose of this kind of waste along with the other wastes like plastic and decomposable waste that ends up in the landfills. The most important step to be taken is to retrospect if we really need another gadget or electronic item.
At industrial level:
The industrial treatment of ewaste is divided into three levels that mark environment-friendly recycling of e-waste.
- The first management level consists of processes like segregating, dismantling and recovering precious elements. Segregation includes dividing the waste dismantled parts into two types i.e. dangerous and non-dangerous parts.
- The second level of management includes the application of special processes, shredding, and hammering of the parts. The cathode ray tubes are carefully manually removed from the plastic and wooden casing.
- The third management level consists of processes like electro-refining, smelting, and depolymerization. They are necessary for the extraction of precious elements from waste.