Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is one of the largest growing waste streams globally. Hence, for a sustainable environment and the economic recovery of valuable material for reuse, the efficient recycling of electronic scrap has been rendered indispensable, and must still be regarded as a major challenge for today’s society. In contrast to the well-established recycling of metallic scrap, it is much more complicated to recycle electronics products which have reached the end of their life as they contain many different types of material types integrated into each other. As illustrated primarily for the recycling of mobile phones, the efficient recycling of WEEE is not only a challenge for the recycling industry; it is also often a question of as-yet insufficient collection infrastructures and poor collection efficiencies, and a considerable lack of the consumer’s awareness for the potential of recycling electronics for the benefit of the environment, as well as for savings in energy and raw materials.
This word has caught up in the recent past only when someone studying the subject noted that our environment will be 3x more congested with e-waste by 2017. I did not save that tweet else I could have given you some reference. Even if it is not to be tripled, e-waste is growing in volumes… huge volumes. The reason whye-waste is increasing, is that technology is growing fast and in an attempt to get better devices, we casually get rid of old electronics – the best examples being that of smartphones.
One may ask the relationship between old electronics and e-waste. I would say, e-waste is actually the old electronic goods that people simply give away to garbage trucks that are then dumped into landfill or similar sites. Electronics have a number of harmful elements that react with air and water to create problems of e-waste such as water, air and soil pollution as well as problems that affect human beings in the form of diseases.
In the above example, we used old cells and batteries as an example. Most of the cheaper batteries are lead based and easily react with water (rain or moisture) to seep and mix with underground water along with polluting the soil and air where it was disposed by the garbage department.
Thus, everything that falls into electronics’ category, that you intend to throw away, is e-waste (electronic waste). This includes computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones and so on. There are proper methods to dispose off electronic items. They should be handled differently, but unfortunately, even the developed countries do not have strong policies to take care of such harmful, toxic garbage.
Electronic equipment’s contain many hazardous metallic contaminants such as lead, cadmium, and beryllium and brominated flame-retardants. The fraction including iron, copper, aluminum, gold, and other metals in e-waste is over 60%, while plastics account for about 30% and the hazardous pollutants comprise only about 2.70%. Of many toxic heavy metals, lead is the most widely used in electronic devices for various purposes, resulting in a variety of health hazards due to environmental contamination. Lead enters biological systems via food, water, air, and soil. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning – more so than adults because they absorb more lead from their environment and their nervous system and blood get affected. It is found that the e-waste recycling activities had contributed to the elevated blood lead levels in children living in China, which is one of the popular destinations of e-waste. This was due to that fact that the processes and techniques used during the recycling activities were very primitive.Various studies have reported the soaring levels of toxic heavy metals and organic contaminants in samples of dust, soil, river sediment, surface water, and groundwater of Guiyu in China. In the same areas, the residents had a high incidence of skin damage, headaches, vertigo, nausea, chronic gastritis, and gastric and duodenal ulcers. Further it was found that the blood lead levels of children were higher than the mean level in China, and there was no significant difference between boys and girls.
The informal recycling sector in developing countries has one primary goal; to recover valuable materials in the e-waste, including copper, steel, plastics, aluminium, printer toner and PC-boards. The activities are often carried out in small workshops or just outdoors, using rudimentary methods. In the processes used there is no real control over the materials processed, the performance of the processes or the emission generated @unicare solutions.