Electronic waste (e-waste) is a popular; informal name for electronic products nearly the end of their “useful life”. Any broken or unwanted electrical or electrical appliance would be considered as e-waste.
Computer, television, VCR, stereos, copiers and fax machines are common electronic products.
Unfortunately, electronic disks cards are one of the fastest growing segments of our nation’s waste stream. It is a point of concern considering that components of such equipments are considered toxic. In particular, the lead oxide used in the cathode ray tubes (CRTs) of computer monitors is a point of concern because it is in a soluble form.
In 1991, the first e-waste recycling system was implemented in Switzerland beginning with their collection refrigerator. Over the years, all other electric and electronic devices were gradually added to the system.
Problems caused by e-waste
E-waste is both valuable as source for secondary raw material, and toxic if treated and discarded improperly. Rapid technology change, low initial cost and even planned obsolescence have resulted in a fast growing problem around the world.
Technical solutions are available but in most cases a legal framework, collect system, logistics and other services need to be implemented before a technical solution can be applied.
E-waste is of concern largely due to toxicity of some of the substances if produced improperly.
The toxicity is due in part to lead, mercury, cadmium and number of substances. A typical computer monitor may contain more than 6% by weight. Up to 36% separated chemical elements are incorporated into e-waste item.
The un-sustainability of discarded computer technology is another reason for the need to recycle or perhaps more practically, re-use-e-waste.
E-Waste presents difficulties for recycling to the complexity of each item and lack of viable recycling system. Many of plastics used in electronic equipments contain flame-retardants. These are generally halogens added to the resins, making plastic difficult to recycle.
E-waste in India
India is becoming a dumping ground of e-waste. Due to lower environmental standards and working conditions in China and India, e-waste is being set to these countries for processing—in most case illegally, where poorly protected works dismantle them, often by hand in appalling condition about 25,000 workers are employed at scrap-yard in Delhi alone, where 10,000 to 20,000 tons of e-waste is handled every year, with computer according for 25% of it. Other e-waste from scrap-yard exit in Meerut, Ferozabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai about 80% of the e-waste generated in US is exported to India, China and Pakistan experts feel that till 2010, Delhi would be seen as accumulation of more than 6000 tones of e-waste from obsolete PC’s.
Solutions to E-Waste
Proper recycling of the hazardous material from computer is an important health and safety concern. However, computer waste also contains valuable parts of its own and precious metals, such as gold and copper, which offer potential business opportunities. Appropriate recycling systems are being set up in Japan and some states of US. Owing to lack of knowledge, Indian recyclers, however, are engaged in only material salvaging instead of identifying recyclable parts out of e-waste in general.