E-Waste or Waste Of Electronic and Electrical Equipment has been known to contain more than 20 hazardous substances including lead, mercury and PCB’s (Polychlorobiphenyls). In the recent times e-waste has risen through the ranks of most harmful and destructive materials and has become the cause of worry for the entire world. With technology always a blink of an eye away there is always something swankier, better, and fancier than our present monitor, mobile set, and television.
Just spare a thought to where all our discarded electronics go to and the mind goes boggling. Well, at the time of manufacturing some precious metals as well as toxic materials are used to prepare most of the flashy gadgets that we use. While during recycling the precious metals are refurbished and reused, the toxic materials on the other hand like lead, mercury and plastic are disposed or burnt. These substances when burned or disposed incorrectly release carcinogenic substances into air which have their own dire consequences.
As e-waste is presently concentrated in the informal (unorganized) sector therefore it also results in occupational hazards and loss of resources due to inefficient processes. In Asia alone millions of computers are disposed each month, and add to this some other micro electronics like tube lights, electric bulbs, lightening equipments and the list grows quite fat but what percent of them are disposed properly to facilitate complete recycling or in a way the environment, well, the numbers aren’t very encouraging.
Though there are certain plastics which can be recycled up to eight times but they require certain machineries to initiate the process and finish it neatly and completely. Those machineries are quite sophisticated and expensive and are mainly manufactured in china and Japan. Due to these blockages e-waste has become quite an important and at the same time a problematic issue.
E-waste as such is not hazardous waste per-se. However, the hazardous constituents present in the e-waste render it hazardous when such wastes are dismantled and processed, since it is only at this stage that they pose hazard to health and environment. Some important constituents of e-waste are given below- ELECTRONIC ITEM CONSTITUENTS 1. Printed circuit boards Lead and Cadmium 2. Cathode ray tubes Lead oxide and Cadmium
3. Switches and flat screen monitors Mercury 4. Computer batteries Cadmium 5. Capacitors and transformers Poly-chlorinated-bi-phenyls 6. Cable insulation/coating Poly vinyl chloride 7. Plastic casings cable Retardant (Source: Power Systems By J. B. Gupta) Most of the constituents stated in the above list are non-recyclable but through efficient use of technology they can be reused up to a certain extent.
In today’s hi-tech world one can’t really alienate himself to the latest technology especially in the field of electronics and as it is said, that today’s world is moving at a supersonic speed and if you can’t update yourself to its demands then it is bound to leave you light years away, and also one can’t shy away from the fact that if the waste recycling system works at its present pace then the entire world might soon have to face the fierce fury of the mother nature.
Though e-waste recycling is expected to rapidly change with formal recyclers setting up operations but a lot of work needs to be done at the ground level. Recycling operations should engage in dismantling, sale of dismantled parts, valuable resource recovery and export of processed waste for precious metal recovery to countries like Japan and China.
But one thing that must be kept in mind during recycling is that the main work is to be done during processing as e-waste is distinct as it is an end of consumption waste while hazardous waste results from a distant industrial process. The e-waste chain is rather complex as it involves multiple players-producers, distributors, retailers, end consumers, collection system and recyclers while hazardous waste chain involves only the occupier/generator and the operator.
From the word operator I hazily remember a story I heard in high school about an e-junkyard owner and a chief operational head of an electronics company who handled recycled components department. The owner and the chief had met through an old acquaintance and had kept in touch following their common interests in cricket and chess. The owner was well known in his circle for his sharpness of repartee and tricky common sense something which the chief was unaware of.
Once while playing chess with the chief the owner commented that the sales have nose-dived in the recent times due to less number of people now opting for recycling their e-wastes. The chief in turn replied that since he and the owner were good friends so he could help him bag some contracts from his company to recycle the e-waste if only he could beat him at the game of chess. The owner obliged but put forward a small demand that was to be completed if he won.
There were no surprises when the owner won but after the game when the chief came to terms with the gravity of the loss he almost fainted. The so called small demand of the owner spilled like hot volcano magma on the face of the chief. The demand was as follows: The owner agreed to play the game of chess but only on one condition that the contract with the company should include a clause indicating the number of e-wastes he would acquire to recycle and then he devised a method to calculate the thus required number.
This method involved a chess board on which the number of e-wastes that should be given to him were to be counted. He demanded that firstly he be given only two e-components to be placed on the first square of the chess board. The second lot was to be placed on the second square and the number of e-components he be given, doubled.
Therefore on each subsequent square of the chess board the number doubled and at the half way mark the number of e-components reached an astonishingly high figure of fifty million. Fifty million and still counting, the chief has till date not been able to pay for the contracts he had promised to the owner in a light mood. So, what we conclude from above is that there’s no need to panic even in the worst of times.
Even if we start investing in e-recycling today we can leave a better future for our coming generations. Also, the governments around the world must ensure that their industries adhere to e-waste (Management and Handling) rules under the environment protection act and put in place an effective mechanism to regulate the generation, collection, storage, transportation, import, export, environmentally sound recycling, treatment and disposal of e-waste.
This includes refurbishment, collection system and producer responsibility thereby reducing the wastes destined for final disposal. The different e-waste fractions are processed to directly useable components and to secondary raw materials in a variety of refining and conditioning processes. Solid waste is deposited in a municipal landfill.
Systematic gas and water collecting systems are not installed; hence significant emissions to water and air are caused. The site is crowded with informal waste pickers.
Theraja, B. L. “Electrical Technology” Volume II. Gupta, J. B. “Electronic Devices And Circuits” , Katson Books. Gupta, J. B. “Power Systems” , Katson Books. Technologies Applied in New Delhi. <http://ewasteguide. info/technologies_applied_in_new_delh
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