Today e-waste is one of the major emerging environmental problems across the globe. Dependency on electronic gadgets has become inevitable. Every electronics has a lifetime combined with a swift update in technology has lead to the generation of large amounts of e-waste. These unused electronics gadgets contain a lot of hazardous substances which if not get handled properly leads to environmental problems. For this reason, robust e-waste management becomes very important to protect our environment.
Why e-waste management is important?
e-waste has become a major problem across the globe which contains threats as well as opportunities. Good e-waste management has the ability to change the challenge to the opportunity.
- A good e-waste management practice will protect our environment from getting polluted by hazardous substances like lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic..etc.
- Robust e-waste recycles and reuses practice will save various precious metals and resources like rare earth metals (Lanthanum, Neodymium, and Praseodymium), silver, gold, platinum, copper, nickel among others.
- It has the potential to generate employment.
- Globally China produces more than 90% of the rare earth metals and these metals are not typically sold as an open commodity. This being the case there is a strong incentive for other countries of the world electronics manufacturer to source these important elements outside of the closed market.
e-waste management practice in India
The government of India has made a law E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 and entrusted the responsibility on the manufacturer and importers to proper collection and disposal of e-waste through Extended Producers Responsibility(EPR). But despite this rule majority of e-waste ends up in the informal sector.
More than 80 percent of the e-waste is handled and disposed of by the informal sector workers. These informal sector workers are generally family-run small scrap dealers or kawadiwala. This informal sector lacks capital as well as proper technologies and dismantles and dispose of manually without taking proper protection.
These small kawadiwala extracts some useful metals like copper, plastic. Due to the lack of proper technology, they are not able the extract other hazardous metals as well as rare earth minerals.
These informal sector workers also remain at the risk of various health hazards. As per various reports, more than 50% of these workers suffer from various respiratory problems.
Apart from that these informal sector workers extract a very small amount of reusable material (due to lack of technology) and dispose of the e-waste through either open burning or landfilling which causes various environmental problems.
Reasons for poor e-waste management?
There are some common reasons which has led to the improper e-waste management in India. These are
- Inadequate Legislation: In India, till now the legislation is not adequate and clear. The E-waste Management Rule 2016 was amended to give target to the producers. But these producers collect the old e-gadgets but this collected e-waste is decomposed by the informal sector without proper skill and technology.
- Inadequate Infrastructure for Collection: There is a lack of proper chain of collecting points of e-waste. In the absence of such an arrangement, most of the consumer gives their old unused electronics to the local kewadiwala (informal sector).
- Lack of trained personnel and technology: Since most of the e-waste is dismantle and disposed of by informal sector workers. These informal sector workers are very ill-trained and equipped to deal with such hazardous substances. They extract manually whatever they can (mainly copper, plastic) and dump the remaining waste in open landfilling without any precaution.
- Lack of economic alternatives carried out by the informal sector and small family repair shop.
- Lack of awareness.
International conventions to deal with e-waste
Basel Convention on the control of the transboundary movement of hazardous waste and their disposal, which is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP). e-waste fall in the category of hazardous waste so this convention applies.
There is an increasing trend to the movement of e-waste from the European and American countries to Asian countries mainly China and India. Recently in the year, 2018 china has banned the import of e-waste to its country.
e-waste recycling processes and technology.
From the technical view point, the landscape can be divided into three key concepts.
- Material that is being recovered and recycled from e-waste streams, items such as plastic, metal(copper, silver, gold ).
- Source e-waste and the processing of these sources such as batteries, display, cable and Printed Circuit Board(PCB).
- The processes and logistics involved in e-waste treatment or recycling such as magnetic sorting, IT-related management of recycling systems and similar items.
It should be noted that growth in a specific class of recovered materials may be regulation concerning the solder. Lead is one of the main metals used in the soldering of PCB. Lead is hazardous for human health it has been banned in many countries. This regulation has forced the decomposer to extract only silver and other metals barring lead,
The processes used to recover the materials from e-waste
Smelting or heat treatment
Pulverisation of e-waste
Plastic and ferrous metals are the primary items recovered from e-waste followed by non-ferrous metals(copper, nickel, zinc, aluminum, and tin).
rare earth material used in electronics items.
There are some specific high use rare earth materials which is used in electronics goods for various purposes such as display, battery, speaker.
Neodymium: Used in magnetic applications such as microphone, speakers and hard disk driven component.
Yttrium, Terbium, Europium: Used as phosphorous in many different types of display technology.
Lanthanum: Used as electrode material in nickel-metals hybrid batteries, such as those used in hybrid vehicles.
There is a life for every electronics gadget. After this period these electronics items becomes a waste. These unused electronics items are known as e-waste. These electronics waste contains a lot of harmful chemicals as well as metals so proper management of e-waste is very important.
e-waste contains a lot of harmful chemicals as well as metals. These harmful chemicals when goes in our environment cause problems like air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution. So proper management of e-waste is very important.
e-waste is generated through unused electrical and electronics items like smartphones, TV, Battery, Charger, computer, tablet, laptop, fan, Freeze, cooler, Air Conditioner and other similar items.
The full form of e-waste is electronics Waste.