Electronic Waste: Implications on Environs and Management Strategies

Electronic Waste: Implications on Environs and Management Strategies

Moonisa A. Dervash, Syed Maqbool Geelani, Rouf Ahmad Bhat, Dig Vijay Singh, Akhlaq Amin Wani
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0031-6.ch005
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Electronic waste (e-waste) is one of the swift waste streams and comprises of end of life electronic products. The Western countries as alternative destinations for disposal ship the wastes to underdeveloped and developing countries where labor cost is reasonably meager and environmental laws are feebly implemented. When not recycled, the e-waste is either incinerated or landfilled. These methods involve not only wasting valuable metals but also creating potential risk for the environment. These substances are detrimental to nervous system, kidneys, bones, reproductive system, and endocrine system, and some of them are even carcinogenic and neurotoxic. Thus, extensive research is needed to evolve sophisticated technology which may help to curb environmental pollution and contribute towards sustainable development in terms of recycling of precious metals.
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“Waste of electrical and electronic equipment; includes all the machinery, subassemblies and consumables which are part of the product at the time of discarding” (ED, 2012). E-waste encompasses multiple arrays of electronic appliances ranging from large household electronic gadgets (like refrigerators, AC’s, cell phones, stereo systems and consumable electronic items) to computers discarded by their respective users (Kumar & Singh, 2019). The ‘Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’ (OECD) defines E-waste as “any appliance using an electric power supply that has reached its end-of-life” (DTIE, 2007). In general, “domestic machinery represents the largest proportion of E-waste (50%), followed by information and communications technology equipment (30%) and consumer electronics (10%)”. The E-waste characterization is reasonably diverse which varies throughout the scheme of products. Overall, it contains more than 1000 diverse substances which plunge into “hazardous” and “non-hazardous” groups. Considerably, the toxicity of majority of the chemicals in E-waste is indefinite (Kumar and Singh, 2019). Generally, “electronic products consist of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, glass, wood and plywood, printed circuit boards, concrete and ceramics, rubber and other items, whereas, iron and steel constitutes about 50% of E-waste followed by plastics (21%), nonferrous metals (13%) and other constituents” (DTIE, 2007). E-waste constitutes end of life electronic and electrical gadgets (Sankhla et al., 2016) which contains toxic elements and has to be treated in an environmentally friendly approach (Sankhla et al., 2016). E-waste comprises of “electrical gadgets such as fridges, air conditioners, washing machines, microwave ovens and florescent light bulbs; and electronic products such as computers and accessories, mobile phones, television sets and stereo equipment” (Radha, 2002). Data security concerns are also associated with E-waste handling and management in order to safeguard extraction of commerce, economics and legal data by unscrupulous recyclers; therefore, it should be handed over to recyclers/operators who have the mandate for E-waste management (Radha, 2002). Besides, E-waste is less energy intensive and cheaper source for base and precious metals like silver, gold, palladium and platinum (Lucier & Gareau, 2006) thus it is often referred to as urban mine. Moreover, as the demand for metals is growing (Lucier & Gareau, 2006) recycling would play a major part in ensuring sustainable development (Schluep et al., 2009).

In the last 20 years, the worldwide development in electrical and electronic equipment production and consumption has been exponential (Schluep et al., 2009). This is chiefly because of escalating marketplace dissemination of products in developing countries (DTIE, 2007); progression of a alternate marketplace in developed countries which is usually high product obsolescence rate (DTIE, 2007), coupled with a price drop and the drift towards internet access. Currently, E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream (4% growth a year) (Radha, 2002; DIT, 2003; Sankhla et al., 2016). Approximately 40×106 tonnes of E-waste is created each year (Schluep et al., 2009). Environmentally accountable waste management strategies are hi-tech that entail high monetary speculation.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ecological Bio-Magnification: It is the increase in the quantum of a xenobiotic concentration (synthetic substance) with each successive trophic level of the food chain.

Environmental Estrogens: These are xenobiotics entities (e.g., dioxins and furans) which impersonates the estrogen levels (female sex hormones) in humans eventually leads to alteration of hormonal activity and result in estrogen dominance conditions such as uterine fibroid tumors, fibrocystic breasts (adenosis), glandular dysfunction, hair loss, weight gain, depression, etc.

Recalcitrant Compounds: These are the synthetic compounds that are non-biodegradable in nature.

Acid Rain: Rain or any form of precipitation that have pH less than 5.6. The acidic pH is due to burning of coal and other fossil fuels. Acid rain can be detrimental to aquatic as well as terrestrial vegetation, animals, microorganisms, and even alters physicochemical composition of water and soil environs.

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