All about E-Waste Disposal Vol.7
What is Electronic Waste
The rapid growth and popularity of home electronics, from laptops to smartphones to flat-screen televisions, has turned this field into a global industry, with a fast turn around, worth billions of dollars.
Electronic waste, also called e-waste, pertain to various forms of electric and electronic equipment that have ceased to be of value to their users or no longer satisfy their original purpose. The technological advances created a global phenomenon: the challenge of what to do with e-waste.
E-waste is one of the fastest-growing waste streams. It added 44.7 million metric tons (49.3 million tons) of trash worldwide, according to The Global E-waste Monitor – 2017. Even though that e-waste contains billions of dollars’ worth of precious metals and other valuable components, just 20% was officially tracked and adequately.
Impacts On Human Health
The complex composition and improper handling of e-waste adversely affect human health. There is a growing body of epidemiological and clinical evidence on its impact. The primitive methods used by unregulated backyard operators (e.g., the informal sector) to reclaim, reprocess, and recycle e-waste materials expose the workers to several toxic substances.
Moreover, direct exposure and inhalation of harmful chemicals are a result of processes such as dismantling components, wet chemical processing, and incineration. Safety equipment such as gloves, face masks, and ventilation fans are virtually unknown. Workers often have little idea of what they are handling.
Burning to recover metal from wires and cables causes air pollution. The informal sector dumps toxic chemicals that have no value. It seriously affects the local groundwater quality, thereby making the water unfit for human consumption or agricultural purposes.
Dust particles loaded with heavy metals, and flame retardants enter the atmosphere. These particles travel over long distances. The dust can also leach into the ground and cause both soil and water pollution. Lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) deposited in landfills make soils toxic.
By 2017, 66% of the world’s population have some national e-waste regulation, compared to 44% just three years prior. This jump is mainly due to India, which tightened its e-waste management rules in 2016. The report notes, however, that no guarantee exists that regulations are enforced effectively. Even among countries with rules on the books, many don’t cover all kinds of e-waste. It calls for enhanced efforts to develop e-waste policies and improve e-waste reporting as crucial steps toward correcting these deficits.