Define the e-waste problem.what is happening and why is this a problem? What can manufacturers do to improve the situation with the various issues (health, hazardous materials, recycling, refuse, etc.)?
E-waste problem- Electronic waste or e-waste refers to damaged and discarded electronic devices that are destined for reuse, salvage, resale, recycling, or disposal. This essay will discuss several issues related to e-waste problems and their potential management strategies.
Why is it happening- Approximately 20-50 million tons of e-waste is generated annually, on a global scale, of which only 20% gets recycled. These can be regarded as the fastest growing section of the waste stream, generated from a nation (Greenpeace USA, 2018).
Why is it a problem- The primary problem associated with the use of e-waste can be attributed to the fact that e-wastes are responsible for more than 5% of the entire municipal wastes that are generated across the world, and are found to affect almost all countries. The rest 80% of these wastes go to incinerators and landfills, despite the fact that the chemicals present in the wastes might seep into groundwater and streams, or generate dioxin on burning them (Leach & Boyd, 2018). Harmful chemicals present in the wastes include lead, mercury, brominated flame retardants, cadmium, and beryllium, each of which can create severe health impacts and pollution.
What can manufacturers do to improve the situation- Efforts must be taken by the manufacturers to produce electronic devices that last for a longer time and do not get heated up quickly. Waste minimization in the electronic component processing systems should involve the approach of recycling. One way by which the e-wastes are processed include melting of the circuit boards, burning the cable sheathings for recovering copper and gold wires and open-pit acid leaching for metal separations. The batteries and toners are initially removed (Li et al., 2015). The manufacturers can employ the conventional process of mechanical shredding and separation, where steel or iron materials are separated from aluminium, plastic and copper. The process also helps in separation of ferrous materials that get attracted to a magnet. Furthermore, different materials that compose the electronic devices should be classified into their raw components with the use of metallic sensors and eddy current that will help in de-manufacturing the harmful compounds (Kiddee, Naidu & Wong, 2013). E-wastes should be prepared in a way that helps them to get reused to recycled. The steel and copper obtained after shredding can be reused. Reducing practices that involve open burning of the computer wires, or discharging the chips into nearby water bodies will help in preventing onset of several health hazards.
To conclude, informal e-waste processing in developing countries has most often been associated with adverse effects on the human health and also results in air pollution. Thus, there is a need to practice reuse and recycling techniques to prevent adverse impacts of e-waste on the environment and human health.
Greenpeace USA. (2018). Guide to Greener Electronics 2017. Retrieved from https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/reports/greener-electronics-2017/
Kiddee, P., Naidu, R., & Wong, M. H. (2013). Electronic waste management approaches: An overview. Waste management , 33(5), 1237-1250.
Leach, A., & Boyd, O. (2018). Samsung and Greenpeace: what you need to know about e-waste. management Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/mar/01/samsung-greenpeace-what-you-need-to-know-e-waste-smartphones-recycling
Li, J., Zeng, X., Chen, M., Ogunseitan, O. A., & Stevels, A. (2015). “Control-Alt-Delete”: rebooting solutions for the e-waste problem. Environmental science & technology, 49(12), 7095-7108.