What is Electronic Waste (E-Waste)? 

The term “e-waste” is applied to consumer electronic equipment that is no longer wanted. E-waste can include computers, printers, televisions, VCRs, cell phones, fax machines, stereos, and electronic games. Electronics may contain lead, copper, and other heavy metals or potentially toxic substances. 

It is critical to reduce e-waste by only buying what you need, reuse electronics that still work, and finally recycle electronics at the end of their useful life cycle. Recycling events are funded from the very same E-Waste Recycling Fee assessed on your receipt when you bought “covered electronic devices.” 

Electronic Waste 

Electronic waste, also called e-waste, various forms of electric and electronic equipment that have ceased to be of value to their users or no longer satisfy their original purpose. Electronic waste (e-waste) products have exhausted their utility value through either redundancy, replacement, or breakage and include both “white goods” such as refrigerators, washing machines, and microwaves and “brown goods” such as televisions, radios, computers, and cell phones. Given that the information and technology revolution has exponentially increased the use of new electronic equipment, it has also produced growing volumes of obsolete products; e-waste is one of the fastest-growing waste streams. Although e-waste contains complex combinations of highly toxic substances that pose a danger to health and the environment, many of the products also contain recoverable precious materials, making it a different kind of waste compared with traditional municipal waste.  

Globally, e-waste constitutes more than 5 percent of all municipal solid waste and is increasing with the rise of sales of electronic products in developing countries. The majority of the world’s e-waste is recycled in developing countries, where informal and hazardous setups for the extraction and sale of metals are common. Recycling companies in developed countries face strict environmental regulatory regimes and an increasing cost of waste disposal and thus may find exportation to small traders in developing countries more profitable than recycling in their own countries. There is also significant illegal transboundary movement of e-waste in the form of donations and charity from rich industrialized nations to developing countries. E-waste profiteers can harvest substantial profits owing to lax environmental laws, corrupt officials, and poorly paid workers, and there is an urgent need to develop policies and strategies to dispose of and recycle e-waste safely in order to achieve a sustainable future. 

Impacts on human health 

The complex composition and improper handling of e-waste adversely affect human health. A growing body of epidemiological and clinical evidence has led to increased concern about the potential threat of e-waste to human health, especially in developing countries such as India and China. 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 a number of toxic substances. Processes such as dismantling components, wet chemical processing, and incineration are used and result in direct exposure and inhalation of harmful chemicals. Safety equipment such as gloves, face masks, and ventilation fans are virtually unknown, and workers often have little idea of what they are handling. 

For instance, in terms of health hazards, open burning of printed wiring boards increases the concentration of dioxins in the surrounding areas. These toxins cause an increased risk of cancer if inhaled by workers and local residents. Toxic metals and poison can also enter the bloodstream during the manual extraction and collection of tiny quantities of precious metals, and workers are continuously exposed to poisonous chemicals and fumes of highly concentrated acids. Recovering resalable copper by burning insulated wires causes neurological disorders, and acute exposure to cadmium, found in semiconductors and chip resistors, can damage the kidneys and liver and cause bone loss. Long-term exposure to lead on printed circuit boards and computer and television screens can damage the central and peripheral nervous system and kidneys, and children are more susceptible to these harmful effects. 

Environmental impacts 

Although electronics constitute an indispensable part of everyday life, their hazardous effects on the environment cannot be overlooked or underestimated. The interface between electrical and electronic equipment and the environment takes place during the manufacturing, reprocessing, and disposal of these products. The emission of fumes, gases, and particulate matter into the air, the discharge of liquid waste into water and drainage systems, and the disposal of hazardous wastes contribute to environmental degradation. In addition to tighter regulation of e-waste recycling and disposal, there is a need for policies that extend the responsibility of all stakeholders, particularly the producers, beyond the point of sale and up to the end of product life. 

There are a number of specific ways in which e-waste recycling can be damaging to the environment. Burning to recover metal from wires and cables leads to emissions of brominated and chlorinated dioxins, causing air pollution. During the recycling process in the informal sector, toxic chemicals that have no economic value are simply dumped. The toxic industrial effluent is poured into underground aquifers and seriously affects the local groundwater quality, thereby making the water unfit for human consumption or for agricultural purposes. Atmospheric pollution is caused by dismantling activities as dust particles loaded with heavy metals and flame retardants enter the atmosphere. These particles either redeposit (wet or dry deposition) near the emission source or, depending on their size, can be transported over long distances. The dust can also enter the soil or water systems and, with compounds found in wet and dry depositions, can leach into the ground and cause both soil and water pollution. Soils become toxic when substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are deposited in landfills. 


E-waste can be classified on the basis of its composition and components. Ferrous and nonferrous metals, glass, plastics, pollutants, and other are the six categories of materials reported for e-waste composition. Iron and steel constitute the major fraction in waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) materials, with plastics being the second largest. Nonferrous materials, including metals such as copper and aluminum, and precious metals such as silver, gold, and platinum are third in abundance and have significant commercial value. Toxic materials include lead and cadmium in circuit boards, lead oxide and cadmium in cathode ray tubes, mercury in switches and flat-screen monitors, brominated flame retardants on printed circuit boards, and plastic and insulated cables; when these exceed the threshold quantities, they are regarded as pollutants and can damage the environment if disposed of improperly. 

One of the most widely accepted classifications is based on European Union directives that divide e-waste into the 10 following categories: 

  1. Large household appliances: refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, electric cooking stoves and hot plates, microwaves, electric fans, and air conditioners. 
  1. Small household appliances: vacuum cleaners, toasters, grinders, coffee machines, appliances for haircutting and drying, toothbrushing, and shaving. 
  1. Information technology (IT) and telecommunications equipment: mainframes, minicomputers, personal computers, laptops, notebooks, printers, telephones, and cell phones. 
  1. Consumer equipment: radios, televisions, video cameras, video recorders, stereo recorders, audio amplifiers, and musical instruments. 
  1. Lighting equipment: straight and compact fluorescent lamps and high-intensity discharge lamps. 
  1. Electrical and electronic tools: drills, saws, sewing machines, soldering irons, equipment for turning, milling, grinding, drilling, making holes, folding, bending, or similar processing of wood and metal. 
  1. Toys, leisure equipment, and sporting goods: electric trains or racing car sets, video games, and sports equipment with electric elements. 
  1. Medical devices: radiotherapy equipment, cardiology, dialysis, pulmonary ventilators, nuclear medicines, and analyzers. 
  1. Monitoring and control instruments: smoke detectors, heating regulators, and thermostats. 
  1. Automatic dispensers: for hot drinks, hot or cold bottles, solid products, money, and all appliances that automatically deliver various products. 

Electronic Waste Disposal 

Electronic waste (E-waste): what is it and how do we get rid of it? 

This term applies to consumer and business electronic equipment that is near or at the end of its useful life. There is no clear definition for electronic waste (e-waste) at this time, but if you can plug it in to an electrical outlet or it contains circuit boards or chips, it is most likely e-waste. These products can contain heavy metals like cadmium, lead, copper, and chromium that can contaminate the environment. DO NOT dispose of these items in the trash or your recycling bins. 

Examples of electronic waste include, but not limited to: 

  • TVs, computer monitors, printers, scanners, keyboards, mice, cables, circuit boards, lamps, clocks, flashlight, calculators, phones, answering machines, digital/video cameras, radios, VCRs, DVD players, MP3 and CD players    
  • Kitchen equipment (toasters, coffee makers, microwave ovens)    
  • Laboratory equipment** (hot plates, microscopes, calorimeters)    
  • Broken computer monitors, television tubes (CRTs)  

Any laboratory equipment that has the possibility of being contaminated with chemical, biological, or radioactive substances must be cleared through EH&S and Departmental Facilities Office before disposal. 

Student E-waste Recycling Options 

If you live on-campus you can dispose of your electronic waste easily and conveniently by creating a Fix It Ticket or contacting your college maintenance office. 

Additional information on disposal / recycling of e-waste and other regulated items can be found in all college mailrooms, Graduate Student Housing Mailroom and the Village Laundry Community room. Multibins are blue cabinets built to collect batteries, small electronics, printer cartridges, and CDs. They are located in every college mailroom. 

Electronic Waste (E-Waste) Recycling and Disposal– Facts, Statistics & Solutions  moneycrashers.com 

How often do you buy a new cell phone, laptop, or TV? In these gadget-driven days, you probably upgrade your electronics fairly often. Most people don’t think twice about buying the “latest and greatest” technology. After all, companies and their marketing teams spend a great deal of money to make sure that we’re hungry for the next iPad, Xbox 360 Kinect, or LED TV. 

  • While our hunger for electronics and technology keeps growing, what happens to our old stuff? The statistics and trends are startling: 
  • According to Wirefly.org, the average cell phone user gets a new cell phone every 18 months. 
  • In the U.S., we toss more than 100 million cell phones in the trash every year. 
  • The EPA reports that over 112,000 computers are discarded every single day, in the U.S. alone. That’s 41.1 million desktops and laptop computers per year. 
  • 20 million TVs are trashed in the U.S. every year. 
  • Only 13% of electronic waste is disposed and recycled properly. 


A recent United Nations report suggests that in some countries, production of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), which includes obsolete mobile phones, computers, and HDTVs, could rise by as much as 500% over the next decade. USA Today projected electronic-waste growth and predicted that by 2014, manufacturers will produce 70 million tons of “e-waste.” 

Where Does Our E-Waste Go? 

old computer drivesElectronic waste from equipment of all sizes includes dangerous chemicals like lead, cadmium, beryllium, mercury, and brominated flame retardants. When we dispose of gadgets and devices improperly, these hazardous materials have a high risk of polluting the air, contaminating soil, and leaching into water sources. 

When e-waste sits in a typical landfill, for example, water flows through the landfill and picks up trace elements from these dangerous minerals. Eventually the contaminated landfill water, called “leachate,” gets through layers of natural and manufactured landfill liner and other protection. When it reaches natural groundwater, it introduces lethal toxicity. 

Health risks range from kidney disease and brain damage to genetic mutations. Scientists have discovered that Guiyu, China, has the highest levels of cancer-causing dioxins in the world. Seven out of ten children in the villages of Guiyu have too much lead in their bodies; 82% tested positive for lead poisoning. Because the drinking water is so contaminated, villagers have to truck in water from other towns. 

Even with the best intentions in mind, recycling e-waste often leads to illegal overseas shipping and dumping. Devices get left in a huge pit or burned. Worse, a 2008 study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that some recyclers ship e-waste to third world countries under the guise of philanthropy, claiming that these “donations” bring technology to developing nations. While plenty of recyclers run reputable operations, the shadowy companies just ship obsolete e-waste to digital dumping grounds in countries like Ghana. 

Frontline profiled an e-waste dump in Ghana that explored the health risks of these practices. Young children there make a living by scavenging waste to reclaim gold, silver, iron, and copper. The amount of time they spend at dumping grounds is dangerous enough; factor in these poisons and chemicals and these habits can become be fatal. Further, the U.S. State Department lists Ghana as one of the top sources of cyber crime in the world. Criminals can purchase salvaged hard drives in an open market, and minutes later they have access to the personal and financial information you left behind in discarded devices. 

ABC News did an incredible investigation of one e-waste recycler based in Denver. This company, which claimed to safely recycle e-waste, wasn’t recycling it at all. Instead, they were loading all those computer monitors, laptops, TVs, and cell phones into shipping containers and sending them off to the Far East, mainly rural China and Hong Kong. 

People in developing countries are paying with their lives just so we can have the next iPad. Now that you have a sense of how serious a problem e-waste poses, consider how you can make a difference with your daily decisions. It’s sobering and depressing to think about tragedy abroad, but we can change things. We can make sure our e-waste is recycled effectively, and NOT shipped off to third world countries irresponsibly. 

How to Recycle Your E-Waste Safely 

The good news is that you have plenty of options for properly recycling or donating your used electronics. It’s important to understand this: Even if you take your e-waste down to your local recycling center, there’s a high probability that it won’t get recycled properly. As ABC News discovered, e-waste recyclers are often more concerned with making a buck than they are with making sure these hazardous materials are disposed of properly. So what can you do? 

  1. Use a Certified E-Waste Recycler

Find an e-waste recycler certified through the Basel Action Network (BAN). BAN is a non-profit organization devoted to certifying e-Stewards, recyclers who are committed to safely and responsibly recycling electronics. Members take and demonstrate the Pledge of Responsible Recycling, so working with a certified e-Steward means you don’t have to worry that your gadget will become another nation’s pollution or a criminal’s newest project. BAN’s recycler locator will help you find the certified safety and comfort of e-Stewards in your area. 

  1. Visit Civic Institutions

Check with your local government, schools, and universities for additional responsible recycling options. With e-waste becoming such a large problem, government offices and schools are assigning days when citizens can bring unwanted electronics to a designated drop-off location. 

Many communities post a calendar that will include recycling days, so check your local paper or visit their website. When you recycle your items locally, you can make the occasion a day trip and a community event. Encourage your neighbors to join you and spread the word about educated e-waste disposal. 

  1. Explore Retail Options

Best Buy, for example, isn’t certified through BAN’s e-Steward program, but they do have an effective recycling program in all of their stores. They claim to only use recyclers who adhere to the highest standards of e-waste processing. Specifically, their website discloses that e-waste that you bring to their stores will not end up in a foreign country or in any landfill: 

You can drop off all kinds of e-waste for recycling at Best Buy including: 

  • Cell phones 
  • TVs 
  • Power cords 
  • GPS devices 
  • Speakers 
  • DVD players 
  • Paper shredders 
  • Memory cards 
  • Desktops 
  • Laptops 
  • Netbooks 

Additionally, Gettington teams up with an e-Stewards partner, CExchange, to provide you with an opportunity to recycle your e-waste via pre-paid postage containers. You can recycle old items and get the benefit of cash reward for some products. You can even transfer the rewards to charitable organizations. 

  1. Donate Your Electronics

Reusing is always better than recycling. If your electronics still have life left, you can reduce e-waste pollution and share technology with people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it. 

Organizations like Cell Phones for Soldiers and Verizon’s HopeLine program will make sure your old cell phone makes its way to a worthy cause. Other organizations, like the Salvation Army and Goodwill, can sell your used electronics and use the profits to educate and empower others who need help. Goodwill has been particularly active with its Reconnect program, which has a strict no-export policy. 

Gazelle, a marketplace that can also provide some cash incentives, will help you organize a Gadget Drive if you’re trying to raise money for your school or non-profit. To get a feel for the kind of money people are willing to spend, check out Ecosquid. When you run a Gadget Drive, people in your community will drop off their devices. You’ll ship everything off to Gazelle, and then you’ll get a check for everything that was donated. Gazelle, in turn, will either sell the electronics or make sure they’re recycled responsibly. 

Final Word 

Every time you replace one of your electronic devices, it’s your responsibility to be sure your old one gets recycled properly. 

Ideally, your first step will be to consume less. Don’t get pulled into the hype of new technology if you can help it. If you do want something, try to find a gently-used version first. Then, when you have an expired product, take the time to find a responsible e-waste recycler. 

Be a part of the solution. Help properly recycle as much e-waste as possible. You’ll make the Earth a better place, help halt digital data dumps, feel proud of your accomplishment, meet new friends, and maybe even make your wallet a little greener! 

How do you normally dispose of your electronics? Do you have any additional tips for properly recycling e-waste? 

E-Waste Recycling 

What Is E-Waste 

E-waste is electrical and electronic equipment of any kind that has been discarded. This includes practically anything powered by an electrical source (e.g., from a power socket or a battery). Common types of e-waste include the following:- 

Infocomm technology (ICT) equipment, such as desktop, laptop and tablet computers, mobile phones, computer and mobile phone batteries, peripherals and accessories such as keyboards, modems, monitors, computer mice, docking stations, hard disk drives, printed circuit boards, battery chargers, etc. 

Home appliances, such as TVs, fridges, air conditioners, washing machines, rice cookers, microwave and toaster ovens, electric kettles, food processors and blenders, electric fans, DVD/video/music players, radios, hi-fis, vacuum cleaners, etc. 

Other types of e-waste include lamps & lighting, electronic toys, batteries, sports and leisure equipment, etc. 

E-waste is mostly made up of metal and plastic components, but also contains small amounts of heavy metals and substances of concern (e.g., in printed circuit boards). The wide variety of e-waste makes it hard to generalise the material content – for example, fridges and air conditioners in particular contain refrigerants to enable cooling to take place, but these refrigerants may also contribute to ozone layer depletion or climate change; the material composition of a mobile phone is very different from that of an electric kettle. 

Why Recycle E-Waste 

Recycling e-waste protects human and environmental health. Improper disposal of e-waste leads to environmental pollution and this may in turn harm human health. The best way to treat e-waste is to recycle it properly. E-waste comprises many different components and requires specialised equipment to dismantle, shred, process and extract the constituent materials that can then be turned into new products. This has to be performed within a controlled system to prevent pollution and ensure workplace safety and health. 

Recycling e-waste also helps to conserves our earth’s precious natural resources. Recycled material is used to make new products. This reduces the need to mine virgin raw materials from the earth, which are limited in supply. Reducing the need for mining also lowers pollution, as the process of mining has an impact on our environment. 

You are encouraged to recycle your e-waste with voluntary e-waste recycling programmes available in Singapore. Companies and organisations are encouraged to adopt SS 587, the Singapore Standard for the management of end-of-life ICT equipment, or at least to implement the best practices for e-waste recycling contained in it. 

Electronic Waste stopwaste.org 

Electronic waste has been banned from the trash. Electronic waste includes devices that contain concentrations of metals (lead and copper) high enough to make them hazardous when they are discarded. 

  • Electronic waste can be recycled at all Alameda County Hazardous Waste Facilities. 
  • Search the Recycle Where? widget for other drop-off locations near you.  
  • Check noewaste.com, and unwaste.com for free electronic waste drop-off events. 

These items are electronic waste and have been banned from the trash: 

  • Televisions: tubes, flat screens, plasmas, or projectors 
  • Computers, monitors, keyboards, mice, and computer peripherals 
  • Telephones, cell phones, and answering machines 
  • Stereo equipment, radios, tape players, VCRs, CD/DVD players, and phonographs 
  • Microwave ovens 
  • Thermostats 
  • Ballasts for fluorescent lamps 
  • Digital clocks and MP3 music players 
  • Digital cameras and video cameras 
  • Cathode ray tubes and devices containing CRT’s 

These items are not electronic waste and can typically go to a transfer station: 

  • Lamps and light fixtures 
  • Motors and fans 
  • Toasters and ovens 
  • Vacuum cleaners 
  • Garbage disposals 
  • Pumps 
  • Hair dryers and hair curlers 

Most appliances are electrical but not electronic waste including: 

  • Electric heaters, coolers, and refrigerators 
  • Air conditioners, stoves, ovens 
  • Furnaces, water heaters 
  • Clothes or dish washers, clothes dryers 

Electronic e-waste disposal

What is electronic e-waste?  

E-waste is an informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their “useful life.” E-waste is anything with a circuit board. Look for products with digital displays & programmable features. Examples include TVs, office equipment, kitchen appliances, household & bath appliances, computer equipment and consumer electronics.  

Why should waste electronics be recycled? 

Electronic devices contain a variety of materials, including metals that can be recovered for recycling. Recycling your waste electronics saves resources because new metals don’t have to be mined. 

In addition, electronic devices contain high enough levels of certain materials, such as lead, that render them hazardous waste when disposed. Hazardous wastes cannot be disposed of in the garbage. 

  1. Organizations accepting electronics for reuse: for residents and businesses.

If your item is working and can be reused, consider donation. In addition to thrift shops, the following is a sampling where electronics are accepted for repair and reuse. 

  1. Drop-off recycling options: for residents and businesses

Use the “What would you like to recycle?” search function at the top of this web page. Choose the topic “Electronics.” 

  1. Curbside recycling:

Curbside recycling for household electronic devices is available in the blue single-stream recycling cart throughout Sonoma County. 

Household electronic devices cannot be larger than 2 feet in any dimension such as home printers, cell phones, answering machines, radios & digital appliances (no glass), power strips, etc. 

How to prepare: No TVs, computer monitors or other electronic devices with screens. Remove batteries prior to recycling. Remove cords and dispose of in the garbage or drop-off for recycling. 

For more information about recycling electronics in single-stream blue cart recycling, contact your garbage company. 

  1. Bulky item pickup: for residents Bulky item collection means that certain items such as mattresses, appliances, furniture and electronics that cannot fit into your garbage can or that need special handling will be picked up by appointment by your garbage company. For details, visit bulky item collection or contact your garbage company

Electronic waste management approaches: An overview sciencedirect.com 

Managing electronic waste (or e-waste) is one of the most rapidly growing pollution problems worldwide. New technologies are rapidly superseding millions of analogue appliances leading to their disposal in prescribed landfills despite potentially their adverse impacts on the environment. The consistent advent of new designs, “smart” functions and technology during the last 20 years is causing the rapid obsolescence of many electronic items. The lifespan of many electronic goods has been substantially shortened due to advancements in electronics, attractive consumer designs and marketing and compatibility issues. For example, the average lifespan of a new computer has decreased from 4.5 years in 1992 to an estimated 2 years in 2005 and is further decreasing (Widmer et al., 2005) resulting in much greater volumes of computers for either disposal or export to developing countries. While difficult to quantify the volume of e-waste generated globally, Bushehri (2010) presented an overview of the volume of e-waste generated in a range of categories in China, Japan and US based on available information for the period 1997–2010 (Table 1). This report estimates that over 130 million computers, monitors and televisions become obsolete annually and that the annual number is growing in the United States (Bushehri, 2010). Around 500 million computers became obsolete between 1997 and 2007 in the United States alone and 610 million computers had been discarded in Japan by the end of December 2010. In China 5 million new computers and 10 million new televisions have been purchased every year since 2003 (Hicks et al., 2005), and around 1.11 million tonnes of e-waste is generated every year, mainly from electrical and electronic manufacturing and production processes, end-of-life of household appliances and information technology products, along with imports from other countries. It is reasonable to assume that a similar generation of e-waste occurs in other countries. 

E-waste generation in some developing countries is not such a cause for concern at this stage because of the smaller number and longer half-life of electronic goods in those countries due to financial constraints, on both local community and national scales. The major e-waste problem in developing countries arises from the importation of e-waste and electronic goods from developed countries because it is the older, less ecologically friendly equipment that is discarded from these Western countries 80% of all e-waste in developed countries is being exported (Hicks et al., 2005). Limited safeguards, legislation, policies and enforcement of the safe disposal of imported e-waste and electronic goods have led to serious human and environmental problems in these countries. For instance, e-waste disposal impacts on human health has become a serious issue that has already been noted in case studies from China. Concern arises not just from the large volume of e-waste imported into developing countries but also with the large range of toxic chemicals associated with this e-waste. Numerous researchers have demonstrated that toxic metals and polyhalogenated organics including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) can be released from e-waste, posing serious risks of harm to humans and the environment (Czuczwa and Hites, 1984, Robinson, 2009 and Williams et al., 2008). A review of published reports on e-waste problems in developing countries, and countries in transition, showed that China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Thailand, and African countries such as Nigeria, receive e-waste from developed countries although specific e-waste problems differ considerably between countries. For instance, African countries mainly reuse disposed electronic products whereas Asian countries dismantle those often using unsafe procedures (US Government Accountability Office, 2008 and Wong et al., 2007a). Social and human health problems have been recognised in some developing countries and it is worth noting that China, India, and some other Asian countries have recently amended their laws to address the management and disposal of e-waste imports (Widmer et al., 2005). Moreover, some manufacturers of electronic goods have attempted to safely dispose of e-waste with advanced technologies in both developed and developing countries (US Government Accountability Office, 2008 and Widmer et al., 2005). Problems associated with e-waste have been challenged by authorities in a number of countries and steps were taken to alleviate them with the introduction of management tools and laws at the national and universal levels. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Material Flow Analysis (MFA) and Multi Criteria Analysis (MCA) are tools to manage e-waste problems and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is the regulation for e-waste management at the national scale. 

This review provides an overview of the risk that e-wastes poses to human and environmental health from recycling and landfill disposals together with tools for the management of such wastes. Human toxicity of hazardous substances in e-waste is based on published case studies from e-waste recycling in China, India and Ghana. 

 Human toxicity of hazardous substances in e-waste 

E-waste consists of a large variety of materials (Zhang and Forssberg, 1997), some of which contain a range of toxic substances that can contaminate the environment and threaten human health if not appropriately managed. E-waste disposal methods include landfill and incineration, both of which pose considerable contamination risks. Landfill leachates can potentially transport toxic substances into groundwater whilst combustion in an incinerator can emit toxic gases into the atmosphere. Recycling of e-waste can also distribute hazardous substances into the environment and may affect human health. While there are more than 1000 toxic substances (Puckett and Smith, 2002) associated with e-waste, the more commonly reported substances include:  

  • toxic metals (such as barium (Ba),  
  • beryllium (Be),  
  • cadmium (Cd),  
  • cobalt (Co), 
  •  chromium (Cr),  
  • copper (Cu), iron (Fe),  
  • lead (Pb), lithium (Li),  
  • lanthanum (La),  
  • mercury (Hg),  
  • manganese (Mn),  
  • molybdenum (Mo),  
  • nickel (Ni), silver (Ag),  
  • hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI))  


and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as  

  • dioxin, brominated flame retardants (BFRs),  
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),  
  • polybrominated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PBDD/Fs),  
  • Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). 

E-waste disposals impact human health in two ways which include:  

(a) food chain issues: contamination by toxic substances from disposal and primitive recycling processes that result in by-products entering the food chain and thus transferring to humans; and  

(b) direct impact on workers who labour in primitive recycling areas from their occupational exposure to toxic substances. Along with this, numerous researchers have demonstrated a direct impact of backyard recycling on workers. The danger of e-waste toxicity to human health, both in terms of chronic and acute conditions, has become a serious societal problem and has been well demonstrated by case studies in China, India and Ghana (Asante et al., 2012).  

For instance, blood, serum, hair, scalp hair, human milk and urine from people who lived in the areas where e-wastes are being recycled showed the presence of significant concentrations of toxic substances. Qu et al. (2007) studied PBDEs exposure of workers in e-waste recycling areas in China and found high levels of PBDEs with the highest concentration of BDE-209 at 3436 ng/g lipid weight in the serum of the sample groups. This is the highest concentration of BDE-209 in humans so far recorded. High levels of Pb and Cd were found in the blood of children around e-waste recycling regions. Zhao et al. (2008) detected PBBs, PBDEs and PCBs in hair samples at 57.77, 29.64 and 181.99 ng/g dry weight, respectively which were higher than those from reference sites. Wang et al. (2009b) found Cu (39.8 μg/g) and Pb in scalp hair samples. PCDD/Fs (Chan et al., 2007) and PCBs were detected in human milk samples at 21.02 pg/g and 9.50 ng/g, respectively. In India concentrations of Cu, Sb and Bi in the hair of e-waste recycling workers was higher than at the reference site (Ha et al., 2009) and levels of tri to tetra-chlorinated PCBs, tri to tetra-chlorinated OH-PCBs, PBDEs, octa-brominated OH-PBDEs, and tetra-BPhs in the serum of workers from e-waste recycling areas were higher than those in serum taken from people living near the coastal area. Moreover, in Ghana significant concentrations of Fe, Sb and Pb in the urine of workers from primitive recycling sites were found at 130, 0.89 and 6.06 μg/l, respectively. These were higher than at reference sites. These findings confirm that human exposure to heavy metals and POPs released from e-waste treatment processes pose significant health risk to workers and local inhabitants especially women and children. Also these studies demonstrate the effect of long-term exposure to human. Similar studies need to be extended to other developing countries or countries in transition where back yard e-waste recycling is being conducted. Although, the Stockholm Convention (UNEP, 2012) takes action to reduce and prevent global contamination from POPs, there has been significant delay with the implementation of guidance and legislation in some countries. For instance, while the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was launched on March 22, 1989 and enforced on May 5, 1992, the USA is one of the world’s largest e-waste producers, has not ratified this Convention or the Basel Ban Amendment. Communities are still debating the legal loophole, which permits the export of whole products to other countries provided it is not for recycling. 

Environmental impacts of e-waste during treatment processes 

The presence of toxic substances in e-waste was recognised only within the last 20 years. There is inadequate legislation worldwide for effective management of such waste. The rapid growth of e-waste and the ineffectiveness of legislation has led to inappropriate management strategies in both developed and developing countries, leading to profound impacts on the environment. Management of e-waste by recycling and by disposal to landfills has been shown to pose significant risks to the environment. The impact of e-waste from recycling and disposal processes is summarised below. 

E-waste is a serious problem at both local and global scales. E-waste problems appeared initially in developed countries and now extend widely to other countries around the world. The volume of e-waste is growing fast because consumer technology is rapidly changing and the innovation of technology results in rapid obsolescence, thus generating massive amounts of e-waste. E-waste consists of many different materials, some of which contain a variety of toxic substances that can contaminate the environment and threaten human health, if the end-of-life management is not meticulously managed. Many case study from e-waste recycling plants confirmed that the toxic chemicals such as heavy metals and POPs have and continue to contaminate the surrounding environment. This results in considerable accumulation of hazardous substances into the ecosystem and which can adversely impact human health. Both laboratory simulation studies and landfill leachates from disposal sites demonstrate the release of toxic substances from e-wastes with the concentration varying significantly between field and laboratory based studies. 

In order to mitigate e-waste problems, there are investigations in term of the volume, nature and potential environmental and human health impacts of e-waste and extensive research into e-waste management.  

Several tools including: 

  • LCA,  
  • MFA,  
  • MCA  
  • and EPR approach for e-waste management could ultimately ameliorate most e-waste problems.   

Any one tool may be imperfect but in concert they can complement each other to solve this issue. Moreover, a national scheme such as EPR is a good policy tool to solve the growing e-waste problem. Interaction of four tools can drive to success for e-waste management that is to develop eco-designed devices, to properly collect e-waste, recover and recycle material by safe methods, dispose of e-waste by suitable techniques, forbid the transfer of used electronic devices to developing countries, to raise awareness of the impact of e-waste pollution of both users and manufacturers. Over and above all of these, no matter how well the policies are introduced and implemented benefits will only arise provided end users are prepared to accept introduced policies and adhere to them. 

E-waste: What we throw away doesn’t go away 

In the life of almost every household appliance, there comes that moment of out with the old and in with the new. 

However, while electrical and electronic equipment have never been more efficient, economical or in demand, consumers’ desire to own the best and the latest is contributing to an environmental issue of increasing seriousness and concern. 

“E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in developing, emerging and developed regions and it covers all electrical and electronic equipment and parts discarded by consumers,” says Dr Sunil Herat, Associate Editor of the journal Waste Management & Research and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. 

“According to figures published in the Global E-waste Monitor 2014 and compiled by the United Nations University, last year an estimated 41.8 million metric tonnes of e-waste was discarded throughout the world. 

“This comprised mostly end-of-life kitchen, laundry and bathroom equipment such as microwave ovens, washing machines and dishwashers, although mobile phones, computers and printers also featured. 

“That figure is estimated to rise by almost 20 per cent to 50 million metric tonnes in 2018, which is why waste management practitioners are seeking new technologies and approaches to deal with e-waste.” 

Dr Herat will discuss e-waste when he addresses the Sixth Regional 3R Forum in Asia and the Pacific, organised by the United Nations Centre for Regional Development and to be held in the Maldives from August 16-19. 

He says that while the emphasis so far has been on end-of-life IT equipment such as computers and mobile phones, a focus on a broader spectrum of household e-waste is required if its growth is to be slowed. 

A recent study commissioned by the Australia and New Zealand Recycling Platform and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that Australia generates one of the highest per capita volumes of e-waste in the world. Of 19.71kg per person per year, almost 30 per cent comes from digital and audio-visual items. 

The study also showed that growing incorporation of smart technology into common household items is regarded as the main cause of increases in the global e-waste streams from homes. 

“This gives rise to important issues such as how we prepare for the growth in household e-wastes; whether existing take-back programs – which currently exist in only a few countries – are sufficient to handle new demands; and whether regulations are sufficient to ensure small household e-waste items are not mixed with residual waste contents in traditional household bins,” says Dr Herat. 

“Furthermore, the sheer range of household electrical and electronics items these days brings with it the use of rare earths and precious metals within circuits and chips, all of which can increase subsequent waste management challenges when items become obsolete and are discarded.” 

Dr Herat says there are significant benefits from expanding the coverage of e-waste products beyond the traditional computers, mobile phones and televisions. These include more efficient recycling and material recovery processes and the encouraging of private sector investment in recycling and recovery technologies. 

“Crucially, e-waste policies must have a consumer focus, particularly regarding small e-waste items,” he says. 

“In Finland, for example, the government encourages recycling of small household e-waste items by treating them differently from large items. In Japan, consumers do not have to pay the recycling fee for small household items. In the Netherlands, a “pay-as-you-throw” system has seen a significant reduction in small household e-waste items occurring in household waste streams. 

“Also, a unit-based recycling target is preferable to a weight-based target because the latter may result in greater incentive to recycle only large household items.” 

However, the biggest challenge facing e-waste policy makers is in developing countries. 

“Most developing countries do not practise waste segregation at the source,” says Dr Herat. 

“This means that municipal solid waste can contain up to 3 per cent hazardous wastes, including e-waste. This can increase concentrations of heavy metals in leachate and contribute to environmental pollution. 

“Governments can also struggle to collect funds from producers or imports if goods are smuggled in, or if small, shop-assembled products enjoy a large share of the market. 

“A further challenge arises from systems that create incentives for collectors and recyclers to seek extra subsidies by exaggerating the amount of e-waste they collect. Competition between the formal and informal recycling sector is another impediment.” 

Despite such issues, Dr Herat says change is essential and inevitable. 

“What is certain is that the e-waste management landscape is about to transform its traditional focus on computers and mobile phones to a broader range of more sophisticated household e-waste items,” he says. 

“With the exception of a few countries, most of us are about to face the reality of this latest challenge.” 

Recycling Electronic Waste Responsibly: Excuses Dwindle  

MAYBE you replaced old electronics over the holidays or you’re just sweeping out the old and ushering in the New Year. Either way, you’ll need to do something with your old devices. For everyone’s sake, including Mother Nature’s, try to get rid of your old technology the right way. 

Recycling electronics is becoming easier by the day. Stores like Best Buy and Staples now offer programs to take back old gadgets and recycle them. Churches and schools commonly hold e-waste collection drives, and you can even occasionally find bins for dropping off old tech on the street. 

Still, most old gadgets end up in the trash. Americans alone throw away two million to three million tons of electronics yearly, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. With the life span of devices shrinking — the average phone is replaced every 18 months — the problem keeps growing worse. 

The toxic waste from all those tossed gadgets causes terrible damage to soil, water and people. The Blacksmith Institute, a nonprofit organization that focuses on solving global pollution problems, estimates that so-called toxic e-waste threatens the health of 100 million people worldwide. And the United Nations Environment Program calls electronic waste the “fastest growing waste stream in the world.” 

The solution is not just recycling. It’s to be sure that you’re recycling with a responsible processor. Some programs do little more than pass the load to unverified operators that then toss loads of e-waste into increasingly toxic dumps around the world. 

“If you don’t know where the material goes, you could be thinking you’re doing the right thing, but it ends up being put on a ship” and contributing to global dumping, said James Kao, the chief executive of GreenCitizen, an electronics recycling company in California. 

GreenCitizen is certified by the two independent standards bodies that monitor recyclers for responsible practices: eStewards and Sustainable Electronics Recycling International, whose certification program is called the R2 standard. 

EStewards and S.E.R.I. use a network of auditors to make sure companies like GreenCitizen are doing what they say they’re doing. 

Mr. Kao said the ultimate goal of GreenCitizen, for example, was to dispose of as little as possible. It will reuse or sell anything that still works. 

The company operates drop-off facilities around the Bay Area where consumers can deposit used electronics, and it also picks up from businesses in the area. 

Technicians at its facility in Burlingame, Calif., fix minor technical problems, clean up old devices, photograph them and list them on GreenCitizen’s eBay site. Mr. Kao said 30 percent of the electronics it collects were resold in some fashion, which helps pay for the operation. 

If an item can’t be resold, it may be stripped for parts, which will be either sold separately or used to fix broken items like the screens of laptops or phones. And finally, anything that can’t be reclaimed will be sent to a responsible third-party vendor to be broken down or destroyed. 

Organizations around the world have been certified by S.E.R.I. and eStewards. Both groups let you search their websites for local options. In New York, for example, you can take electronics to GreenChip Electronic Waste Solutions, an R2-certified recycler, or have them picked up by 4th Bin, which is certified by eStewards and also has R2 certification. 

Some large companies, like Best Buy and Dell, have committed to better practices as part of a program started by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The standards for the E.P.A. program, however, aren’t as rigorous as those for eStewards and S.E.R.I. Companies that join the E.P.A.’s Electronics Challenge program pledge to collect more electronics for recycling, send them to certified recyclers and to publicly report their efforts. 

There are three tiers of commitment in the E.P.A. program. Companies at the lowest tier don’t have to prove they’re doing much other than creating a collection program and sending a small percentage of electronics to responsible recyclers. But Best Buy and Dell, as well as some other big companies, participate at the highest level. 

So it is worth doing a little work to look up a trustworthy source. Patty Osterberg, director of education and outreach at S.E.R.I., said she estimated that only about 25 percent of recyclers in the United States were certified by one of the two standards organizations. 

Ms. Osterberg said the process of getting certified from S.E.R.I. was “arduous,” and Mr. Kao said eStewards certification was even tougher. So a Best Buy drop-off might be more convenient than finding a certified recycler in some parts of the country. 

Ms. Osterberg said that since the recycling industry first began moving toward more responsible practices about 10 years ago, the mission had changed from purely recycling to a greater emphasis on intercepting usable tech. 

“It used to be that people saw horrible images of kids playing on mountains of old computers and monitors, and that sparked this whole movement for responsible recycling,” she said. “If you recycle for raw materials, you get a portion of that product. But if you can reuse a cellphone, that’s the most environmentally beneficial of all.” 

The R2 certification standard, she said, puts extra emphasis on the “reuse hierarchy.” Recyclers that collect e-waste have to show that they’ve tried hard to reuse products that come in — not just stripping them down and selling off individual parts, but trying to resell an entire phone, computer, printer or game console. 

The second level in the hierarchy is to find parts and components that can be reused in other products. Touch screens can be sold to toy makers, for example, or circuit boards can be used in other computerized devices. 

And if the entire item can’t be sold, recovering heavy metals like gold, palladium and other raw materials inside electronics is a form of “urban mining,” Ms. Osterberg said. 

“Once you’ve recovered all the value, there certainly is a place for recycling for raw materials, but that’s the third step in the chain,” she said. 

Of course, if you’re willing to put in a little extra work, you can cut out the middleman in the reuse hierarchy completely. Websites like Gazelle and BuyBackWorld will purchase your old devices for a flat rate, depending on condition, and Amazon lets you trade in old gadgets for gift cards. And of course, there’s always eBay. 

Or consider whether you really need to upgrade that phone, tablet or laptop at all. If it works well enough to sell to someone else, do you really need a new one? 


I was elated a few years ago when I discovered that my town had an electronics recycling drop off point. I was filled with smug satisfaction as I dropped off an ancient computer and a VCR I hadn’t used in almost a decade. I remember driving away from the recycling depot and never giving it a second thought – it was literally out of sight, out of mind. 

But, a few weeks ago out of the blue, I started wondering what happened to the electronics I’d so happily dumped into a receiving bin. Where does that e-waste go? How is that processed? Who was processing them and what was the reclaimed material used for? I started digging around like some sort of amateur Nancy Drew, and the answers I found redefined how I looked at recycling – perhaps forever. 

E-waste exposé 

Let’s begin at the beginning, with our voracious appetite for new technology. Smartphones, those ubiquitous devices glued to our hands at every moment, are a perfect example. According to an article in Forbes, 51% of iPhone users upgrade their devices every two years, along with 40% of android users. Not only that but only 47% of iPhone users and 58% of their Android-loving counterparts say they’d wait until their phone was entirely obsolete or non-functional before replacing it. 

What this means is not only are most of us we burning through a new smartphone every 24 months but the old ones, the ones hanging around in junk drawers or even headed to electronics recycling, are still perfectly useable technology, but because they’re not the latest and greatest, we’re tossing them to the curb. 

It’s not just our teeny-tiny phones, either. American consumers are replacing their ever-larger televisions approximately every four or five years, according to some industry estimates, a time span which may come to more closely resemble the two-year replacement cycle of smartphone users as HDTV technology continues to improve and prices continue to drop. 

Phones, TV’s, gaming systems, home computers, laptops, printers, scanners, cameras – our lives are filled with technology from our sleekest devices all the way down to the lowly microwave, and some estimate that fewer than 20% of our electronics are recycled. 

As we replace these items more and more frequently, they’ve almost become disposable objects. Constructed with a short lifespan in mind (planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence), it’s only a manner of time before they end up in the recycling depot, or worse, the landfill (that is, when they eventually make it there. The EPA estimates that as much as 75% of our e-waste is languishing in the nation’s closets and attics, waiting to be disposed of.) 

E-waste recycling 

Let’s assume that we’re discussing an individual who does choose to dispose of their electronics in a responsible way (as we all do, right?),  where on earth do they take it? At the time of writing, 27 states have passed e-waste laws requiring that electronic devices be diverted from landfills and incinerators and disposed of properly at e-waste recycling centers. This is fantastic news! 

And, even if you’re in one of the 22 states lacking such progressive environmental legislation you can still access recycling programs through popular big-box electronics retailers like Best Buy and Staples, who offer recycling programs in their stores across the country. Some even offer financial incentives to sweeten the deal, things like discounts on future purchases. (And hey! If you’re not sure where to recycle your electronics, check out our handy recycling guide to find a location in your area!) 

So, you clean out your garage and end up with a box of defunct electronics. You do the right thing, take them to your local recycling center and drop the box off with a smile – what happens next? 

Some e-waste recycling centers like the like the Lower East Side Ecology Center inspect all drop-off’s and then repair, refurbish and sell functional electronics that come their way. What can’t be refurbished or repaired is typically wrapped up and transported to a processing plant which removes dangerous components like tube TV screens and batteries. They then shred the remaining items and sort them based on material. 

This material sorting is sometimes done by real live humans, but other times space-age optical sorters are used. These employ a laser to decipher differences between plastic, metal, and computer chips, and sorts them into appropriate bins. The bins of materials are then sold to buyers. 

E-waste: Whose responsibility?

Who can resist the appeal of a sleek new electronic toy? But what happens to the clunky phones, slow computers and bulky television sets that we discard? Electronic devices that run information and communication technologies (ICT) have penetrated every aspect of modern life. When they are no longer wanted, they become what we call in this article “e-waste”. 

The story of Agbogbloshie 

Agbogbloshie is a slum that lies on the outskirts of Accra, the capital of Ghana. Functional second-hand computers began arriving in Agbogbloshie from industrialized countries “to help bridge the digital divide”. At one-tenth of the cost of a new computer, Ghanaians welcomed this donated equipment. 

But as the volume of ewaste increased in industrialized countries — where there are strict laws controlling its disposal — the once benevolent act of donating used computers became corrupted. Outdated, broken and unusable electronics started to be exported to Ghana in mass quantities. What had been an ad hoc development project slipped into a scheme for companies to get around national regulations. By shipping unregulated “donations”, they had found a cheap way of getting rid of ewaste. 

Agbogbloshie is now one of Ghana’s largest ewaste dumps, with mountains of abandoned motherboards, computer monitors and hard drives littering the landscape. The soil and water have high concentrations of lead, mercury, thallium, hydrogen cyanide and polyvinyl chloride. Amid black smoke and the stench of burning plastic, living conditions are harsh and hazardous. 

A cyber-age nightmare 

Unmarked shipments containing electronic waste make their way to Asia, Africa (particularly West Africa) and other parts of the world that lack the capacity to prevent illegal imports or to safely recycle electronics. These digital dumping grounds are located primarily in Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, India and China. For example, an estimated 500 containers, each 40 feet long, are shipped to Lagos, Nigeria, every month. Although Lagos has a robust market for repairing and refurbishing old electronic equipment (including computers, monitors, televisions and mobile phones), local experts complain that three-quarters of the imports are useless “junk”. 

Because of the use of toxic materials in the manufacture of electronic goods, ewaste can cause widespread environmental damage. In developing countries, no special precautions are taken in handling and recycling the waste to avoid the known adverse effects. Informal recyclers — often children and women — handle the goods manually, without protective clothing or appropriate equipment. Exposure to heavy metals, toxic gases and plastic additives affect human health. 

Exponential growth of ewaste 

Today, ewaste is one of the fastest growing waste streams. According to “Recycling — from EWaste to Resources”, a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme in February 2010, China’s ewaste from old computers will have jumped 200-400 per cent by 2020 from 2007 levels, and 500 per cent in India. Also, ewaste from discarded mobile phones in China will be about 7 times higher by 2020 than the 2007 level, and 18 times higher in India. 

In the United States in 2007, Americans owned almost 3 billion electronic products. The United States is one of the largest producers of ewaste in the world. In 2005, approximately 61 per cent or 107 500 tonnes of the cathode ray tubes, monitors and televisions collected for recycling were exported for “remanufacture and refurbishment”. But there is now a lack of basic data on shipments of electronics from the United States to other countries. In the United Kingdom, an average person is likely to consume three tonnes of electrical and electronic equipment in their lifetime. 

Paradoxically, it is the success of telecommunications and ICT that has spurred the increase in ewaste. New devices are needed, for example, because of the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television, the migration from second generation mobile communication networks to third generation (and soon fourth generation) networks, and — in the computing and information sub-sector — the demand for equipment with faster processing speed, larger memory and thinner (liquid crystal or thin film technology) display units. 

Commercial opportunity 

Modern electronic equipment may contain up to 60 different chemical elements, some of which are metals such as gold and copper. Despite legislative efforts in the developed countries to “mine” these valuable resources from ewaste, the majority of these resources are lost. Effective recycling to obtain these metals and other reusable materials would make them available for the manufacture of new products. 

Recycling can be commercially viable, as is shown by the example of an ewaste treatment facility established by Hewlett Packard in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2008, the facility processed approximately 60 tonnes of electronic equipment, generated about USD 14 000, and employed 19 people. Workers refurbished and resold some products, and dismantled others to sell the raw materials to businesses that recycle metals and plastics. They also made jewelry out of some of the processors and boards. 

Policy responses 

Privatization and liberalization of the ICT sector in many regions of the world has opened up new platforms for the delivery of services to citizens. This has been particularly evident in developing countries where, for example, mobile phones have been used innovatively to deliver educational, agricultural and financial services. 

Governments of developing countries have responded by adopting policies to increase access to ICT. For example, the Government of Kenya in its 2009/2010 budget reduced the cost of mobile phones and other ICT equipment and related components by eliminating sales tax and import duty. Over the same period, the Government of Mauritius offered corporate tax exemption (either 0 per cent in the first year and 15 per cent thereafter, or 5 per cent in perpetuity), no customs duty on ICT equipment, 50 per cent tax relief on personal income tax for foreign information technology specialists, and refunds of up to 75 per cent of training costs. ICT companies continue to seek tax incentives in Singapore, arguing that this would foster an environment conducive to the establishment of overseas markets. 

These well-meant efforts to expand markets eventually lead to increased ewaste downstream. Fiscal incentives to promote recycling would help to achieve a balance. 

At the international level, laxity in enforcement of regulatory requirements on movement of ewaste leads to the export of ewaste from one jurisdiction to another. The exporting jurisdiction does this in order to benefit from cheaper labour and lax standards in the recipient jurisdiction. 

An effective ewaste ecosystem must stand the scrutiny of environment, health and safety standards. This would involve detection and measurement of emissions into air, water and soil, as well as safety and protection for workers involved in this industry. 

Industry responses 

Nokia is involved in take-back schemes in the European Union, Australia, parts of Latin America and Asia. In 2006 around 500 Nokia Care Points in China started to collect used phones, with China Mobile offering prepaid cards as an incentive to recycle. The scheme collected over 80 tonnes of electrical materials and has now been extended to cover 11 Nokia suppliers in China. 

Samsung Electronics has developed voluntary take-back programmes for its products at the end of their working lives in North America, Europe and Asia. This responsibility includes ensuring that all collected products are recycled in the most efficient way to minimize the volume of unrecoverable materials and maximize the usable materials. 

To be recycled, ewaste must first be collected. The lack of a collection system is a significant factor leading to ewaste being stock-piled in homes, offices and repair shops. Another factor is consumer behaviour. A global consumer survey by Nokia in 2008 revealed that only 3 per cent of people participate in recycling, so the majority of old mobile phones are lying in drawers at home. This points to the need both to create awareness and to offer incentives. 

Civil society pressure 

Greenpeace assesses electronics companies in terms of their green credentials. In Version 17 of its “Guide to Greener Electronics”, Greenpeace demands that electronics companies: reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, through energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy; clean up their products by eliminating hazardous substances; take-back and recycle their products responsibly once they become obsolete; and stop the use of unsustainable materials in their products and packaging. 

Implementing the international standard 

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, which came into force in 1992, is the most comprehensive global environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes. But many developing countries have not successfully translated its provisions into their national legislation. 

At regional level, the Durban Declaration on ewaste management in Africa was the outcome of an ewaste workshop held during WasteCon 2008 in Durban, South Africa. Based on the experiences of Kenya, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda, it recognizes the need to escalate awareness among stakeholders about the environmental and health hazards associated with the recycling and disposal of ewaste. It also recognizes the need for every country in Africa to initiate its own internal process to define a road map to attain specific ewaste management objectives. While this Declaration does not qualify as a multilateral agreement, it could drive a regional dialogue towards the implementation of best practice in ewaste management. 

A study by the United Nations Environment Programme analysing policy and legislative mechanisms to assess barriers for sustainable ewaste management in eleven countries (South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Morocco, Senegal, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, India and China) showed that none of these countries — with the exception of China — has dedicated policy and legislative mechanisms to deal with ewaste. 

A role for ICT regulators? 

The regulator in charge of promoting the use of ICT could be a critical actor in articulating policies and strategies for dealing with concerns arising from the end-of-life period of ICT gadgets and devices. 

Because ewaste is within the scope of environmental protection and cross-border trade, as well as ICT, various government departments are involved. In many African countries — for example, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe — there are different ministries or government departments dealing with ICT and with the environment. It is essential for there to be good collaboration among the related agencies to ensure that ewaste has visibility on the political agenda, and that all actors work towards compliance with ewaste governance requirements. The lack of a focal custodian means that there is no one agency dedicated to ewaste, resulting in inertia, inordinate delays in formulating the much-needed regulatory frameworks, and lack of uniformity in enforcement. 

In many countries, there is no dedicated legislation dealing with ewaste. At best, the problem of ewaste management is covered in disparate laws on the environment, water, air, health and safety, municipal waste and hazardous waste. 

Government is ultimately responsible for enforcement through mandatory regulations that serve the purpose of controlling and monitoring, setting goals, and establishing enforcement rules. 

The knowledge and expertise of ICT regulators could play a key role in shaping and driving the dialogue on ewaste. The ICT regulator would also be able to ensure a responsible balance between the push for ICT access and the disposal of end-of-life ICT components and gadgets. 

As Peter Madden and Ilka Weißbrod, authors of “Connected — ICT and sustainable development”, said, “If we develop and apply ICT badly, it could add to the world’s problems. It could devour energy and accelerate climate change, worsen inequality for those who do not have access and increase pollution and resource use by encouraging ever more frenetic consumerism. If we apply ICT well, the rewards could be enormous. It could help to enhance creativity and innovation to solve our problems, build communities, give more people access to goods and services and use precious resources much more efficiently. We have the capacity — through our decisions on how we produce, buy, use and apply ICT — to secure enormous social and economic benefits.” 

In many developing countries, formal recognition of the informal activities that turn ewaste into resources would strengthen these activities and help to protect the workers involved. Along with environmental monitoring, and health and safety measures, there could be tax breaks and other business incentives. This would enable the ewaste management sector to fulfil its potential in creating jobs and alleviating poverty. 

Creating awareness about the harmful effects of ewaste will drive forward efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle ewaste. By acting now, we can turn an echallenge into an eopportunity. 

Modular Phones, E-Waste, and the Shift Towards Sustainable Electronics 

“Better and faster can happen sustainably … cheaper is going to be hard.” 

When Jonas Allen toured the floor at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, the industry’s annual new product rollout, he brought a slightly different perspective to bear on the cavalcade of booths, black boxes and consumer hype. While attendees at the Las Vegas Convention center took in the sensory overload, with televisions that can roll up like newspaper, the latest smart home devices, and product demos jostling for attention, Allen, director of marketing at the Green Electronics Council, was thinking about products with a slightly different point of view. While most were squarely focused on the moment, and the promise of future technology that had finally arrived, he was also thinking about the actual future of these products, which in many cases, could be landfills or the back of someone’s drawer. His organization, which has been around for a decade, has seen the consumer electronics industry adapt better sustainability practices—less toxic waste, more recycled plastic, and better packaging—but he feels there’s a lot more work to be done, especially in the environmental and social realms. 

“You have a kajillion gigabit processor to play Candy Crush, that’s a little bit of overkill, no?” he says. “Moore’s Law exists, but perhaps it should eventually become Moore’s Suggestion. I’m walking around CES, and there’s a lot of focus on 360-degree cameras and virtual reality, a lot on data collection, which means there more need for processing power. There are a lot of smart people out there coming up with great technology, but to what end? The conversation needs to start changing from what’s feasible to what’s meaningful, which is an important inflection point for the tech industry. There’s a bigger conversation, from people asking why and how, that comes from these questions of sustainability.” 

There’s no doubt we’re living in a world dominated by mobile gadgets, new electronics, ever-stronger (and smaller) computers, and a wealth of plastic. Smart phones sales increased to 352 million units worldwide in the third quarter of last year (more than one for every U.S. citizen), and 253 million televisions sold in 2014. Along with new computers and a forthcoming wave of smart home devices, billions of people worldwide will soon be updating their home and personal technology. And that, inevitably, means older models will find there way into a growing, and increasingly complicated, e-waste stream. According to the United Nations Global E-Waste Monitor, roughly 46 million tons of e-waste was generated worldwide in 2014. Only 7.1 tons were recycled or reused, slightly more than the 6.6 millions tons of screens that ended up in trash heaps that year. Those numbers are expected to rise by 4 to 5 percent annually for the foreseeable future, and the excitement over new technology at CES suggests as much. 

“In the last 10 years, recycling has gone up significantly,” says Dr. Ramesh Srinivasan, founder and CEO of Eco-Catalyst, a consulting company that helps electronics companies increase recycling and design more sustainable products. “But there’s a lot of room for growth and a lot of challenges. Recycling is expensive, and products often aren’t designed to make recycling easy. Product design should be improved to make disassembly easier. And, of course, manufacturers are always focused on selling new products” 

With emerging market growth and consumers constantly swapping cell phones for the newest model, this waste seem like an inevitable and unfortunate side effect of a high-tech society. But over the past few years, a group of entrepreneurs, designers and social enterprises have begun to build what they believe is a more sustainable alternative. A series of modular smartphones, which feature replaceable parts, greener supply chains, and longer lifespans, hope to pioneer a new generation of replaceable, fixable and longer-lasting gadgets, with technology that could eventually be used for everything from televisions to laptops. While these new or forthcoming products are far from making a dent in the industry’s dominant model, backers suggest they presage a serious shift in the way we interact with technology, one that we have to make. 

“If you become a player yourself, you can challenge the current industry,” says Bibi Bleekemolen, who heads impact development at Fairphone, a Dutch enterprise selling a modular smartphone with a transparent, more environmentally friendly supply chain. “We’re a social movement that wants to change the electronics industry, and now we can directly engage with the suppliers and work to make improvements.” 

Fairphone, which just started shipping the second version of its modular smartphone, grew out of the Waag Society, a digital media institution in Amsterdam that was campaigning against conflict minerals. Numerous social and environmental costs are associated with the raw materials and rare minerals utilized common to consumer electronics, from unfair labor practices in mines, pollution from degrading devices, and the energy used in producing circuit boards. Since the first great wave of consumer electronics came out in the 1950s and ’60s, the e-waste problem has evolved, and gotten more complicated. According to Anna Dengler, Director of Sustainability at Great Forest Inc., older equipment with vacuum tubes, toxic lead, and mercury, have been replaced by devices with plastics and rare earth metals. But these materials can still cause environmental damage, especially when the plastic cases of televisions, phones, or computers are melted to recover the valuable metal inside. 

After examining the issue three years ago, Fairphone decided that, instead of campaigning for industry players to change their ways, they could have more impact on the way metals are mined by developing their own phone. A dramatic Guardian headline from a 2013 essay summed up the challenge: “My search for a smartphone that is not soaked in blood.” Years later, they’ve established their own supply chain, as they’ve extensively documented on their site, starting at the Chinese factories run by Hi-P, a Singapore-based firm, that build the phone, and spiraling out to hundreds of suppliers. 

“A phone and an electronics device is something completely different than a fair trade banana,” says Bleekemolen. “A banana grows on a tree, and then four or five steps later, it’s on a supermarket shelf. A phone has hundreds of components, all with their own manufacturers and suppliers.” 

Bleekemolen admits the phone, which retails starting at €525 (slightly less than the cost of a new iPhone in Germany), can be used across Europe, and is comparable in performance to the iPhone, isn’t totally sustainable. Now that they’ve released the second version of their phone (they’ve sold 20,000 and shipped roughly a quarter to consumers), the company plans to focus on making the supply chain more fair. 

But the phone also contains another key design element that makes it much more earth friendly; modularity, the ability to swap out and replace parts. All of the main components can be individually repaired and fixed; the screen can be replaced with a new part, available over the internet for €85, and a simple screwdriver, in just a few minutes. While a greener, more transparent supply chain makes a difference, the phone’s biggest environmental impact may be preventing another phone from being made. 

Dr. Julie Sinistore works for thinkstep, a consulting firm that advises companies on how to create more sustainable products. She’s often tasked with life cycle assessment, or determining the total impact of a product from design, development and assembly to disposal. When she looks at the the real energy usage and carbon footprint created by a phone or television, the main impact stems from the way people use the device, and the power required during the manufacturing process. Semiconductors take a massive amount of energy to create. The most innovative thing that can be done about electronics manufacturing is often greening the grid of the plant that makes the device. Short of that, it’s changing the way people use their device. 

“Think about the refrigerator that’s going to communicate wirelessly and tell you when you’re out of milk,” she says. “How much energy is that going to take up when everyone is using it?” 

Fairphone is the first product to market with clearly modular architecture, but it won’t be the last. Phonebloks, a project by another Dutch designer, Dave Hakkens, helped popularize the concept back in 2013. Frustrated by his broken Canon camera—the industrial design student wanted to fix the broken motor, but couldn’t get the company to send him a replacement part and had to trash the entire thing—he decided to create a system of modular electronics so others in a similar state could actually fix the costly machine they had purchased. 

“When I launched the idea, I was looking at every product in general,” he says. “I started thinking about the way technology is headed. If we have a wifi fridge, and some microchip breaks, does that mean we need to throw it all away?” 

Hakkens decided a phone would be the best place to start, since technology is easier to scale up. After he launched a campaign to publicize the idea in 2013, it quickly gained traction. His idea, explained in a YouTube video quickly racked up more than one million views, extensive media attention, and the attention of tech companies such as Motorola and Google, which has started to work on its own modular phone project. 

Hakkens is quick to point out that he himself won’t be building a phone—he lacks the technical know-how. Google announced its intention to build its own version of a modular phone, part of an initiative called Project Ara. The company had initially set a deadline of 2015 to test prototypes, but has now pushed back the date to 2016. But Hakkens is still hopeful. 

“It’s a futuristic look at technology.” he says. “When I first came up with it, I could only hope that a big company would pick it up, since it challenges their ecosystem and the way they make money. Until Google launches, I think other companies are going to wait. Once it’s proven to be working, than others will get on board.” 

Other companies, of course, aren’t waiting. In Finland, a startup called Circular Devices just crowdfunded the PuzzlePhone, another crowdfunded modular phone promising customization and more sustainability. Built from three main parts—a Spine that contains speakers, basic structure and the LCD screen, a Heart consisting of the battery and secondary electronics, and the Brain, which contains the processor and camera—the device will begin shipping this fall. In an interesting twist, the project is also reusing engineering talent. Many of the Finnish designers working at the company’s base in Oulu, including Tapani Jokinen, the Vice President of Design, are ex-Nokia employees 

“Modularity opens up infinite possibilities to create something different, a great source of innovation and destruction,” says Jokinen. “It’ll really change how traditional phone manufacturers work.” 

Jokinen says that the idea of modular phones is far from new; he’s tried to create similar devices in the past, as have other companies. But only in the last few years have electronics advanced to the point where a device with the specs of PuzzlePhone would be anything but big and bulky. 

The PuzzlePhone’s makeup and service model, similar to the Fairphone and Phonebloks concept and comparable in performance to a current iPhone, will run on Android. The components, such as the screen, which supposedly boasts a 10-year lifespan, are built to last. But they’re also built to be swapped out, upgraded, and customized. Since it’s built on a Open Standard, the PuzzlePhone could potentially create an ecosystem for accessories similar to the App store. As Jokinen sees it, customers will want a more personal connection with a phone they’ll hopefully be holding onto for years. 

“The way people are connected with their products are changing a lot,” he says. “It’s not about the stories the brands or companies are telling about their products, it’s the stories the end users are telling.”  

As these modular startups gain ground, and companies like Google continue experimenting with the concept, the technology will only improve, and potentially expand to more and more product categories. Already, the recently announced Nascent Objects platform offers a customizable system of electronic modules that can be used to assemble a variety of consumer products (one of the first examples being showcased is the timely Droppler, a device that measures water usage). 

Others see more sustainable materials as a key, and complementary, part of this more sustainable manufacturing process. Dr. Janet Scott, a chemist who focuses on sustainable materials, is working on a research project called CLEVER (Closed Loop Emotionally Valuable E-waste Recovery) at the University of Bath in England. Her colleagues are developing an ecosystem for electronics, with a particular focus on consumer usage patterns and materiality. Scott believes shifting the way we produce the “skeleton” of the phone, from oil-based plastic to cellulose-based bioplastics, can make a huge dent in the environmental cost of mobile technology. With a new generation of bioplastics that can be dissolved via a simple enzyme, the difficulty and cost of recycling precious metals goes down significantly. 

“We’re going to see a lot more diversification of materials in the future,” says Scott. “There’s a lot happening in this area, and we’re going to see much more use of materials that are biodegradable and nature-derive. The big challenge, however, is, will it be adopted by a big industry player?” 

Any sustainable shift will also require a massive change in the way products are created. Pamela Gordon, a senior consultant at Antea Group, which advises companies about sustainability strategies, says that 80 percent of a product’s environmental impact is decided at the design stage. 

“It’s a mind shift from more stuff to more customer value, that’s the principle that we need to embrace, in all parts of the consumer electronics industry,” she says. “Instead of a knee-jerk reaction, making more things, we need to make consumer’s work and personal lives better. Ask ‘How can our company make our customer’s work lives better,’ not just the knee jerk reaction of new, different and more.” 

The companies behind these modular phone concepts see their entries into the market as a first step. Bleekemolen believes the supply chain set up for Fairphone 2 has made a positive impact, but there’s much more work to do. And while they’re still shipping phones, the favorable response so far has already got them thinking about expanding beyond Europe. She believes it’s a tangible platform, one that can set a model and improve the performance of the electronics industry. 

For Jokinen, the release of PuzzlePhone has already shown him change isn’t just a good idea, but a concrete reality. 

“We sold more than 350 million phones when I worked for Nokia,” he says. “Think about all the waste I’ve created. It’s crazy. If you think about the way we use our designers today, it’s a total waste of creativity. Every designer has to understand their responsibility. There’s another side to the coin, the afterlife of your product. When we start designing with that in mind, I get excited.” 

I turned electronic waste into robots

I was only 10 when I first watched the Pixar film Wall-E in 2008. I immediately liked the character — that small, ugly, square-shaped robot with a far bigger ecological conscience than any human being I know. I couldn’t stop thinking I was a bit like Wall-E because I, too, wanted to make my town less polluted. I also always liked the idea of recycling the electronics that people throw away, so I decided to try and use discarded items to make my very own Wall-E. 

It took me six years to do it, but I finally finished making my replica of the robot in 2014. As well as building it, I had to find a way to make it move, so I created some software to send it some basic commands, which I then installed on my mobile phone. I got all the materials I needed from the local waste dump because my family would never have been able to afford to buy them new. People throw all kinds of stuff there, from animal carcasses to food and electronics. 

I was born and raised in Patacamaya, one of the poorest communities in Bolivia. My mother never had the time to study because her family was very poor and she had to start working when she was young. My father was a construction worker until a couple of years ago, when chronic back pain forced him to quit his job. 

I owe my passion for electronics to my father. He used to make wooden toy cars for me and my brother when we were little, and I would always sit next to him. Gradually, I began practising on my own, at first making small objects from copper wires and then moving on to increasingly complex designs — a toy car with bulbs that light from left to right, like the Kitt car from the 1980s American TV series Knight Rider, or an LED cube which displays 3D images. 

When I was 11, I started selling my first creations on the street. Thanks to the money I made this way, my parents were able to buy schoolbooks for me and my younger brother, Hernan. He is more environmentally conscious than many adults I speak to. I like to think I can inspire him and help him understand that there is so much we can do. 

Most of us live in poverty, and there are still many young people who do not have access to secondary education or even basic sanitation. Very few of my neighbours understand the value of a clean environment. When I tell them that we should all make an effort to keep our fields and lands clean, they answer that they have no time to think about this. Having grown up here myself, I understand how poverty and a lack of infrastructure and education make it impossible for many to be concerned about recycling. I have been collecting e-waste at the local dump for several years now but I am sure I could achieve so much more in a richer place like Europe or the US. 

After I won first prize in my high school robotics competition with Wall-E last year, many reporters came to interview me and I became a bit of a celebrity in Bolivia. Then the Universidad Católica of La Paz offered me a scholarship for a five-year electromechanics course, which I began in January. My mother still cries when she tells people at home I am at university. 

When I started making Wall-E, most people around me would say, “You are only a teenager, you should learn a useful job to help your family.” They were partly right. But I know I can help my family far more effectively if I go on studying to become an engineer or robotics expert. I now hope to take postgraduate studies in a country with more sophisticated technological instruments. That would allow me to invent more and to invent better. 

Electronic Waste: A New Challenge For A New Millennium 

Walk into most households in the U.S. today, and you will find at least one television and a computer. Most businesses and other organizations now also use computers, and consider them essential to conduct business. But today’s latest and greatest television or computer will eventually break down or no longer serve its owner’s needs. It then becomes part of a fast-growing type of waste: electronic waste, or e-waste, as it is commonly referred to. 

Estimates of the numbers of televisions and computers considered obsolete, unwanted, or unusable every year vary widely, with some estimates as high as tens of millions. Regardless of the actual numbers, there is no doubt that they are enormous. And enormous numbers mean an enormous problem, if it is all just considered waste and handled as trash. But Jim Harford, DEQ Hazardous Waste Compliance Assistance Specialist, prefers to think in terms of opportunity, rather than waste. 

“Over 97 percent of computer contents can be reused or recycled,” he said. “This offers a great opportunity to significantly reduce the amount of e-waste that ends up as trash being sent to our landfills. It is important to think of these items as valuable and reusable, rather than junk.” 

Millions of computers, computer monitors, and televisions ending up in landfills is not only a waste of resources, Harford said, it could be a threat to the environment because e-waste contains hazardous materials. 

“A major culprit in the hazardous waste arena is the computer monitor and television cathode ray tube. The CRT, as it is commonly called, often contains from five to eight pounds of lead. In addition, computers may also contain lead, silver, cadmium, mercury, selenium, and chromium. These are items best kept out of our landfills.” 

Current waste management 

Computer and television waste is managed like any other solid waste. Under state and federal waste management regulations, hazardous waste produced by households is not regulated. Households disposing of computers, monitors, and televisions are allowed to put these items in the trash, for landfill disposal. DEQ discourages landfill disposal, but no federal or state laws presently prevent it. All other generators of electronic waste (businesses, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and other non-household generators) may be subject to hazardous waste rules due to the hazardous components found in the waste. DEQ encourages reuse and recycling of e-waste whenever possible and feasible. 

Finding ways to keep electronic waste out of landfills is a challenge now facing electronic equipment manufacturers, recycling and waste management organizations, elected officials, and environmental regulatory agencies such as DEQ. At present, many households have little choice but to put obsolete or broken electronic items in the trash. 

“We do recognize the problem,” Harford said. “We have been, and will continue to, examine options which would encourage full recycling of electronic equipment components in such a way as to reduce landfill disposal. We have based our policies and advice on current regulations, but we recognize that additional steps will need to be taken.”  

Dealing with e-waste 

Some of the efforts that are currently underway to deal with e-waste include: 

  • Computer equipment manufacturers that offer “take back” programs; 
  • The Keep Nebraska Beautiful Materials Exchange Program. This program encourages computer reuse and recycling. In a recent month, the program found new homes for nearly 50 computers, and found recycling outlets for over 30,000 pounds of computer equipment; 
  • Businesses that accept obsolete or unwanted electronic equipment for refurbishing and reuse, or recycling of components if the equipment is no longer useable; and 
  • Non-profit organizations that accept working computers and televisions for use or resale. 

The Future of E-Waste 

One thing is certain; electronic waste is with us to stay. And it’s likely to continue increasing in volume. “A serious challenge we are facing is that refurbishing and reuse of computers and televisions, while desirable and encouraged, just delays the ultimate disposal problem,” Harford said. “These items will eventually be unusable, and it will be important to have programs in place that divert this waste from landfills.” 

The key to avoid becoming buried under mountains of discarded computers, computer monitors, and televisions is the development of viable markets for recycling this type of waste, Harford said. The markets need to be broadly based so that people can get their electronic waste delivered to the market. What we are likely to see in the future of e-waste, he said, includes: 

  • An increase in the number of businesses that will refurbish and recycle electronic equipment. This will help keep more equipment in continued use, and out of landfills; 
  • Additional take back programs by electronic equipment manufacturers; and 
  • Greater use of alternative products, such as LCD panels and plasma screens for televisions and computers. These items contain little or no hazardous material. 


Worldwide Efforts To Combat Electronic Waste 


The ever-increasing amount of electronic waste being created by societies right across the globe is a growing and serious problem that means we are wasting the Earth’s natural resources and expending excessive amounts of energy in replacing discarded items that might have been recycled or repaired and re-used. This electronic waste, or e-waste, is also polluting the planet and causing health problems in places where the e-waste is dumped into landfill sites. 


However, the good news is that global efforts are being made to minimize this form of waste – not only by recycling, repairing and re-using, but also through efforts to change our wasteful linear economy into a circular economy that by its very design eliminates waste. So let’s take a look at what different countries are doing to tackle this problem. 



The European Union has taken a global lead in trying to tackle the problem of e-waste. Back in 2003, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, commonly known as the WEEE Regulations became Law. EU member countries are required to comply with this directive, which defines collection, recycling, and re-use targets for electronic items and electrical goods ranging from small items such as batteries, smartphones and tablets, through laptops, computers and printers, to large household appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators. 


Each EU country is required by law to reduce the amount of e-waste they produce but also reduce their e-waste exports, which means they cannot simply ship their e-waste off the developing countries such as China where there are no governing regulations. 


They must also recycle minimum quantities of e-waste based on their population size. 


South Africa 

In 2008, the e-Waste Association of South Africa (eWASA) was established to both manage e-waste and also work towards its significant reduction. eWASA ensures that everyone involved in creating electronic waste, from the manufacturers, distributors and retailers are all responsible for changing consumer habits and establishing a system that produces less waste from electronic items and electrical goods. 


Australia & New Zealand 

Australia was, in fact, the first country to recognize the growing problem and to start to tackle the e-waste issue. The nation has been working towards a reduction in e-waste since before the turn of the century. Then in 2002, the Australian and New Zealand Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) began to work in collaboration with the computer and television industry to establish the best mechanism for managing unwanted computers and televisions. 



In order to encourage re-use of perfectly serviceable computers and their components that are often discarded when a computer is upgraded, Canada imposed a fee on the purchase of new computer components, computers, and televisions. This law has been in place for over 10 years. Canada has also implemented the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations (EIHWHRMR). This directive prevents electronic devices that are not functioning and no longer intact from being exported so that organizations cannot simply shift the responsibility for the disposal of computers and the associated hazards to another, usually less well-developed country. 



There are still significant environmental and health problems in China because of a lack of regulation and the tendency for China to accept e-waste from other countries. In fact, it is estimated that a shocking 70% of the world’s e-waste ends up in landfill sites in China where the poor population are risking their health through exposure to materials such as lead and cadmium, by trying to retrieve valuable metals such as copper from old computers and other electrical equipment. 



Many other Asian countries such as Japan have strict regulations and require that 75% of their annual production of electronics are recycled.  


Recycling Phones and Tablets Could Help Save the Environment cleantechies.com 


People are certainly more into recycling now than they were 10 years ago, that’s for sure. However, the sad fact is that recycling still goes unnoticed by many individuals. 


There are three types of people: 


  1. Someone who doesn’t recycle because they don’t understand how it can benefit them.
  1. Someone who knows what recycling is, but feels that it’s something that won’t affect them in their life time.
  1. Someone who doesn’t know what recycling is, but is keen on the idea of being compensated for recycling. 


You also have those that know about recycling and understand the benefits, but we are looking to reach out to those that don’t know about recycling with this post. 


One of the biggest issues at the moment is the amount of cell phones that are coming in and out of the market. In the last few years, we have seen the rate of new phone launches increase dramatically, and with that, there are cell phones, which are being discarded. 


People will either store them in a drawer (not knowing what to do with them), or throw them in the trash (not caring, or not understanding). 


Each year the amount of phones ending up on landfill sites is increasing as well. This is bad because each phone contains components that are toxic to the environment around us, and these phones if disposed off at a landfill site will leak these chemicals into the ground, which will eventually lead straight back to us in one form or another through the air, soil or through water. 


A lot of us wont recycle just to do a good deed, and that’s why phone recycling sites have been setup in order to help push people into recycling. We have also seen comparison sites show up on the radar in the last 2-3 years, who go that extra step in providing the best prices to recycle your phone. 


It helps easily answer that question of where can I sell my cell phone and do my bit for the Earth. 


It doesn’t just stop there though, phones that have been recycled carry on their journey depending on the condition. 


These are the three steps phones can take: 


  1. If a phone is badly damaged beyond repair, the phone is usually sent to smelters who break the phone down and reclaim previous materials (did you know phones contain small amounts of gold?)
  1. If a phone is cosmetically damaged, sometimes these can be repaired and then sent out to third world countries.
  1. If a phone is like new then the phone can be pushed back into our society or sent to third world countries. 


Overall, there is a way of helping people understanding what we are doing to our environment, as well as helping them put cash in their pockets. Hopefully the recycling factor will continue to grow and we can give our children a greener tomorrow. 


Recycling Computer Waste: A Revolutionary Idea to Reduce Electronic Waste 


Time and again, we often come across words like Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Let’s face it, being a consumer, we deal with daily stuff which could be recycled and reused. The garbage which we throw into dustbin could contain various types of products which could be recycled and reused but we are not quite aware about which products could be recycled. Electronic waste is one such type of waste product which is hard to be recycled and reused. We all live in the world of technology where we use different gadgets every day. Not a single day passes where we don’t use one gadget or the other. Computers are one of such products. Computer recycling is one of the most challengeable things to do these days. However there are many companies which deal with secure computer recycling. 


The recycling companies can either dismantle the system in such a way that the constituent materials could be extracted and reused into different products. IT recycling Uk could even correct the faulty part and make it work by replacing the faulty part. Then they further donate it to the needy person.  The computer parts which could be recycled includes glass monitor, CD ROM drive, keyword, Cathode ray tube, plastic cases, cables, Printed circuit boards, Copper content in power cord, batteries and printer cartridges. 


Benefits of choosing Computer recycling 


There are so many benefits of performing secure computer recycling. It can help decrease the landfill space and creates less harmful components. People can even opt for buying recycled and reused computers at affordable price; this becomes lot easier for a needy to buy a computer. It also helps in leading to conversation of energy to plants and can also be a useful way to perform donation and charity. Recycling the computers not only helps in making new computers but also gives a good chance to people for using different ideas into recycling and helps in keeping our earth neat and clean. Many companies supply recycled computers to schools and correctional facilities which can even help the under privileged child’s and help you develop your career. 


Process involved in recycling of computers 


If you give your home or office PC to a computer recycling Liverpool, then in the first step, hardware is disassembled in proper ways. Different components are firstly sorted out and stored under temporary bins as well. The companies also ensure that data inside computer or PC should be firstly deleted so that the data is kept at a safe location. As the hardware is disassembled and the plastic components are stored inside a conveyer, it is transported for grinding. After the process of grinding, finished product is kept at safe locations with good storage containers. 


It is an easy process to recycle and reuse computer components properly. As it is written in this article, it is important to recycle computer products so as to keep our earth neat and clean from any type of garbage. 


Environmental issues and management strategies for waste electronic and electrical equipment  

One of the great technological advancements of the 20th century has been the worldwide development of information access and communications through electronic technology. With the introduction of new technologies inevitably comes the issue of the management of discarded hardware. The growth of waste and recyclable material from the electronics and electricity age has been remarkable. The contemporary electronics and electrical waste (e-waste) management scope includes televisions, personal computers, printers, computer mice, keyboards, and cell phones. 

By the mid-2000s, the tonnage of e-waste in the United States had reached approximately 2 million t. of which approximately l.S million t were incinerated or moved to landfills. The remainder was recycled. Al¬though this total represents only approximately 1% of the total solid waste stream in the United States, it nevertheless is an important component of potentially hazardous waste material entering the environment. Constituents of concern range from metals (e.g., lead and cadmium) to organic* (including polychlorinated biphenyls and brominated flame retardants). As a result of concerns about e-waste, more than 800 cities and jurisdictions provide some type of electronics recycling and reuse services in the United States. 

The rising concern and interest in the state of the art of reuse, recycling, and disposal of e-wastes moti¬vated Dr. Timothy Townsend’s preparation of the 41st annual Critical Review.1 In this narrative. Dr. Townsend notes that electronic equipment generally has a relatively short life before becoming outdated with the rapid evolution of technology. Thus, his re¬view covers the range of challenges posed by the logis¬tical, environmental, and societal challenges of manag¬ing discarded equipment that has reached its end of life. 

The review covers the technologies for secondary use of older equipment, the approaches to recycling valuable metals and plastics from equipment before disposal, and the ultimate disposal of remaining mate¬rial through landfills and incineration. The review also discusses the hazards to human and ecosystem health associated with disposal processes. 

The review is a must-read to be informed about this portion of solid waste management because e-wastes are complex in character and will continue to expand in weight and complexity with the rapid evolution of tech¬nologies taking place worldwide. 

The author of the 41st annual A&WMA Critical Review is Timothy G. Townsend, Ph.D., P.E., a professor of environmental engineering in the Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL. His research interests in¬clude landfill design and operation, bioreador landfill technology, construction and demolition debris man¬agement, discarded electronic devices, treated wood disposal, leaching characterization of solid wastes, and special waste management. He is a licensed professional engineer in Florida. 

A&WMA members and guests are invited to read, attend, and comment on the 41st annual Critical Re¬view at ASWMA’s 104th Annual Conference & Exhibi¬tion to be held in Orlando. FL, the week of June 20. 2011. The presentation of the review and the discus¬sants’ commentary is planned for Wednesday morning |une 22, 2011 from 8:00 to 11:30 a.m. EDT. The invited discussants include Walter Alcorn (Vice President, En¬vironmental Affairs and Industry Sustainability. Con¬sumer Electronics Association). Douglas Smith (Direc¬tor, Corporate Environment, Safety and Health, Sony Electronics, Inc.), Raoul Clarke (Florida Department of Environmental Protection), and Valerie Thomas (School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology). 

The discussants will provide different perspectives of e-waste issues and management and will agree (or disagree) with the narrative and conclusions of the review author and of one another. They will identify additional issues and offer alternative commentary. Comments also will be solicited from the floor and from written submissions to the Critical Review Committee Chair. The Chair will condense and summarize these points in the October issue of the loumal of the Air & Waste Management Association. Members are encour¬aged to suggest topics and authors for future Critical Reviews and apply for membership on the Critical Re¬view Committee to participate actively in the process.  

Where does e-waste end up? greenpeace.org 

Many old electronic goods gather dust in storage waiting to be reused, recycled or thrown away. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that as much as three quarters of the computers sold in the US are stockpiled in garages and closets. When thrown away, they end up in landfills or incinerators or, more recently, are exported to Asia. 


According to the US EPA, more than 4.6 million tonnes of e-waste ended up in US landfills in 2000. Toxic chemicals in electronics products can leach into the land over time or are released into the atmosphere, impacting nearby communities and the environment. In many European countries, regulations have been introduced to prevent electronic waste being dumped in landfills due to its hazardous content. However, the practice still continues in many countries. In Hong Kong for example, it is estimated that 10-20 percent of discarded computers go to landfill. 


This releases heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury into the air and ashes. Mercury released into the atmosphere can bio accumulate in the foodchain, particularly in fish – the major route of exposure for the general public. If the products contain PVC plastic, highly toxic dioxins and furans are also released. Brominated flame retardants generate brominated dioxins and furans when e-waste is burned. 


A good way to increase a product’s lifespan. Many old products are exported to developing countries. Although the benefits of reusing electronics in this way are clear, the practice is causing serious problems because the old products are dumped after a short period of use in areas that are unlikely to have hazardous waste facilities. 


Although recycling can be a good way to reuse the raw materials in a product, the hazardous chemicals in e-waste mean that electronics can harm workers in the recycling yards, as well as their neighbouring communities and environment. 

In developed countries, electronics recycling takes place in purpose-built recycling plants under controlled conditions. In many EU states for example, plastics from e-waste are not recycled to avoid brominated furans and dioxins being released into the atmosphere. In developing countries however, there are no such controls. Recycling is done by hand in scrap yards, often by children. 


E-waste is routinely exported by developed countries to developing ones, often in violation of the international law. Inspections of 18 European seaports in 2005 found as much as 47 percent of waste destined for export, including e-waste, was illegal. In the UK alone, at least 23,000 metric tonnes of undeclared or ‘grey’ market electronic waste was illegally shipped in 2003 to the Far East, India, Africa and China. In the US, it is estimated that 50-80 percent of the waste collected for recycling is being exported in this way. This practice is legal because the US has not ratified the Basel Convention. 

Mainland China tried to prevent this trade by banning the import of e-waste in 2000. However, we have discovered that the laws are not working; e-waste is still arriving in Guiya of Guangdong Province, the main centre of e-waste scrapping in China. 

We have also found a growing e-waste trade problem in India. 25,000 workers are employed at scrap yards in Delhi alone, where 10-20000 tonnes of e-waste is handled each year, 25 percent of this being computers. Other e-waste scrap yards have been found in Meerut, Ferozabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai. 

How did the trade evolve? 

In the 1990s, governments in the EU, Japan and some US states set up e-waste ‘recycling’ systems. But many countries did not have the capacity to deal with the sheer quantity of e-waste they generated or with its hazardous nature. 

Therefore, they began exporting the problem to developing countries where laws to protect workers and the environment are inadequate or not enforced. It is also cheaper to ‘recycle’ waste in developing countries; the cost of glass-to-glass recycling of computer monitors in the US is ten times more than in China. 

Demand in Asia for electronic waste began to grow when scrap yards found they could extract valuable substances such as copper, iron, silicon, nickel and gold, during the recycling process. A mobile phone, for example, is 19 percent copper and eight percent iron. 

Electronic waste. Don’t let’s waste waste

TO ADDRESS the problems caused by electronic waste, American businesses, government, and individuals must work together to manage these electronics throughout the product lifecycle—from design and manufacturing through their use and eventual recycling, recovery, and disposal.” 

Few would question the bona fide green intent of the above statement. After all, while Babbage wrote last month that unwanted electronics have become Europe’s fastest-growing waste problem, across the Atlantic the challenge is even starker. In America, scattershot state-level policies have failed to converge on any coherent action, and precious little information exists on exactly where the country’s discarded gadgets are going. 

Still, the expressed sentiment would probably carry little weight were these not the words of President Barack Obama, announcing last  November the creation of a new inter-agency e-waste task force. Mr Obama has a track record in policies for the safe disposal of hazardous materials, having sponsored a successful cross-party bill to ban American mercury exports as a Senator in 2008. 

Acknowledging the scale of the e-waste challenge, the United States has turned to Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP), an initiative run by the United Nations University (UNU), which provides a forum for scientific solutions to international policy problems. Last month the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a founding member of the initiative, announced a new $2.5m grant to help finance the creation of the first-ever comprehensive inventory of the country’s e-waste output. Under leadership of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Center for Electronics Recycling, the project will directly co-operate with electronics manufacturers who, though generally happy to tally units sold, are often less rigorous in reporting those returned for recycling. 

Meanwhile experts will receive more money for their efforts to track international shipments of e-waste. Though the familiar media trope is of obsolete hi-tech junk shipped off for dangerous backyard recycling, in reality many of these products are refurbished on arrival and receive a second lease of life in developing-world households. This is in principle beneficial, as otherwise unaffordable TVs and computers can help close the digital divide in the harbour cities of West Africa and South Asia. The problem is distinguishing between the two trades. 

Speaking at the UNU initiative’s base in Bonn, StEP’s co-founder Ruediger Kuehr said: 

There is a hunger, not just for the materials, but for re-use. But there are definitely also unscrupulous brokers about who are only interested in shipping this equipment to get, for very little money, as much as possible out of this equipment by primitively recycling precious metals.” 

Establishing the true nature of old electronics shipments, as well as the quantities involved, is an enormous logistical task. It requires the co-operation of authorities in the destination cities, which is sometimes hard to come by. And StEP is also charged with assessing the facilities available at destination for safe disposal of such equipment once it reaches end of life. “Without this infrastructure in place, we have to question our approach, even for good reasons, in shipping this kind of equipment,” says Mr Kuehr. 

But it is not clear these are the “problems” to which Mr Obama refers. No American wants an electronic dumping ground in their backyard, but how to explain the EPA’s interest in far-flung shipments? While it is commendable to want to protect labourers in poor countries from toxic chemicals and nefarious brokers, these untold shipments raise the economic problem of resource depletion. 

When e-waste is exported to the developing world it is estimated that only 25% of gold contained in mobile phones, for instance, is reclaimed, compared with all of it using the most advanced recycling technologies available in the rich world. Last week’s crash notwithstanding, the steady rise in commodity prices means manufacturers have a vested interest in keeping supplies high, or even holding onto essential precious metals. Several of StEP’s manufacturer partners are known to be assessing the viability of equipment-lease and deposit schemes, in an attempt to encourage consumers to return electronics directly to them at the end of their lifecycles. 

And with booms in a host of battery-powered devices on the horizon—not least electric cars, which are anticipated to place an enormous strain on resources and, ultimately, recycling facilities—both the competition for commodities and the need for better infrastructure is expected only to grow in the coming years. 

Though collecting and recycling does not currently make economic sense for many materials, it is a shrewd long-term move to begin taking stock. 

Cleaning Up Electronic Waste (E-Waste) 

EPA efforts support the United States government’s National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, which details the federal government’s plan to enhance the management of electronics throughout the product lifecycle. 

EPA collaborates with the United Nations University – Solving the E-waste Problem Initiative (StEP) Exit to jointly address the e-waste problem in developing countries. EPA and StEP signed a cooperative agreement on this topic in November 2010. EPA and StEP are working collaboratively on tracking global flows of e-waste, strengthening Ethiopia’s efforts to manage e-waste. EPA is a founding member of StEP and serves on the StEP Steering Committee. 

EPA also works bilaterally with governments and environmental officials around the world on e-waste management.  EPA and China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection initiated cooperation on this issue in 2010.  In addition, EPA and Environmental Protection Administration Taiwan (EPAT) coordinate the International E-Waste Management Network (IEMN), which has brought together environmental officials from Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and North America to exchange best practices on e-waste management since 2011.   

Problem of electronic waste 

The major problem of electronic waste has been a matter of concern among experts since the early Nineties. Many countries have undertaken studies into encouraging the recycling and environmentally-compatible disposal of this waste stream. The definition of electronic waste (WEEE), has yet to be standardized. 

Electronic waste has been taken now as a mean of all risings as waste of electronic equipment and parts which includes, electronic entertainment equipment, office, information and communications, cash processing equipment, electric tools, measuring and control instruments, household appliances, lighting, toys, clocks and watches, laboratory and medical equipment, visual recording and receiving equipment, etc., containing electrical or electronic components. 

Electronic waste is a diminutive percentage (less than 1%) of the waste generated in the member States of the EU. It contains a multitude of components including many hazardous substances such as lead, cadmium or PCBs however, represent a problem, in recycling or disposing. The quantity of electronic waste is rising with the increasing number of items of equipment being used in households, offices and in general in the industrialized world. Over the next 10 years the UK Federal Environmental Office for example forecasts an annual 4-10% increase the Commission assumes 2-5% growth for the Member States of the EU. 

Until Nineties the usual way of disposing of electronic waste was simply to separate the ferrous metal it contained. The rest, which was not so easy to deal with, would end upon the waste dump or in the incinerator. Since then a small scale industry has grown up in Germany specializing in electronic waste, comprising about 300 firms. Their methods produce much higher recovery rates, but are expensive. Large scale industrial scrap firms have now also seen the potential in electronic waste. Unlike the small firms they do not always use their complicated recycling techniques but prefer conventional, environmentally unfriendly but more beneficial methods. As they work closely with the local authorities who are responsible for disposal, they have first choice of equipment dumped in household rubbish and bulky waste collections. They offer especially low-price disposal of commercial electronic waste. The environment bears the final cost, as about 70% of the residue after they have finished with it is ruined special waste which, moreover, is not always properly disposed of. In many countries the public is still ignorant of the problems caused by such waste. 

These are the problems to be dealt with by waste legislation. Bills in UK, Germany the Netherlands, the USA, Japan and elsewhere have not yet reached the statute book. The Commission now has electronic waste legislation on its agenda for 1998. 

What is WEEE? 

WEEE means Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment also known as Directive, which mandates the treatment, recycling and recovering of electronic and electrical equipment. 

How WEEE arises and how it is dealt with? 

Electrical and electronic equipment is complex and many substances with environmental 

Implications are used in its manufacture. In UK households alone there are at present some 900 million pieces of electrical and electronic equipment including about 40 million colour television sets. About 1.5 m tonnes of electronic waste arise every year in UK .Between 7 and 10 m tonnes arise in Europe as a whole; the cost of disposing of it has been estimate that 5 bn EC for the year 2000. However, in the 15 Member States electronic waste accounts for less than 1% of the estimated total waste of 1.6 bn tonnes per year. 

Issues related to WEEE: 

The WEEE Directives plan to bind the amount wastage going to final disposal and provide an explanation for producers to design more eco-friendly.Theywere transposed into national law by Aug2004. Under the regulation of WEEE, what are the main issues you need to consider as a business? And how legislation can be turned over on another raft into an opportunity for your company? 

The important points on current legislation are: 

Setting up the systems: For many obligated companies, it is difficult to calculate and report the amount of WEEE you place on the market. At first glance both units and weights on reporting sales should be reasonably straightforward, but these reported figures have separate sales to consumers and sales to businesses but it is not an easy task. Determining the EEE category of products and calculating weight could turn into a massive task for businesses with numerous products and experts already have market information on outsourcing the function and established systems often make economical sense. 

Producer responsibility: Producers involve in cost collection, disposal and recovery from the collection facilities -for the new products arising from waste. Producers have the choice to manage the waste on individual basis or either in the participation of collective schemes. 

Collection and Recovery of Waste Equipment: The collection introduces member states to take the collection facilities and systems back for all of the electronic and electrical equipment. The equipment must not end up with the waste of unsorted municipal and it must be collected individually. The required collection rate of 5kg per resident a year by the end of 2007 at the latest must be achieved. 

Labelling of equipment: The WEEE Directive provides progressive companies to distinguish themselves from their competition. Handling the practical collection of products in an unprofessional way could have a negative impact on business image. In opposition, getting this activity right can pay huge dividends to a business reputation. Producers of WEEE equipments are necessary to label their products visibly to allow identification easily and to inform customers that all waste equipment is collected separately. 

Product design: In the production stage the dismantling and recovery of WEEE directive provides should be facilitate. In the Technical design features the reused equipment are to be avoided. Like any supply chain, the complete solution where WEEE is concerned, is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. If you have appointed a WEEE partner on the basis of cost alone and not service levels and experience, you could live to regret that decision. The decision to appoint a WEEE partner is far from simple, it’s always important to remember you are handing over part of your brand equity – so choosing someone with a strong brand of their own to defend and a strong track record of customer service is a good first step in the selection process. 

Minimising transport costs: There has been little mention in many articles so far of the cost of implementing WEEE from a logistics perspective. As much of 60% of WEEE costs, studies conducted so far indicate, will come from the physical movement of the goods. Businesses need to think about the selection of a WEEE partner that understands the often misunderstood skill of ‘reverse logistics’, which seeks to utilise supply chain efficiencies to transport returned products. In most instances, the ability to offer timely and cost-effective reverse logistics solutions is based on the density of the logistics provider’s network and it’s ability to gain the maximum efficiencies from its fleet. The bigger and more diverse the fleet, the higher will be the likelihood of reduced WEEE transport costs. 

Getting value from waste products: There is a rising market for the re-use and recycling of electronic and electrical products. This emerging market cannot only decrease WEEE costs but also generates the revenue at some instances when being able to ‘plug into’. Establishing links with a WEEE compliance scheme that has strong relationships right the way through the waste supply chain is another key decision that could transform the way your business deals wit its environmental obligation. This waste will be treated all the way through finance collection; they can be adjusted with the costs of “visible fee” sales tax on new products for 8years and 10yrs for larger products. 

Hazardous substances limit values: Four metals which are heavy (cadmium, hexavalent chromium, mercury and lead) and flame retardants PBDE and PBB are banned from 1st of July 2006. The commission which has taken the decision to tolerate the minimum concentration values was deemed inapplicable in August 2005. 

Clearly there is a lot more to the WEEE Directive than simply registering your business with an approved compliance scheme and hoping it all goes well on the night. There are significant issues relating to brand protection, cost and compliance that deserve careful consideration. 

UK and EU laws relating to Waste recycling plans waste disposal plans of waste regulation authorities based on Environment protection Act(1990) 

Businesses that have not started to build relationships with WEEE partners need to put this issue to the top of their agendas. The main regulation is done by setting up of reporting systems and developing take-back the disposal of waste collected. 

Waste recycling plans by collection authorities: 

  • It is the function of every waste collection authority, as respects to domestic and industrial waste arising in its area– 
  • The enquiry decides a view on arrangements and appropriate dealing with waste by separating, baling or packing it for recycling process. 
  • To build a decision on arrangements with the opinion of authority for required purpose; 
  • To set up the arrangements made and proposed by the authority and other persons dealing with waste. 
  • Time to time further investigations need to be carried out with a view to deciding changes in the plan are needed and maintains required modifications for future investigation. 
  • In sight of any modifications the purposes of subsection above authority have regard to the effect arrangements that would be likely to have on the services of any region and the likely cost or saving of the authority. 
  • The plan content or modification shall be the duty of authority when waste collection authority has determined; 
  • Dispatch the waste of disposal authority and the regulation of waste authority includes its area a replica plan or the required particulars for modification. 
  • The waste collection authority directions may be provided by the secretary of state with the time and to fulfil with the direction as it shall be the authority duty. 


Each waste regulation authority duties include- 

  • Carry out an investigation with a view on deciding the purpose of treating the arrangements needed or disposing the waste which is located in its spot and the unnatural waste which is likely situated to decrease the pollution of environment. 
  • Deciding its purpose and functions on how it should discharge in relative to licences. 
  • Sorting the plan of arrangements made and waste disposal contractors to be proposed for the waste treatment or for the disposal of waste. 
  • Considering the thinking of authority modifications plans in the outcome of further investigation. 
  • Regarding to the effect which the arrangement likely to have on the forces of any region cost or saving of the authority. 


The duties of the plan authorities included plan information as – 

  • The methods and the respective priorities in the opinion of the policy of the authority respects the discharge of relative function licences and any related guidance issued by the Secretary of State; 
  • The approximation methods of dumping the cost or prescribing the regulations where practicably reasonable, of giving precedence to recycling waste. 


It is the duty of authority without prejudice under subsection, in preparing the plans and any modification to consider the discussion with the waste of collection authorities in its own areas like – 

  • What arrangements can be expected practically for the recycling waste? and 
  • What necessities should be included in the plan for recycling purpose? 
  • The content of modification or the plan can be determined finally by the authority in a case falling within its subsection. 
  • It is the duty of authority, before shaping the content of modification or the plan, to convey a duplicate to the Secretary of State in the form of draft for the reason of enabling him to determine the Secretary of State may give any directions to the authority for securing the fulfilment with that section, which comply with the direction. 


Pros and Cons of EC Directive on WEEE 


According to the European waste strategy, if the waste production is unavoidable, as in the case of the EEE, the choice between recycling/re-use or incineration with adequate emission standards should be based on the evaluation of their respective environmental impacts. 

With a combined approach of material flow analysis and life cycle assessment (LCA), Swiss researchers calculated the environmental impacts of the full recycling chain – sorting, dismantling, recycling and disposal or further transformation of the fractions into secondary raw materials – for the annual WEEE derived from two main Swiss recycling systems. The study included the assessment of the environmental impact of each WEEE fraction (e.g. batteries, capacitors, screens, plastics, metals, cables) during a complete WEEE treatment. The results were compared to a scenario assuming no recycling with incineration and energy recovery of all WEEE and primary production of raw materials. 

The resulting environmental impacts were much smaller for the complete WEEE recycling treatment compared to the respective no-recycling and incineration treatment. Even the toxicity caused by recycling resulted of minor importance compared to the incineration scenario. This is due to the combustion of the organic parts and the resulting air emissions. 

This study concluded that recycling is more ecologically advantageous over incineration. 

It should be noted that the reliability of the results of this study have not been assessed as the study has not been peer-reviewed, as it could be expected within the institutional standards related to LCA comparative studies. Furthermore, this study was focused on a specific Swiss situation. 

Nevertheless, the authors argue that in order to encourage ecologically sustainable management of WEEE in Europe the goal of 4kg recycled WEEE per inhabitant should be revised. They suggest that the rate of 11kg per inhabitant obtained in Switzerland proves that higher. 


Command & Control approaches under the WEEE directive 

At first, each member state’s freedom to interpret conceptual rules set under a policy framework like the WEEE directive might look appealing. The difficulty in finding a detailed, politically achievable EU compromise corroborates this notion. Experience with different implementation approaches also creates the opportunity to learn from best practice in different countries. 

However, this also comes with a few disadvantages. The vague definition of system design rules under the WEEE directive can not only endanger a level playing field in the European Union but also creates considerable uncertainty among original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) which are facing new take-back responsibilities. As a result, a relative boost of the manpower to ensure legislation conformity in OEM companies creates substantial cost burdens. Furthermore, some additional drawbacks are existent. Most national implementation approaches chosen under the WEEE directive 

  • Fail to create a design feedback loop to the manufacturer. 
  • Do not account for eco-efficiency in recycling 
  • Set disincentives for OEMs to foster the 
  • Collection of WEEE via consumer information – although hardly articulated by any of the stakeholders. 
  • Lead to cross-subsidizing between product categories dependant on consumers’ behaviour. 
  • Entail inefficient organizational structures that are far from being simple and clear. 
  • Do not allow for decentralized decision-making. 


The first two aspects are widely known and described in literature. The disincentives for OEMs with respect to consumer information result from the measurement of their recycling duties which are mostly based on their relative share of returned WEEE. The less WEEE that is collected or introduced in the (national) recycling system, the less is their resulting monetary obligation. Such an structure is especially worth noting against the background of occurring WEEE exports in industrialized countries, where electronic 

Scrap ends up in third world countries. This allocation and measurement approach also entails a cross-subsidizing between product categories dependant on consumer behaviour. Some devices are more likely not to be found in separate collection boxes but in export streams to less developed countries or in municipal solid waste boxes. The result is a considerable distortion of monetary obligations for OEMs. 

However, assuming an industrial ecology perspective, an alignment of recycling duties with the virgin or new material consumption of OEMs would be more appropriate. 

The last two aspects, namely inefficient organizational structures and the lack of freedom for decentralized decision making can shortly be illustrated an example with the planning status of the German system. The central public authority (“Stiftung Elektro-Altgeräte Register”) acts as a clearing house, collects sales data from OEMs, and calculates their market share in each category. This mismatch gives rise to the collection of different product categories in the same box. German authorities plan to continuously analyze statistical samples with respect to the waste composition of collection boxes. The system organization requires such analyses in order to be able to calculate appropriate market shares for the determination of recycling obligations. This entails continuous expenditures toensure that the calculation basis is valid over time. 

Costs caused by these monitoring efforts are, however, dwarfed by the system costs arising due to (under the policy necessary) inefficient allocation mechanisms of take-back obligations. The assignment of take-back orders for WEEE containers filled at municipal collection sites is planned to be made according to a random-based allocation mechanism. 

This is deemed necessary in order to avoid “cherry-picking” .Such a system obstinately ignores the benefits of regional partnerships. Instead of relying on cooperation with a restricted number of recycling and logistic partners, OEMs has to organize take-back all over the country. This gives rise to considerable additional efforts for communication, price negotiation and coordination of logistics, and destroys economies of scope and scale. 

Centralized systems with coordinating authorities 

Most small countries use a mechanism where a centralized authority coordinates take-back, logistics, and recycling. Recyclers are contracted by regulatory authorities and orders are centrally assigned which allows for regional partnerships and well-established teams to perform the necessary tasks. OEMs are not involved in planning tasks and are only indirectly financially responsible for the WEEE transport and treatment. This results in considerable savings in both organizational efforts and management costs for OEMs. An implementation example is Norway where three industry entities (ElRetur, Rena’s, and Batteriretur) share the organization of take-back for all sorts of electronic devices. 

From an organizational point of view, these systems are superior to the more competition-oriented German system where a reasonable allocation mechanism of take-back orders hasn’t been achieved. For example, German recyclers currently accept prices around 220 €/ton (including logistics) for the treatment of TVs and monitors; there sportive prices in the adjacent Swiss system are about twice as high1.A comparison of current WEEE recycling regulation approaches seems to reveal a trade-off between organizational inefficiencies and cost inefficiencies due to a lack of competition. However, a different system design might be able to set advantageous incentives and combine the favourable characteristics of both approaches are possible. 

What is RoHS? 

RoHS means Restriction of Hazardous Substances. It is also known as Directive which is originated in the Union of Europe and restricts the hazardous materials specific use which founds in electronic and electrical products. 

What are the restricted materials under RoHS? 

How products are tested on RoHS? 

Portable RoHS analyzers also called as XRF metal analyzers or X-ray fluorescence that are used to verify and monitor the RoHS compliance. Previous Products are also accessible to check the amount of dangerous Substances. 

Companies affected by RoHS Directive 

The industry which sells the products (related to electronics) or the components directly to EU countries or resellers, distributors who consecutively sell goods to EU countries, is dependent if they make use of any of the restricted materials. 

How Does WEEE link to RoHS? 

European Directive aims to control the usage of certain harmful substances in the creation of new electrical and electronic equipment. It associates the directive to WEEE Directive and controls the disposal and recycle of EEE. RoHS restricts the use of mercury, lead, hexavalent chromium, cadmium and a range of flame retardants notably poly brominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers. There are a number of exemptions for the use of the hazardous substances for specific technical uses where alternatives do not presently exist. There are also permissible maximum concentration values which allow for any trace presence. 

The following requirements upon RoHS system producers: 

  • Manufactured goods on the market should not contain the harmful substances in maximum concentration values 
  • Before placing them in the market the new products are required to prepare documentation to show that their acquiescent. 
  • The documentation requested will be provided by the RoHS Enforcement Authority within 28 days. 
  • The documentation must continued to maintain for 4years and after the manufacturer stops placing the product on the market 


Opinion on the way forward to EC directive on WEEE 

  • The Advisory Body of WEEE advices all the interested stakeholders of WEEE to take part in a consultation of a planned report on the responsibility of Individual Producer. 
  • IPR give producers the responsibility and help to provide the economic incentive to get used to their products design to the fundamentals of sound waste management. 
  • The aim of the consultation aim is to provide the Department for Innovation, Business and Skills. 
  • The report will be set out on how the IPR may be “practically and realistically” implemented in the UK. 
  • WEEE producers compliance scheme ERP general as “In the existing WEEE system a producer pays for the costs of recycling products that may or may not include their own. 
  • IPR is a way in which producers who invests in robustness and recyclables at the design stage are rewarded at the end of the product’s life by getting back something they produced in the first place. 
  • Changing a system may be difficult, but if the costs add up and it makes polluters more directly responsible for their pollution, then the change is worth it.” 


Electronic Waste Environmental Effects 

Studies have consistently shown that electronic waste from devices like mobile phones, PDA’s and digital cameras contains toxins that are damaging to our environment. That is why recycling charity donations are so important. When you donate your cell phone, you are helping to keep toxic elements out of landfills. Consider the harm you are averting when you donate cell phones to charity: 


  • Used primarily in soldering of circuit boards and other device components 
  • Extremely harmful to the human body; damages both the central and peripheral nervous systems; can cause seizures, retardation, high blood pressure, damage to the kidneys and liver;  adversely affects child development 


  • Forms significant portions of electrical connectors and battery contacts. 
  • Long term exposure can be carcinogenic, especially for the lungs. Extreme exposure can lead to a potentially fatal condition known as Acute Beryllium Disease 


  • Used in some integrated circuits  and semiconductors 
  • Arsenic is a notoriously potent poison; causes severe damage to the digestive tract 


  • Can be found to a degree in batteries and circuit boards 
  • Attacks the central nervous and endocrine systems; harmful to mouth, teeth and gums; poses risk in the neurological development of unborn fetuses 


  • Used in production of diodes and batteries. Pure form used in semiconductor production 
  • Toxic to humans in ways similar to arsenic; fatal in large doses 


  • Used in soldering, semiconductors and chip resistors 
  • Potentially carcinogenic; Repeated exposure can damage the lungs, kidneys and liver 


The potential dangers are obvious. Recycling for Charities is committed to preventing such hazards from contaminating the environment. Through our fundraising recycling programs and the help you provide when you donate your old wireless phones, PDA’s, Palm Pilots and digital cameras, we can combat this problem and preserve our environment for future generations. 


E-waste pollution’ threat to human health 


In addition to its damaging effect on the environment and its illegal smuggling into developing countries, researchers have now linked e-waste to adverse effects on human health, such as inflammation and oxidative stress – precursors to cardiovascular disease, DNA damage and possibly cancer. 


In a study published today, Tuesday 31 May, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, researchers took air samples from one of the largest e-waste dismantling areas in China and examined their effects on human lung epithelial cells. 


E-waste, or electronic waste, describes end-of-life electrical goods such as computers, televisions, printers, and mobile phones. Each year between 20–50 million tons of e-waste is generated worldwide, 100,000 tons of which is exported from UK shores, according to a recent BBC Panorama programme. A large proportion of worldwide e-waste is exported to China. 


Due to the crude recycling process, many pollutants, such as persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals, are released from e-waste, which can easily accumulate in the human body through the inhalation of contaminated air. 


After exposing the cultured lung cells to the organic-soluble and water-soluble constituents of the samples, the researchers tested for the level of Interleukin-8 (IL-8), a key mediator of inflammatory response, and Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), chemically reactive molecules that can cause extensive damage in excess. 


The samples were also tested for the expression of the p53 gene – a tumour suppressor gene that produces a protein to help counteract cell damage. If there is evidence of this gene being expressed it can be seen as a marker that cell damage is taking place. 


The results showed that the samples of pollutants caused significant increases in both IL-8 and ROS levels – indicators of an inflammatory response and oxidative stress respectively. Significant increases were also observed in the levels of the p53 protein with the risk of organic-soluble pollutants being much higher than water-soluble pollutants. 


Co-author of the study Dr Fangxing Yang, of Zhejiang University, said, “Both inflammatory response and oxidative stress may lead to DNA damage, which could induce oncogenesis, or even cancer. Of course, inflammatory response and oxidative stress are also associated with other diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases.” 


In this study, the researchers took samples of the air from Taizhou of Zhejiang province – a dismantling complex that involves more than 60,000 people and dismantles more than two million tons of e-waste to recycle metals each year.   


To obtain the samples, the researchers used two sampling sites that were located downwind of a dismantling industrial park in Taizhou, set up by the local government in 2004. 


It is well known that inflammatory response and oxidative stress can lead to DNA damage and therefore activate the p53 gene to counteract this damage. The study did not find any significant correlation between IL-8 and ROS and p53 expression; however the researchers suggest that this may be due to the various other endpoints, not examined in this study, which can damage DNA. 


A further study will attempt to characterise the components present in the polluted air and identify the key contributors to these adverse effects. 


Dr Yang continued, “From these results it is clear that the ‘open’ dismantlement of e-waste must be forbidden with more primitive techniques improved. As the results show potential adverse effects on human health, workers at these sites must also be given proper protection. 


“Furthermore, one must consider the initial manufacturing process of electrical goods and look to utilise more environmentally and human friendly materials in their production.” 


Electronic Waste: The Dangers 

Throwing away your old computer or TV monitor can be dangerous –and illegal. In April 2000, the State of Massachusetts became the first state to ban residents from discarding their old computers and TV monitors. This first electronic ban was triggered due to the use of CRTs (cathode ray tubes) in both devices.  

According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, CRTs, on average, contain between five to eight pounds of lead. In lieu of disposal, the ban promotes recycling and/or donation of computers and TV monitors. As a result, TV and computer monitors will no longer be accepted at transfer stations, landfills or combustion facilities, and landfill operators who knowingly accept these items will be automatically fined $25,000.  

What are the specific dangers of electronic waste?  

The specific dangers of electronic waste are the effects that lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, plastics, PVC, and brominated flame retardants have on human health and the environment. The dangers posed by each of these substances are discussed as below:  


In humans, lead can cause damage to both the central and peripheral nervous systems and the kidneys. It can also cause damage to the blood system. The effects of lead to the endocrine system have also been observed and its serious negative effects on the development of the brain in children have been well documented. In addition, lead accumulates in the environment and has high acute and chronic toxic effects on plants, animals and microorganisms.  

Consumer electronics constitute 40% of lead found in landfills. The main concem regarding the presence of lead in landfills is the potential for the lead to leach and contaminate drinking water supplies.  

So what are the main sources of lead in computers? The main sources of lead in computers are: 

  • the soldering in printed circuit boards and other electronic components, and  
  • the glass panels in computer monitors (cathode ray tubes). 


Statistically speaking, between the years 1997 and 2004, over 315 million computers will become obsolete in the USA, which adds up to about 1.2 billion pounds of lead!  


Cadmium compounds are classified as “toxic” with a possible risk of irreversible effects on human health since cadmium and cadmium compounds accumulate in the body, particularly in the kidneys. In addition, cadmium is also absorbed through respiration and is taken up with food.  

Due to its long half-life (30 years), cadmium can easily be accumulated in amounts that cause symptoms of poisoning. Cadmium also shows a danger of cumulative effects in the environment due to its acute and chronic toxicity.  

In electrical and electronic equipment, cadmium is found in certain components such as surface mounting device (SMD) chip resistors, infrared detectors and semiconductors. Older types of cathode ray tubes contain cadmium, and it is also used frequently as a plastic stabilizer. To illustrate the magnitude of cadmium content resident in old electronic devices, between the years 1997 to 2004, over 315 million computers will become obsolete and will result in almost 2 million pounds of cadmium content.  


When inorganic mercury spreads out in bodies of water, it is transformed to methylated mercury in the bottom sediments. Methylated mercury can easily accumulate in living organisms and concentrate through the food chain, particularly through fish. Methylated mercury has also been found to cause chronic damage to the brain.  

It is estimated that 22% of the world’s yearly consumption of mercury is used in electrical and electronic equipment. Mercury is commonly used in thermostats, position sensors, relays and switches (i.e., on printed circuit boards and in measuring equipment) and discharge lamps. Mercury is also used in medical equipment, data transmission devices, telecommunications devices, mobile phones, batteries, switchedhousing, and printed wiring boards. By the year 2004,315 million obsolete computers will contain more than 400,000 pounds of mercury.  

Hexavalent Chromium {Chromium VI) 

Some manufacturers still apply this substance as corrosion protection of untreated and galvanized steel plates. Hexavalent chromium is also used as a decorative and hardener for steel housing.  

Chromium VI can easily pass through membranes of cells, where it is easily absorbed. Once absorbed in cell membranes, Chromium VI has been found to produce various toxic effects within the cells. For example, it has been found to cause strong allergic reactions in humans, even in small concentrations. Asthmatic bronchitis is a common allergic reaction that is linked to chromium VI. Chromium VI may also cause DNA damage.  

Hexavalent chromium compounds are toxic to the environment as well. For example, it is well documented that chromium IV contaminated wastes can leach from landfills. Also, the incineration of waste containing chromium IV results in the generation of fly ash — from which the chromium is leachable. It is for this reason that there exists a widespread agreement among scientists that wastes containing chromium should not be incinerated.  

It has been estimated that over 315 million computers are destined to become obsolete between 1997 and 2004, which represents about 1.2 million pounds of hexavalent chromium.  


Based on the estimate that over 3 15 million computers will become obsolete between 1997 and 2004, there will be more than 4 billion pounds of plastic present in this waste stream. (Plastics make up about 13.8 pounds per computer on average.) An analysis commissioned by the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC) estimates that electronics plastic scrap amounts to more than 1 billion pounds per year (580,000 tons per year). This study also estimates that the largest volume of plastics used in electronics manufacturing (26%) is polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a plastic that creates more environmental and health hazards than most other types of plastic. While many computer companies have recently reduced or phased out the use of PVC, there is still a large volume of PVC residing in computer scrap that will grow, according to estimates, up to 250 million pounds per year.  


The use of PVC in computers has been mainly limited to cabling and computer housings in the past; however, most of the newer computer moldings are now being made of acrylonitrilebutadiene-styrene (ABS) plastic. In earlier years, PVC cabling was widely used for its fire retardant properties, but the fumes from the cabling were found to be a major contributor to fatalities. For safety reasons, low-density alternatives, such as polyethylene and thermoplastic olefins, are now often substituted in place of PVC.  

PVC is a difficult plastic to recycle and it also contaminates other plastics in the recycling process. Of more importance, however, is the fact that the production and burning of PVC products generates dioxins and furans, which are persistent organic pollutants.  

PVC, which is commonly used in packaging and household products, is a major cause of dioxin formation in open burning and garbage incinerators. Hospitals in the US are now beginning to phase out the use of PVC products, such as disposable gloves and IV bags, because of the dangers posed by incinerating these products. Also, many local authorities in Europe have PVC-free policies for municipal buildings, pipes, wallpaper, flooring, windows and packaging. In the US, recent concerns about the use of softeners (in PVC plastic toys) leaching out into children’s mouths have lead to further restrictions on the use of PVC. r~.-  

Brominated Flame Retardants  

Brominated flameretardants are a class of brominated chemicals that are commonly used in electronic products as a means for reducing flammability. In computers, they are used mainly in four applications: (1) in printed circuit boards, (2) in components such as connectors, (3) in plastic covers, and (4) in cables. They are also used in the plastic covers of TV sets and in domestic kitchen appliances.  

Various scientific observations indicate that Polybrominated Diphenylethers (PBDEs) may act as endocrine disrupters. Research has shown that the levels of PBDEs in human breast milk are doubling every 5 years and this has prompted concern because of the effect of these chemicals in young animals. Other studies have shown that PBDEs, like many halogenated organics, reduce levels of the hormone thyroxin in exposed animals. (Thyroxin is an essential hormone that regulates the normal development of all animal species, including humans.) PBDEs have also been shown to cross the bloodbrain barrier in developing fetuses.  

Researchers in the US have found that exposure to Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBBs) may cause an increased risk of cancer to the digestive and lymph systems. The study looked at the incidence of cancer in individuals exposed to PBBs after a 1973 food contamination incident in the state of Michigan, in which 1 ton of PBB fire retardant was added to cattle feed by mistake, thus contaminating the animal and human food chain. Approximately nine million people were affected. Some 25 years later, in a study published in 1998, researchers found that humans in the group with the highest exposure to the contamination were 23 times more likely to develop digestive cancers, including stomach, pancreas and liver cancers. Preliminary results also found a 49-fold increase in lymph cancers.  

The presence of polybrominated flameretardants in plastic makes recycling dangerous and difficult. It has been shown that PBDEs form toxic polybrominated dibenzo furans (PBDF) and polybrominated dibenzo dioxins (PBDD) during the extruding process, which is part of the plastic recycling process. As a consequence, to cite an example, the German chemical industry stopped the production of these chemicals in 1986. In this article, we have covered the potential hazards of electronic waste on human health and the environment. In the next issue of the HTIS Bulletin, we will take a look inside of an average desktop computer and see where these potential hazards lie. 

11 facts About E-Waste dosomething.org 

Welcome to DoSomething.org, one of the largest orgs for young people and social change! After you’ve browsed the 11 facts (with citations at the bottom), take action and volunteer with our millions of members. Sign up for a campaign and make the world suck less. 


  1. In 2009, discarded TVs, computers, peripherals (including printers, scanners, fax machines) mice, keyboards, and cell phones totaled about 2.37 million short tons. 
  1. E-waste represents 2% of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste. 
  1. 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed worldwide every year. 
  1. Cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals like gold or silver. Americans dump phones containing over $60 million in gold/silver every year. 
  1. A large number of what is labeled as “e-waste” is actually not waste at all, but rather whole electronic equipment or parts that are readily marketable for reuse or can be recycled for materials recovery. 
  1. Only 12.5% of e-waste is currently recycled. 
  1. For every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, 35,274 lbs of copper, 772 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, and 33 lbs of palladium can be recovered. 
  1. Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year. 
  1. E-waste is still the fastest growing municipal waste stream in America, according to the EPA. 
  1. It takes 530 lbs of fossil fuel, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor. 
  1. Electronic items that are considered to be hazardous include, but are not limited to: Televisions and computer monitors that contain cathode ray tubes, LCD desktop monitors, LCD televisions, Plasma televisions, Portable DVD players with LCD screens.

Electronic Revolution = E-Waste 


The electronic revolution has changed how we lived, communicated and has brought people around the world closer.  


We are in a great era of technological advancement and we are a generation obsessed with technology. We have gadgets of all kinds – from our appliances to our computers and laptops, to our ever changing cell phones.  


We change our gadgets almost as often as we buy new clothes. Every time a new upgrade comes out, we throw our old gadgets away and buy a new one.  


Can you imagine how much electronic waste we generate? Where does it all go? 


A culture of use and throw-away 


E-Waste are electronic devices and gadgets nearing or at the end of its useful life. It covers discarded obsolete electronic devices, cellphones, notebooks, game consoles and their components. 


Here are some electronic waste facts that you will find interesting and alarming: 


  • We generate around 40 million tons of electronic waste every year, worldwide. That’s like throwing 800 laptops every second. 
  • An average cellphone user replaces their unit once every 18 months. 
  • E-waste comprises 70% of our overall toxic waste. 
  • Only 12.5% of E-Waste is recycled. 
  • 85% of our E-Waste are sent to landfills and incinerators are mostly burned, and release harmful toxins in the air! 
  • Electronics contain lead which can damage our central nervous system and kidneys. 
  • A child’s mental development can be affected by low level exposure to lead. 
  • The most common hazardous electronic items include LCD desktop monitors, LCD televisions, Plasma Televisions, TVs and computers with Cathode Ray Tubes. 
  • E-waste contains hundreds of substances, of which many are toxic. This includes mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, selenium, chromium, and flame retardants. 
  • 80% of E-Waste in the US and most of other countries are transported to Asia. 
  • 300 million computers and 1 billion cellphones go into production annually. It is expected to grow by 8% per year. 


Is E-Waste Bad? 


Many of our E-Waste end up in Asia or Africa landfills. The recycling method in these landfills is not the “recycling” that we have in mind. E-Waste is bad, for you and me, for our planet and most especially for the workers on the landfills. 


E-Wastes are buried or incinerated in landfills where their toxins pollute our land, air and water. Most of the time, they are sent to developing countries where workers extract the precious metals from the discarded electronics. 


Workers on E-Waste sites are paid an average of $1.50 per day. They are unprotected while working with the toxic substances on the site. They are the first to inhale the toxins that are released in the air when electronic parts are burned. Many of these workers are children! 


Why we should recycle Electronics 


  • Cellphones and other electronic devices contain precious metals like gold and silver. The US alone throws away cellphones with $60 million worth of gold/silver yearly. 
  • Recycling 1 million laptops saves energy equivalent to the energy used by 3600 homes in the US annually. 
  • Most of the components of E-Waste are electronic equipments that can be re-used and recycled for materials recovery. 


What can we do about our personal E-Waste 


There are several options when it comes to the proper disposal of your electronic devices. 


  • Your old cellphone can still be used by another person. Same with your old computer or television. Donate it to friends, charities or community outreach programs – even to a stranger! This is better than the hazardous e-waste materials ending up in a landfill somewhere. At the same time, you make someone happy. It’s a win-win option! 
  • Find a Certified E-Waste Recycler. Those who are not certified will just send it off somewhere else where it can do its damage. 


Be part of the solution and help reduce our electronic waste.  


We cannot stop you from changing your devices as often as you want, but discard your old ones properly. When it comes to E-Waste, there is probably another person in the world who can benefit from your unwanted devices. Find them before you throw it away. Let’s keep our electronic waste as far away from landfills as possible. 


Ewaste Facts cencalewaste.com 


Have you ever thrown away an old VCR, computer or cell phone? You probably didn’t think much of it at the time; after all, it takes just a few seconds to toss something like this is a garbage bag. Many people don’t know that a simple action like this is contributing to a growing problem – environmental poisoning from the mounting number of e-waste items in landfills across the US. 


Fact: Chemicals and dangerous metals found in e-waste products can leak into the environment and cause a slew of health problems for people, animals and plants. 


Take a look at these e-waste facts to see why it’s so important to dispose of your electronic waste in a responsible manner. 


Ewaste Statistics: 


  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 423,000 tons of computers were disposed of in the year 2010. Only 40% of these computers were recycled, meaning that 255,000 tons of computers went to landfills in the United States. 
  • The EPA also states that 595,000 tons of computer monitors were disposed of in 2012, with only 33% of them being recycled. Therefore, 401,000 tons went to landfills in the United States. 
  • 61,400 tons of keyboards and mice went into landfills throughout the US in 2010. 
  • 28,500,000 televisions were thrown away in the year 2010, but only 17% were recycled. Therefore, 23,000,000 televisions went into landfills. 
  • In 2010, 190,000 tons of hard copy items (printers, faxes, etc.) were placed into landfills throughout the US. 


Recycling Facts: 


The great news is that the awareness of the benefits of recycling e-waste is growing. In the year 2010: 


  • 168,000 tons of computers were recycled in the US (40% of the total disposed of). 
  • 194,000 tons of computer monitors were recycled in the US (33% of the total disposed of). 
  • 97,000 tons of hard copy devices (printers, scanners, fax machines, etc.) were recycled in the US (33% of the total disposed of). 
  • 6,460 tons of keyboards and mice were recycled in 2010 (10% of the amount disposed of). 
  • 181,000 tons of televisions were recycled in the US (17% of the total disposed of). 
  • 2,240 tons of mobile devices were recycled in the US (11% of the total disposed of). 
  • While the number of recycled items is very high, it’s quite low in comparison with the number of items thrown into landfills and not recycled. 


Food for Thought: 


  • If you add up all of the e-waste items that went into landfills in the year 2010, you’d have one for every person living in the US that year, plus more (310,000,000 e-waste items vs. 309.3 million people)! 
  • Every single day, individuals in the US dispose of 142,000 computers and 416,000 mobile devices. 
  • The least-recycled e-waste item in the United States is the cell phone or mobile device. 
  • 2,440,000 e-waste items were disposed of in the US in the year 2010 – not including television peripherals (VCRs, DVD players, game consoles, etc.). 
  • If you stretched out the mobile devices that were thrown away in 2010 and placed them end to end, you’d have enough to cover more than 50 million feet! 
  • $206 billion was spent on electronic items in the year 2011. 


Fact: E-waste generation is growing by 40 million tons per year. We simply cannot afford to continue throwing our e-waste items into landfills! It is essential that every person does the responsible thing and recycles their computers, laptops, cell phones, PDAs and other electronic devices for the health of our earth and the people, plants and animals living on it! 


The Lesser-Known Facts About E-Waste Recycling  


The Internet revolution might have revolutionized how we live and communicate, but it’s also had a rather more insidious effect on our environment. Strange as it might sound, our rush to buy new laptops and phones – while chucking our old ones into the trash – has led to a new eco disaster in the making. 


Yes, while we all pride ourselves on a commitment to a clean, green planet, our actions say otherwise. Robert Barham of Phone Shop UK says ” All those old cell phone chargers you chucked into a bin, the old monitor you just threw away, and the ancient printer that you dumped are all in a landfill somewhere, polluting our planet.” Yes, around 14,000,000 junked mobile phones (weighing over 65,000 tonnes) reach our nation’s landfills each year – releasing an astounding 80,000 lbs of highly toxic lead. 


And if they aren’t being buried, polluting our land and water, they’ll be sent to a developing nation, where workers will, in unsanitary conditions, risk their health in trying to extract precious materials from your old E-waste – did you know that mobile phones contain high amounts of poisonous elements and materials like chromium, mercury, and arsenic? 


It’s not just poisonous trash we’re throwing away – cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals like gold or silver – each year, we dump cell phones containing worth over $60 million in gold and silver. 


This environmental time bomb is not just fueled by our old and discarded cell phones. Most – around 85% – of computers end up in a landfill. This becomes even more serious and old TVs and CRT monitors contain over 4 lbs of toxic lead. In all, over 2% of the trash found in America’s landfills is E-waste! And, here’s an ever more striking statistic for you to ponder over – E-waste makes up 70% of all toxic waste! 


That’s a stunning level of waste – and with more people in developing nations now joining the mobile revolution, it’s only bound to increase. Sixty one per cent of the planet’s population has a cell phone, and this number is rising with every passing day. 


The key to this is to recycle. Most people use a cell phone for less than a year, and if those us planning on buying a shine new iPhone or Galaxy S3 can be convinced to recycle our old phones, we’d be doing the planet a huge favor. Our old phones can not only be used by others, but the cash we get from selling them can help fund our next purchase. At the same time, by selling or donating an old phone, we’re keeping it from adding to the rubbish in our landfills, and also enabling someone else to obtain an affordable phone. Hence, if you aren’t already practicing it, you should take an initiative to recycle old cell phones and other e-waste in your household. 


Look around your home – you’re bound to have some old electronics (especially cell phones) that you no longer use. You might have put off donating or selling them off, but let’s face it – an old laptop, tablet or cell phone you haven’t used in a year is hardly likely to be of use! Recycle, and save the environment. 


Low awareness of e-waste toxicity


India is staring at a grave crisis. It is the world’s fifth largest generator of electronic waste. Although rules have been in place since 2011 for disposal of such waste, they have not been implemented with the result that the country has mountains of e-waste piling up. The amount of e-waste that India generates is massive and growing at an annual rate of 5%. According to an Assocham-KPMG study, India produces roughly 18.5 lakh metric tonnes of e-waste per year; 12% of this is telecom equipment. As consumerism grows in India, people are discarding their mobiles within months of purchasing them; roughly 25% of the 100 crore mobile telephones in circulation in the country is trashed each year. 


While public awareness of solid waste management is growing slowly in our cities, that on e-waste management is almost negligible. For one, people are not aware that e-waste can be recycled and if done properly, is a source of immense wealth. Parts can be re-sold or metals can be extracted for re-use. Importantly, people are not aware that metals in e-waste are toxic and if not handled scientifically, can endanger lives. Lack of public awareness lies under India’s growing mountain of e-trash. India’s e-waste related problems are multiple. First, a large amount of e-waste is being generated. Then, the bulk of this waste is not recycled. And finally, most of the e-waste that is recycled is handled by the unorganised sector, which uses rudimentary methods. Scientific methods of recycling e-waste are not being followed. 


The E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2016, which is expected to come into effect later this year, puts the onus of e-waste management on manufacturers and retailers. It brings producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), thus ensuring that they cannot wash their hands off the e-waste problem to which they contribute. They will have to ensure 30% and 70% e-waste collection based on their projected sales of electronic goods by 2018 and 2023, respectively. The rules provide them with options, including a deposit refund scheme, an e-waste exchange, etc. The 2016 rules also make it mandatory for state governments to set up e-waste dismantling and recycling units in industrial parks and to provide workers involved with the e-waste business with skills and training in scientific handling of e-waste. Improper management of e-waste will attract penalties. The rules are a step in the right direction.  


What is needed now is the political will to enforce the rules. Hopefully, the 2016 norms  will not be an exercise in futility as were the 2011 rules. 


E-Waste Law falling short of recycling goals set for coming years. 


 Electronic Waste Law has some serious shortcomings. 


Yisrael Dancziger, director- general of the Environmental Protection Ministry, in a call for help at the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee on Tuesday, said that only six people are charged with enforcing the law nationally. 


He told the MKs that the ministry’s e-waste enforcement department consists of only two ministry employees, three part-time student workers and one external accountant. 


“It’s incomprehensible that three student [workers] are in charge of the entire country’s enforcement, from [Tel] Dan to Eilat,” committee head Eitan Cabel said. 


Cabel requested a detailed report from the ministry by September on how it is implementing the law, but did not mention a budget. 


Dancziger also admitted during the meeting that there may have been inaccuracies in data on recycling reported to the public. 


“Unfortunately, to my embarrassment, I cannot stand behind those figures and do not know if they are correct or not,” he said of the ministry’s report that 15 percent of e-waste was recycled in 2014 and 20% in 2015, the director- general said The Electronic Waste Law of 2014 set a goal for 35% of e-waste to be recycled by 2018 and 50% by 2021. It also requires importers and manufacturers to finance the mechanisms for treating their e-waste. Stores that sell electronics or batteries are supposed to accept old devices for disposal without additional payment when a customer buys a new device of the same kind. 


One of the central issues causing the shortcomings, Dancziger said, was that a budget was never designated for the law. He asked the committee during the meeting for help laying out and allocating an appropriate budget. 


Among the groups certified to collect and recycle used electronics and appliances is Ecommunity, which holds recycling contracts with several companies. The company’s CEO Tsahi Ein Gal criticized the ministry’s failure to enforce the law. Specifically, he mentioned a part of the legislation that gives preference to companies such as Ecommunity that employ people with disabilities or special needs. 


“Recycling bodies will not be able to survive financially without enforcement and without more manufacturers and importers teaming up [with recycling companies],” Ein Gal said. 


4 Top Tips for Recycling Used Household Electrical Products


Waste disposal is a growing concern in our increasingly environmentally conscious society, especially as the UK produces more than 434 million tonnes of waste each year, according to the UK Green Building Council. Electrical waste, in particular, accounts for 1.2 million tonnes each year and as the consumption of electronics products increases with the need to have the newest gadget, a bigger television or the latest mobile phone, this figure is rising by around 5% every year in the UK. 


As electronic waste, or ‘e-waste’, is made up of materials such as lead, mercury, zinc and chromium which can be harmful to our health, it’s particularly important for households and businesses to recycle used electronic products in a responsible manner. Simply dumping old TV’s or microwaves in a home’s rubbish collection bin or a nearby skip is not only putting the environment at risk, but is also not making use of materials that can be broken down and re-used. 


So what are the recycling options available to consumers looking to get rid of their old electronics? 


  1. Sell mobiles and gadgets for cash through recycling websites


Considering that the average mobile phone contract lasts just 18 months, many people upgrade and replace their phones with the latest model. There is no excuse for not recycling phones or tablets anymore, as there are plenty of websites offering cash in return for used mobiles. These are then put to good use through various ways which include breaking them down to use elements like titanium and gold, as well as refurbishing them to sell on to the less-privileged. 


  1. Advertise computers, laptops and TVs for sale online


For people who like to update their TV, PC or laptop as regularly as their mobile phone in order to have the most up-to-date model, there are easy ways to sell perfectly good items for cash. Most towns will have a high street second-hand shop that will pay cash for items in good working order. Alternatively there are popular outlets online such as eBay where people are always looking for a bargain. Local classifieds, both in newspapers and online such as Gum Tree, offer free space to advertise possessions too. 


  1. Donate household appliances locally


For electrical equipment that is still in working order, most charity shops will accept them to sell on. No matter how old or dated a kettle or microwave might seem to those replacing them with newer appliances, a working electrical appliance will usually still have enough life in them to benefit someone else rather than go to waste. There are also websites like Freecycle which is an online platform allowing people to advertise used household appliances, wanted or offered, within their local area. 


  1. Dispose electrical equipment at local recycling points


Local authorities throughout the UK provide waste disposal points that accept a variety of electrical equipment including mobile phones, TVs, fridge freezers, irons, clocks, hairdryers and washing machines. Using these centers will ensure that broken electrical goods are treated in an environmentally sound way, which usually involves the waste being broken down into different materials which can be melted down and re-used by electronics manufacturers. 


Whether used electrical items are broken, old but still working or in good condition but have just been replaced with a better model – there are ways to recycle products responsibly no matter what state they are in. 


Industry Experts Discuss E-Waste Recycling Trends and Obstacles  


The recycling industry is in an ongoing battle with the decrease in commodities prices and improper disposal, but the growing sector of e-waste recycling is especially difficult to manage. For example, if e-waste is improperly disposed of, toxic materials could seep into soil and ground water, as well as pose a risk for those who are handling the e-waste. 


While commodities will continue to fluctuate, recyclers are faced with the decline in the value of materials, and in increase in the returns of low-value devices. 


Waste360 recently spoke with Jason Linnell, executive director for the National Center for Electronics Recycling, and Eugene Niuh, business development director for Omnisource Electronics Recycling, about the latest e-waste recycling trends and challenges and the future of the e-waste recycling industry. The duo will lead a discussion on electronics recycling trends and markets at WasteExpo in Las Vegas on Wednesday, June 8, 2016. 


Waste360: What are the current e-waste recycling trends? 


Jason Linnell: Within the industry itself, it has been a very challenging time for the past couple of years with the decline in commodities prices. It affects everybody, but it has really come at an unfortunate time for the e-waste recycling industry because it coincides with the increase of CRTs (Cathode Ray Tubes) coming into recycling streams. 


Recycling programs are receiving many old tube-style monitors and televisions, which haven’t been sold for many years in the U.S. This is challenge for the industry because these items don’t have a lot of valuable material inside them. They have glass that needs to be managed correctly due to its lead content, and it comes at a cost to manage that material. Recyclers are also limited on what to do with the CRT glass because some options that were previously available to turn that glass into new CRT glass have been going away for the last few years. 


We have also seen some recyclers go out of business, and we have seen cutbacks in different local colletion programs due to the increase in costs. Overall, it’s been a pretty challenging time for the electronics recycling industry. 


Waste360: What are some of the challenges that the e-waste recycling industry is facing? 


Eugene Niuh: The lack of comprehensive legislation on the federal level in regards to recycling e-waste in the U.S. continues to be a challenge for recyclers. There are currently 25 states that have some kind of e-waste legislation, and to make matter worse, they are not all consistent, focusing on different aspects of e-waste commodities and recycling requirements.  


As an industry, we have to continue working with elected officials to keep pushing for e-waste legislation and consistency in its management. To date, it’s possible for people or recyclers to bring their e-waste across the border to another state that may have little to no e-waste legislation. 


There is also a lack of education, and the general public still do not understand or is fully informed of the hazardous content in their old electronics. There is lead, CRTs, mercury and other hazardous materials that may exist. The industry as a whole needs to do a better job of leading education efforts and creating proper places where people can recycle e-waste. 


More countries and developing nations are taking the steps to do what is right, but the burden continues to be on developed countries to ensure that e-waste is not being processed illegally. 


Jason Linnell: When people hold onto old devices for too long after they no longer use them, it can hurt the industry. Whether it’s a TV, computer or cell phone, people often hold onto old devices because they think that they may use it in the future, but most of the time these devices just end up sitting in a closet or basement until they’re discarded. It’s best for people to recycle or turn in these devices as soon as they are done using them because that provides the best reuse potential and value for the device. If people wait too long, the device may become too obsolete, not as valuable or even too hard to extrude the components that can be resold or refurbished.  By properly reusing or recycling these items, people will be able to save on some of the costs and return some of the value to that device back into the recycling stream. 


There also is a need for new innovation for recycling devices. I am not sure if it will be something like the Apple robot, but there needs to be new innovation for processing items more efficiently and capturing some of the more valuable components and critical materials from the devices. 


There are many materials that are used in electronics and once they are put together, they are hard to extract. There are better ways to extract the valuable metals and precious materials that are in the devices and right now, the industry needs to invest in longer-term technologies to make the process more efficient overall. 


Waste360: What’s in store for the future of e-waste recycling? 


Eugene Niuh: The industry is a rapidly evolving and developing space. The lifecycle of an e-waste product is extremely short. Your vehicle, for example, is typically possessed for 10 to 12 years, but your cell phone or other electronic devices have a two to five year life span. Recyclers; therefore, must adapt quickly and adjust their business model according to these changes. 


The industry itself needs to constantly be aggressive in addressing new items that are coming on board and advancing new technologies for recycling. The products are getting more complex and smaller, which can be more challenging to recycle. Additionally, the skill set required to test, refurbish or repair newer devices becomes more complex and cost prohibitive for recyclers. 


The legislation side of things really has to come together here in the next decade or so in order to facilitate and level the playing field for legitimate recyclers. 


The e-waste space is not going to go away and in my opinion, it will increase. The general public is aware of the “typical” e-waste stream such as PCs, laptops and cell phones but a larger percentage of other consumer and industrial e-waste continue to face challenges in recycling options. 


Jason Linnell: The retailer recycling options are very effective because it’s convenient for people to drop off recycled items at a place they shop at regularly. 


Earlier this year, Best Buy changed its free e-waste recycling program to institute a fee for the TVs and monitors that are brought in. The company still offers free recycling for a lot of other items, and it’s a very popular program. 


This effort is something that can be expanded to other retailers that are willing to step up and offer programs to make recycling more convenient. This is one thing a number of people have mentioned as a goal to make recycling as convenient as buying. If there were more retailers that offered that option, as Best Buy, Office Depot and Staples do now, we would get a lot closer to that goal. 


Startling Facts on Electronic Waste cleantechies.com 


Electronics are everywhere around us, and life in the 21st century is unimaginable without them. Computers, mobile phones, televisions, etc. are ubiquitous and have transformed the way the world works. However, like any technology, there are problems that need to be addressed, and electronic waste is one of the major one for the environment. 


Electronic waste or e-waste grows at an exponential rate because the industry churns out new products at an ever faster rate. This renders old products useless. This is quite unlike the traditional machines that we use. A car, for instance, will not become obsolete even after a decade while a laptop might become so after just a couple of years. Thus the consumption of new electronics is indeed startling. We need to take note of where the old discarded electronics go in order to ensure they are disposed off in the right ways. 


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives some facts on e-waste. Some of the interesting ones are – 


  • Over 112,000 computers (desktops and laptops combined) were discarded in 2007 in the US every single day. 
  • 31.9 million units of computer monitors were discarded in 2007, including both CRT and flat panel screens. 
  • The recycling rate of electronics in the US is a mere 14%. In comparison, over 75% of printed newspaper is recycled in the US. However, this is still better than plastics, which have a recycling rate of just about 7%. 
  • The total e-waste generated in the world is anywhere between 20-50 million tons. The figures for a number of countries are hard to come by. The US accounts for over 3 million tons of e-waste. 
  • However, the problem is only going to get worse. This is because, it is estimated that the developing world will triple its e-waste in the next 5-6 years alone. In addition, a lot of old electronics get stored at homes instead of being discarded immediately. In fact, according to a HP fact sheet 68% of consumers store used or unwanted computer equipment at their homes. 


On the other hand, we keep consuming more and more electronics each year. 


  • The US alone sees over 500 million units of consumer units bought each year. 
  • The Consumer Electronics Association estimates about $165 billion spent on consumer electronics in 2010. 
  • The problem is not just with computers but with a number of other electronic equipment as well. For example, Gartner Inc. estimates 1.2 billion mobile phones sold all over the globe, with about 172 million of those being smartphones. 


Electronics recycling is not very common, but it is a good idea. Not only does it save and protect the environment from toxins such as Mercury, Cadmium, Lead, etc. that are found in most of the electronics but it can also be profitable for companies and the industry as a whole. Glass, plastic, and a number of different metals can be recovered with the help of electronics recycling. 


  • One metric ton of circuit boards can contain between 80 and 1,500 g of gold and between 160 and 210 kg of copper. 
  • One ton of used mobile phones contains about 130 kg of copper, 3.5 kg of silver, 340 grams of gold and 140 grams of palladium, according to StEP. 


Thus, there is immense scope, economic and environmental, for electronics recycling and hopefully we will see companies and consumers more enthusiastic about this issue in the future. 


Safely Dispose of Techno Gadgets 


Technology gets old – it’s just the way it works (or stops working). So what do you do with it when it’s time for a new laptop or cell phone? Unless you’ve got one of the new biodegradable cell phones, you probably don’t want to chuck all that plastic and silicon into a landfill where it will probably sit for the next few thousand years. So what are your options for recycling your technology? 


The first place you should check out is the EPA website for an extensive list of companies that allow you to recycle your e-waste in various ways, whether through take-backs, mail-ins, or even trade-in incentive programs. Among the companies listed is Office Depot, which applies a two-dollar cash award to your rewards card for each printer ink cartridge you turn in (although you may also want to look into refilling your used cartridges). Sprint, also listed there, has a “Buy Back” program that gives Sprint customers an account credit for returning select Sprint or Nextel phones. The website also has links to places that you can recycle electronic devices like computers, printers, TVs, and monitors. 


To check if you should sell or just donate your used technology, enter the make and model number on the site www.usell.com. After answering a few of their questions about the device’s condition, they provide you with a list of available options for selling or recycling it in your area. Accounts are free to sign up for and you can make a considerable amount of cash back for your old devices. 


This program takes donations of old phones and provides soldiers stationed overseas with calling cards that allow them to connect with their families back home. Visit the site and click “Donate a Phone” to get a pre-paid mailing label, or find a local drop site in your area. 


Before you recycle any of your old computers or phones, though, you will want to make sure your personal data has been removed. Log out of all accounts on the device, and then use the “factory reset” function to restore the device to its original setting. If you have a phone with a SIM card that you aren’t transferring, destroy it by stepping on it or chopping it up with scissors. 


If you have more than just technology that you want to recycle, you can always donate locally to charities like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Many of them are e-waste certified, so they can properly dispose of any gadgets that aren’t reusable. And the proceeds from the sale of devices donated to these organizations help families in need in your local community. Additionally, any donations are tax-deductible.  


Before you take any of these steps, one of the best ways to help the environment with your tech devices is to consider waiting before you go buy the latest gadget. It’s always hard to pass up the shiniest new model, but holding out for a while allows the manufacturer to work out any kinks in the product, plus the longer you wait to get a new gadget, the less waste you’ll end up producing. And of course the price will no doubt decrease as new versions of the product come out. The adage “patience is a virtue” rings true, even in a fast-paced technological society! 


Backyard Recycling’ Will Rise with E-Waste Trade Ban, Study Says 


Global efforts to ban the trade of electronics waste to developing nations in the hopes of ending so-called “backyard recycling” will only exacerbate a growing environmental problem, according to a new study. 


Developed nations often export e-waste, such as old computers, to China, India, Thailand, and less developed nations where crude recycling processes can emit pollutants that contaminate the air, water, and soil. 


For instance, copper wire is often pulled from the old computers and the insulation burned off, emitting dioxins and other chemicals. 


The U.S. Congress is now considering an e-waste trade ban. But similar efforts have backfired, according to Eric Williams of Arizona State University. 


Not only have trade bans imposed by other nations created a black market in places like China, but by 2017 the developing world will produce more e-waste than developed nations, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. 


By 2025, the developing world is expected to produce twice as much e-waste as developed nations. The authors suggest that only direct action — such as paying backyard recyclers not to recycle — will address the problem. 


Mounting Electronic Waste Poses Major Threat to Environment, Health


While the fact that 95.5 million Americans said they would shop on Black Friday is good news for retailers, it is a far less positive figure for the environment. Cheap electronics are one of the biggest draws for shoppers on the day (and indeed the rest of the year), but these immediate savings hide the ultimate collective cost – old electronics (e-waste) that are improperly disposed can result in environmental pollution with its attendant health risks, as well as data theft. 


In 2012, the world amassed almost 49 million metric tons of e-waste, including everything from last generation cellphones and laptops to televisions and washing machines. The largest contributor, the United States, supplied nearly 66 pounds of e-waste per person that year. And the trend is only growing. One study, conducted by a United Nations partner organization, projects that this number will rise to 65.4 million metric tons by 2017. As the amount of e-waste dramatically increases, solutions for proper disposal have lagged considerably behind. 


Some old electronics wind up collecting dust in homes as consumers are either unsure of what to do with their outdated devices, or fear for the security of their data. Others hand their aged gadgets to family members or friends. 


But a great deal of e-waste ultimately winds up in landfills, meaning the toxic materials they contain, such as lead, arsenic, beryllium and mercury, often end up leaking into the environment, poisoning ecosystems and harming not only humans but animals and plants too. Improper disposal also poses a risk to data security as any information that has not been wiped from a device can usually be extracted with ease. 


E-waste recyclers can be seen to be a responsible response to this problem. Though there has yet to be a centralized response by the federal government to the growing e-waste issue, many of these recyclers have opted to follow self-imposed certification systems that hold them accountable for environmental and data safety. 


But awareness of the e-waste issue is fninally growing. John Shegerian, CEO and co-founder of Electronic Recyclers International (ERI) – the largest e-waste recycling company in the US – told Newsweek that when his company launched in April of 2005, ERI recycled 10,000 pounds of e-waste its first month. Last month, Shegerian says ERI recycled nearly 25 million pounds. 


ERI has clients ranging from cities and corporations, to New York City apartment buildings. Once the e-waste enters their facility, each item is barcoded and tracked. Customers can then watch the progress of their device’s recycling online. “Transparency is key to responsible recycling,” Shegerian says. 


ERI either recycles the parts, or refurbishes the device for reuse according to the contract created with the customer. In the case of recycling, the company separates the different materials and throws the electronic carcass into an industrial shredder. ERI then sells the broken down materials, and pays a responsible smelter to take the glass. If a device is being prepared for reuse, ERI cleans and fixes the item, wipes the data, and then repackages and resells it. 


So far, 25 states have passed legislation calling for e-waste recycling, with several more states in the process. But until the problem is dealt with on a national scale, it will continue to flourish.