e-waste is a relatively new scope of waste management. In the short time of it existence however, it has grown exponentially. 30 years ago, we did not have to deal with the challenges from e-waste to the levels we currently face.
Before we get started, what exactly is e-waste?
If you grew up before the 21st century, you are probably familiar with this image below:
That is a cathode ray tube and an essential part of a television or monitor if you once had a television that looked like this:
Finding those bad and poorly disposed cathode ray tubes was my first experience with e-waste. Years later, the components of e-waste has since evolved and grown in quantity and variations. e-waste which basically means electronic waste comprises of all electronic component discarded from electronic devices. These comprises of mobile phones, radio, televisions, computers, refrigerators, microwaves, washing machines, transformers e.t.c
Cell phones are used for an average of two years and in America alone, more than 160million cell phones are discarded annually. If one person collects all these discarded phones with a use for them, that is free raw material for a fortune right there.
Why does special attention have to be given to e-waste? The first consideration has to be given to the fact that mobile phones especially, are produced using gold, silver, copper and plastic, all of which are recyclable and reusable. 10% of the world’s gold goes into producing mobiles phones. Wouldn’t it be a fortune to recuperate a percentage of that from recycling without having to dig a mine?
The second and most important consideration is the fact that e-waste contains a lot of harmful substances which need to be properly disposed, if not, may cause harmful environmental damages. substances like lead, cadmium, platinum, antimony and thorium gets leaked and may penetrate soil through percolation thereby contaminating the soil or the ground water.
In Europe, serious considerations are being given to e-waste incineration and recycling. the WEEE, (Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment) directive is set to reduce the effect of e-waste by ensuring that producers of electronics also make available a disposal mechanism. i.e they arrange for consumers to return their waste equipment for safe disposal.
Remember seeing this sign on your devices?
It is called the ‘Cross out wheelie bin symbol’ which means that the items should not be disposed with regular household items. Items like this should be either returned to the manufacturers of disposed at a recyclers.