Electronics have become part and parcel of our lives since the Digital Revolution. From leisure to information, everything that we use today is based on electronics. Electronics have contributed a lot in the growth of technology and ease of living. Nonetheless, every electronic component becomes a waste after it has exhausted its utility value. Such electric and electronic wastes are shortly called “e-waste”. E-waste accounts for more than 5% of the total municipal solid waste (MSW). E-waste contains both valuable and highly hazardous metals. It contains precious metals like gold, silver, aluminium and other rare metals, which would yield high value on recovery. Also, e-waste contains harmful components such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, lithium which would cause potential threats to the health of the workers.
Globally, only 20% of e-waste is recycled. Recycling of e-waste in developing countries occurs mostly in informal sector. The methodologies used by the informal sectors for recycling of e-waste makes the workers expose to hazardous substances. Workers in informal sector are less aware of the safety concerns and equipments. Also, the recycling in informal sector extracts less valuable materials. Dumping of e-waste on open sites leads to environmental degradation of soil and water. When e-wastes are dumped in landfill, the soil becomes toxic and the leachate formation may also become troublesome. The environment is endangered even during the e-waste processing activities such as dismantling and disposing. Liquid discharges and gaseous releases during the processing degrade the soil, water and air, making it unfit for the consumption of human and animals.
Both electronics and waste have become indispensable parts of our lives. The only solution to all the problems of e-waste is the efficient waste management. Recycling of wastes will not only reduce the load of waste but also the burden on new resources and energy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says,” One metric ton of circuit boards can contain 40 to 800 times the amount of gold and 30 to 40 times the amount of copper mined from one metric ton of ore in the United States”. Such precious metals can be recovered through recycling. According to reports, recycled metals are more energy efficient than metals smelted from the ore. Incorporating Circularity and Extended Producer’s Responsibility (EPR) would be a fruitful solution of all the electronic waste problems. Organizations and Institutions can collect their e-waste and give it to formal recycling sectors. As individuals, people can take up the responsibility of using their electronic device till the end life of the product. Also, instead of throwing the e-waste in trash, they can be given to the recycling agency.