Overview of E-Waste  

The term e-waste is a generic term encompassing various forms of electrical and electronic equipment that are old, end-of-life electronic appliances, or have ceased to be of any value to their owners (UNEP). It includes computers, consumer electronics, fridges, etc… which have been disposed of by their original users.

E-waste is the most rapidly growing problem in the waste stream due to its quantity, toxicity and carcinogenicity. Often, the toxic material is improperly disposed and thus poses a threat to human health and the environment. Electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) poses one of the greatest environmental challenges globally and in particular to developing countries. Increased changes in technology especially in ICT, low initial cost, and high rates of obsolescence have resulted in a fast-growing surplus of e-waste generation worldwide.

Essential Readings:

Sources and Quantities of E-Waste
Composition and Hazards (for Mobile Phones and Computers)
Impacts of E-Waste

Sources and Quantities of E-Waste

  • E-Waste is now the fastest growing component of the municipal solid waste stream (1-2% in developed countries) because people are upgrading their mobile phones, computers, televisions, audio equipment and printers more frequently than ever before.
  • Technology change, low initial cost, rapid obsolescence and market penetration have resulted in a fast growing surplus of electronic waste around the globe.
  • Mobile phones and computers are causing the biggest problem because they are replaced most often.
  • The amount of electronic products discarded globally has skyrocketed recently, with 20-50 million tonnes generated every year. (Source GREENPEACE,)

Impacts of E-WASTE

  • Adverse Health Effects
  • Lead
  • Organic and Inorganic Lead Poisoning
  • Mercury
  • Acute Poisoning
  • Basically due to inhalation of Hg Vapour or due to ingestion of Hg Compounds
  • Chronic Poisoning
  • Difficulty of walking and speaking
  • Renal damage
  • Visual Disturbance
  • Cadmium
  • Acute Poisoning
  • Mainly due to inhalation of fumes
  • Chronic Poisoning
  • Damage to Kidney
  • Osteomalacia
  • Cadmium
  • Environmental impacts