E Waste management | Disposal methods, recycling, advantages, disadvantages

E-waste management refers to the systematic handling and disposal of electronic waste, also known as e-waste. It includes methods such as disposal, recycling, collection centers, buy-back programs etc. Proper e waste disposal is essential to prevent environmental pollution and to recover valuable resources from electronic devices. There are some advantages and disadvantages of E-Waste (Electronic Waste) as outlined below.

What is E-waste

The term E-waste stands for Electronic Waste. It is the term which is related to waste produced by disposal of all the electrical and electronic equipments. It includes waste generated due to computers, monitors, printers, air-conditioners, ovens, refrigerators, washing machines, TV sets, mobile phones, toys, lighting equipments, medical devices etc.

E-waste material composition chart

The e-waste consists of many compounds which include organic and in-organic compounds. Organic compounds include flame retardants, dioxins, chlorinated benzenes and phenols, nonylphenol etc. In-organic compounds include arsenic, barium, asbestos, cadmium, copper, mercury, lead, nickel, chromium, selenium, zinc, yttrium, tin etc. Few of these are toxix and are abundant in the nature.

The e waste management chart or diagram depicts average composition of materials found in electronic waste according to one of the study conducted by Swiss Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research. As shown it consists of PCBs, Screens (CRTs, LCDs), Cables, batteries, metals, plastics, metal-plastic mixture, pollutants etc.

As technology advances and electronic devices have become more prevalent in our daily lives, the generation of e-waste has increased significantly. Unfortunately, e waste can be harmful to the environment and human health if not properly managed. Some characteristics of e-waste are as follows.
• It contains variety of materials including metals, plastics, glass and hazardous substances such as lead, mercury and brominated flame retardants.
• Technological advancements lead to quick obsolescence of electronic devices.
• Rapid consumption and replacement contribute to significant generation worldwide.
• It is a global problem and improper disposal poses health and environmental issues.
• It presents opportunities for recycling and recovery.

E-waste disposal methods and recycling processes

The recycling of e-waste can be carried out in two ways viz. under controlled conditions and under un-controlled conditions.

Under controlled conditions there are two methods. In the first method, e-waste is dismantled first and later mechanically processed in order to separate/recover the materials. In the second method, metallurgical processes are used in order to recover the metals. The other processes are also followed in order to recover plastics and other useful materials.

E-waste recycling process

The diagram -2 depicts entire E-waste recycling process under controlled conditions. It includes following steps/processes:
➨Manual dismantling and sorting
➨Mechanical shredding and separation
➨Metallurgical processes
➨Recycling of plastics

Recycling of e-waste under un-controlled conditions include following:
➨Manual dis-assembly and recovery of valuable materials
➨Acid extraction of metals
➨Shredding, melting and extrusion of plastics
➨Burning of plastics and residual materials
➨Toner sweeping
➨Dumping of residual materials in open areas, rivers, wetlands etc.

Advantages of E waste recycling

Following are the advantages of E waste recycling:
• E-waste consists of many useful resources in the form of components and materials. These are recovered and re-used again. This includes copper, gold, silver, palladium.
• The sorting of e-waste will provide above valuable materials which make up great amount of economical incentive.
• E-waste recycling is also essential due to presence of other metals/materials such as lead, nickel and various plastics.
• Due to above reasons, e-waste management is essential from the view of material and resource recycling.

Disadvantages of E waste recycling

Following are the disadvantages of E waste recycling:
• Health hazards to human being due to undisposed e-waste
• Environmental impacts while recycling e-waste which leads to hazards/risks to humans.
• There are chemicals in the e-waste which are very harmful.
• There is a risk associated with placing e-waste on the land-fills. This is due to leaching as well as evaporation of hazardous substances.

Conclusion : Proper management of e waste is essential to minimize its adverse impacts on the environment and human health. Recycling and responsible disposal methods of e waste are crucial steps in its management. Many countries have established regulations and guidelines for the proper handling and recycling of electronic waste to ensure that valuable resources are recovered and hazardous substances are managed safely.


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