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7 Bad Facts About Exponentially Increasing Electronic Waste
Do you prefer to purchase the latest cell phone every time? Have you updated your house or just your kitchen appliances? Maybe, YES. Because studies have shown that people tend to buy more new appliances than ever. The greater the number of electronic products used, the greater will be the proportion of electronic waste.
Electronic products are household and business products such as kitchen appliances, toys, and ICT -mobile phones and laptops, etc. Their use is continuously increasing in the energy production sector, security systems, and transportation.
Every 1 million cell phone that is dumped contains 16,000 kg of copper and 350 kg of silver.
E-waste is different from municipal solid waste in terms of its chemical and physical composition. It’s a simple term, but there is a complex phenomenon for the management of e-waste. Electronic waste or e-waste bears a high fraction of heavy metals, dioxins, hydrocarbons, and Chlorofluorocarbons. So, the management of e-waste requires specific handling criteria.
E-waste is a rapidly growing problem. It is like a vicious cycle that goes on expanding. The leaching of hazardous metals from waste decreases the yield of plants. When the e-waste is recycled for management purposes, more emissions occur that makes the problem worse. So, the cycle will go on and on unless the production decreases. Electronic waste has negative impacts on human health, the ecosystem, and the overall environment. Following are some facts about e-waste that might help you to think once before dumping any electronic product.
- More Than 5.5Million Tons of e-Waste Were Thrown Out in 2020
- Electronic Waste Contains Many Toxic Materials Including Dioxins, PAHs, and Heavy Metals
- People can be significantly harmed by Landfills
- E-waste Contain Valuable Materials
- e-Waste Is Potentially Degrading the Environment
- Small Devices Create More e-Waste
- Management practices of e-Waste
1- More Than 5.5Million Tons of e-Waste Were Thrown Out in 2020:
According to The Global E-waste Monitor 2020, approximately a 53.6million tons of e-waste were generated in the Year 2019. Current methods for the management of e-waste are disposing of it in landfills, incineration, and recycling. Most of the e-waste is sent to incinerators or landfills. Melting or burning of waste makes the condition worse by causing long-term problems. So, recycling is better but not the best solution for the management of waste.
2- Electronic Waste Contains Many Toxic Materials Including Dioxins, PAHs, and Heavy Metals:
E-waste is responsible for 70% of all hazardous waste in landfill sites. Direct disposal of landfill sites releases hazardous substances into the environment. The most common among them are dioxins, Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and heavy metals. All these substances released during unsafe processes cause health damage. Dioxins persist in the atmosphere for a long time once they’re released. They can be ingested and inhaled.
PAHs are the fine particles that are released as combustion by-products. Humans are exposed to them through ingestion, inhaling, as well as dermal contact. A large number of heavy metals are released during e-waste recycling. Since the metals vary, so make their potential health impacts.
3- People can be significantly harmed by Landfills:
Hardly a person thinks where the waste he just disposed of will go. Landfills are the possible management approach for e-waste. Electronics in landfills can be harmful to residents. Toxins released can cause serious damage to blood, kidneys, and the nervous system. Some hazardous substances released are dioxins and PAHs. Dioxins affect immune functioning and cause reproductive system damage. While PAHs are carcinogenic and mutagenic substances.
A child who eats just one chicken egg from a waste dumping site of Ghana (Africa) would absorb 220 times more chlorinated dioxins than European Food Intake Authority’s daily intake limit.
About 70% of heavy metals in landfill sites, including Lead (Pb) come from e-waste. Exposure to e-waste Pb causes cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous system damage among children.
4- E-waste Contain Valuable Materials:
According to the EPA, for every 1 million cell phones that are dumped, 16,000kg of copper and 350 kg of silver go in the trash. According to the UN’s e-waste Monitoring Report 2020, Only 17.4% of e-waste is recycled. So, $57 billion worth of recoverable metals is dumped or burned each year that could be recovered.
5- e-Waste Is Potentially Degrading the Environment:
Since e-waste is increasing each year, it carries severe environmental consequences. American Association for Advancement of Science traced out the water and carbon footprint of 1 computer and monitor. The results showed that it takes 500lbs of fossil fuel and 1.5 tons of water to make one monitor and computer. So, just imagine the resources consumed each year on electronic equipment.
6- Small Devices Create More e-Waste:
Small devices are much more common than large ones. For example, every person in the house has a smartphone, but not everyone has a computer and refrigerator. On average, every cell phone user replaces their phone once every 1.5 years. Therefore, small devices are used as well as replaced more often. Small electronic equipment -microwave and cameras- have a 31% share in total waste, followed by dishwashers and washing machines (28%). Computers and phones have a 7% share, but these are frequently used products. Therefore, create more e-waste.
7- Management practices of e-Waste:
Since the variety of e-waste varies, the recovery poses a challenge to the e-waste management system. Common practices for the management of e-waste are disposal in landfill sites and incineration. Therefore, emissions of Greenhouse gases (GHGs) and hazardous chemicals are prevalent. Recycling e-waste could be an effective approach for management, but it has its drawbacks. The Global E-waste Monitor report of 2020 shows that formal recycling in the year 2019 was 9.3 million tons. About 98 million tons of Carbon dioxide equivalent are released due to inadequate recycling of air conditioners and refrigerators. So, ozone-friendly recycling is one of the best options to manage the e-waste produced.
When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere. E-waste production is rapidly increasing around the globe because of the exponential increase in the use of electronic products. Unplanned production and consumption of e-waste would make its management a challenge shortly. The facts mentioned above help to understand the broader context of the problem and its consequences. Responsible recycling is the only solution for the management of the rising e-waste issue. It would play its part in reducing health and environmental damage.
- The Global E-Waste Monitor 2020, Available at:
- https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Environment/Pages/Spotlight/Global-Ewaste-Monitor -2020.aspx
- Environmental and Health Impacts due to e-waste Disposal in China – A Review (2020) Available at:
- https://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/electronic-waste-factshttps://earth911.co m/eco-tech/20-e-waste-facts
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