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International Journal of Ecological Science and Environmental Engineering
2014; 1(2): 49-61
Published online October 10, 2014 (

E-Waste characteristic and its

M. C. Vats1, S. K. Singh2
Technical Officer, DRDO, Delhi, India
Prof and Dean Delhi Technological University Delhi, India

Email address (M. C. Vats), (S. K. Singh)

M. C. Vats, S. K. Singh. E-Waste Characteristic and Its Disposal. International Journal of
Ecological Science and Environmental Engineering. Vol. 1, No. 2, 2014, pp. 49-61.

Keywords Abstract
E-Waste, E-waste contains both hazardous and non-hazardous substances in their components.
Hazardous, Globally, the e-waste generation is estimated at 20 to 50 million tonnes annually. It
Recycling, represents 1 to 3% of the global municipal waste produced as 1636 million tonnes per
Recovery, year. The obsolete and EOL electrical and electronic equipment in large numbers made
E-Waste Disposal Techniques it a fast growing waste all over the world increasing at the rate of 3 to 5% per annum
with respect to the municipal waste. The presence of organic toxic and hazardous
substances in e-waste separates it from the normal municipal waste. These hazardous
substances like plastic, lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic etc. pose health hazards on the
Received: January 02, 2014 human being to the most when treated in uncontrolled condition via air, water and soil.
Revised: September 29, 2014 The people engaged in the recycling and recovery from the e-waste is severely affected
Accepted: September 30, 2014 with chronic and acute diseases like cancer etc. The infrastructure to deal with abundant
e-waste in the developing countries is insufficient in terms of technology, techniques is
the root cause of concern as more than 90% e-waste is treated with rudimentary and
primitive techniques adopted by informal agencies. The presence of these pollutants in
the atmosphere creates various kinds of diseases. To prevent the human being and
environment from contamination of these pollutants, it is desirable to study the
characteristics of various hazardous materials in e-waste so that people are made aware
about ill effects of e-waste treated in uncontrolled conditions. This paper will focus on
the e-waste categories, composition of e-waste, hazardous components, various
characteristics, ill effects of hazardous substances present in the e-waste, existing
disposal methods of e-waste in developing Nations and new innovative disposal methods
relevant to solve the existing e-waste treatment problems.

1. Introduction
A new waste stream has been created by EOL (End of Life), Obsolete Electrical and
Electronic Equipment discarded in abundance in the past in both developing and
developed Nations as the technology is changing every day. A generic word E-waste is
globallyused for waste created this waste stream. It has been defined in various ways by
various agencies. The glimpse of these definitions has been mentioned in Table 01.
In general, the equipment run by electricity (both AC and DC) having PCB to
control/regulate the functional aspects of equipment either declared obsolete; EOL would
be the e-waste. The developing countries like India and China are the emerging
economies. They are facing a flow of huge quantity of e-waste in their countries via
domestic generation as well as illegal imports. The e-waste offers a good business
opportunity in terms of sale of second-hand electrical and electronic equipment as well
fulfils the futuristic demand of recyclable material viz. components, metals, plastics etc.
[R. Widmer et al.].In developed Nations, the environmental laws for the recycling,
International Journal of Ecological Science and Environmental Engineering 2014; 1(2): 49-61 50

recovery and disposal are very stringent and the ratio of e- low cost equipment .Also, the useful life of all consumer
waste treatment cost to recovery of materials from e-waste is electronic devices is short relatively, and decreasing due to
quite high. This high ratio causes the flow of e-waste from rapid changes in equipment features and capabilities [Kang
developed Nations to developing Nations and increased and Schoenung, 2004]. For example, globally the average life
manifolds and encouraged informal recycling in developing span of mobile phone is less than two years; but in
countries [R. Widmer et al.].To stop this practice, Basel developing Nations like India; it is four years [Survey 2013].
convention incepted in 1989 and came into force in 1992- to Similarly, the lifespan of CPUs in computers dropped from 4
stop the trans-boundary movement of hazardous materials to 6 years in 1997 to 2 years in 2005 [Babu et al., 2007]. The
from developed Nations to developing Nations [Basel exploration of constant need to replace the old equipment in
Convention]. For the sake of e-waste treatment in developed the name of new technology with new features accumulated a
Nations European Union [Comprised 17 developed countries] huge quantity of e-waste in the developing Nations. For
has taken a lead for this initiative. EU Directives has example, India is generating more than 8, 00,000 tonnes per
categorised e-waste in ten categories to keep them under annum [CPCB, 2008] with respect to the global production
single umbrella [EU, 2002a]. As nowadays, globally the use 20 to 50 million tonnes [UNEP, 2005]. It represents 1 to 3%
of electrical and electronic equipment has increased many of the global municipal waste produced as 1636 million
folds in the industrial, commercial and household sectors and tonnes per year which is a huge quantity [Robinson, 2009]
made it a fast growing waste. Besides the toxic and and increasing at faster rate of 3% to 5% with respect to the
hazardous attributes of e-waste; the most of the people are municipal waste [BAN/SVTC, 2002], which is three times
dumping of this e-wasted equipment in municipal waste bins faster than municipal waste general growth [ Arensman 2000]
in developing countries. There are many reasons behind the and in developing Nations like India, the rate of increase of
generation of a huge quantity of e-waste like globalization, e-waste generation has been anticipated as 15% per annum.
transfer of technology, abrupt changes in technology, The per capita e-waste generation in developing Nations like
affordable price of new equipment with more features than China and India is less than 1 Kg per annum with respect to
old one, decreased life-span of equipment, illegal dumping of the EU 14 to 24 Kg per capita per annum, which gives totally
e-waste from developed countries, varieties and availability 10 million tonnes annually alone [ Huismann et al.2007].
Table 01. Overview of selected definitions of WEEE or e-waste.

Reference Definitions
“Electrical or electronic equipment which is waste . . . including all components, sub-assemblies and consumables, which
EU WEEE Directive [EU,
are part of the product at the time of discarding.” Directive 75/442/EEC, Article 1(a) defines ‘waste’ as “any substance or
object which the holder disposes of or is required to dispose of pursuant to the provisions of national law in force.”
“E-waste encompasses a broad and growing range of electronic devices ranging from large household devices such as
Basel Action Network
refrigerators, air conditioners, cell phones, personal stereos, and consumer electronics to computers which have been
[Puckett and Smith, 2002].
discarded by their users.”
OECD [2001]. “Any appliance using an electric power supply that has reached its end of- life.”
SINHA [2004]. “An electrically powered appliance that no longer satisfies the current owner for its original purpose.”
E-waste refers to “. . .the reverse supply chain which collects products no longer desired by a given consumer and
StEP [2005].
refurbishes for other consumers, recycles, or otherwise processes wastes.”

Ref:- R. Widmer et al. / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 25 (2005) 436–458, 439

The voluminous generation of e-waste threatened the generated either indigenously or imported for recycling or
waste treating agencies as it contains hazardous metals illegally received from different sources. It is a diverse and
(Heavy Metals and Persistent organic Pollutant) and complex nature of waste contains non-hazardous compounds
inorganic and organic compounds : Lead(Pb), Mercury(Hg), also: Copper, Aluminium, Plastic, Silver, Gold, palladium etc.
Cadmium(Cd), Tin(Sn), Antimony(Sb),Arsenic(As), These can be recovered from e-waste by suitable techniques.
Asbestos(As), Barium(Ba), Beryllium(Be),Chromium(Cr-vi), However, an international effort: Basel Convention- to stop
Nickel(Ni), Selenium(Se), Yttrium(Y), Zinc(Zn),BFRs, the trans-boundary movement of hazardous waste had been
PCDD/F,PCB etc, which is 1% of the total weight of the made in 1989[Basel Convention]. This research paper will
equipment[EU, 2002a].The hazardous substances explode meet the following objectives:
while handling, recycling, and recovery of the recyclable • It will help in establishing the ESM in the developing
material from the e-waste in uncontrolled condition. The countries.
people engaged in this trade in developing Nations are • It will warn the persons engaged in this profession
severely affected as they are not aware about and also there is regarding the ill effects of of e-waste, when treated in
no infrastructure or finance intensive infrastructure to deal uncontrolled condition.
with this waste and simply people started rudimentary and • It will disseminate awareness among people engaged
primitive methods like- open burning of e-waste to get the in this profession for the use of new technologies in
metals like copper, aluminium, steel in the developing place of primitive and rudimentary methods used to
countries. This practice covers more than 90% of the waste recover and recycle the e-wasted components and
51 M. C. Vats and S. K. Singh: E-Waste Characteristic and Its Disposal

materials. participation of each equipment in e-waste has been ensured

• It will prepare a road map for the recycling by EU Directives so that their treatment may be planed as per
technologies are of a great futuristic concerned. their composition of material and size.
• It will facilitate the exploration of new profession for
unemployed people.
This research paper is being organised in the following
1. Section 1: It will describe E-waste categories used by
the European Union and
2. Average compositional breakdown of e-waste.
3. Section 2: It will describe average composition of
material found in e-waste.
4. Section 3: It will describe the hazardous components
of e-waste, hazardous
5. compounds in e-waste. Ref:- Association of Plastics Manufacturer in Europe(APME): Plastics —
6. Section 4: It will describe the e-waste disposal Insight into Consumption and Recovery in Western Europe 2000, cited in
methods through Recycling in both International Copper Study Group, 2003).
7. controlled and uncontrolled conditions. Fig. 1. Average Compositional Breakdown of E-waste.
8. Section 5: It will describe the health hazards
associated with e-waste treatment through recycling, The equipments in e-waste are made of both hazardous
incineration, land filling. and non-hazardous substances. In hazardous substances it has
various toxic and hazardous substances like heavy metals-
2. E-Waste Categories lead, mercury, cadmium and persistent organic compounds
BFRs, and phthalates etc. in their components which are
In this technological boom, both developing and developed cause of concern as they releases while processing, recycling
are using EEEs in abundance in commercial, industrial and or disposal in uncontrolled condition and pose risk on human
household sectors. The manufacturers are introducing new health [UNEP 2005]. The pollutants in the e-waste are
technologies as per day user demand in the equipments and estimated as 2.7% of the total by weight [Empa,Swiss
obsolete the existing equipments, which are not only out Federal Laboratories for materials testing and research].
featured but not compatible to the new technological These constituents made it a complex waste as these are
requirements. This process accumulated a huge quantity of e- present in the material in hidden form such as mercury in
waste comprising numerous equipments small and large in switches, and it is very difficult to separate them in pure form
size viz. washing machines, vacuum cleaner, VCR, from the waste. For their proper regulation and management
Television, halogen lamps, electric Shaw, sports equipment, of all equipment for disposal- recycling, recovery, EU has
medical devices, monitoring and control equipments etc. The categorized them in ten categories with their respective
equipment construction and usage are almost similar world contributed percentage in the e-waste generated in EU
over. After EOL (End Of Life), obsoleting, these equipments 27[ Huismann et al.2007] as shown in Table 01.
are put in TSDF (Treatment Storage, Disposal Facility). The
Table 02. E-waste categories used by the European Union and the average compositional breakdown

Sr. No. Category %age of total e-waste Sub-categories %age of total e-waste
Large household appliances Washing 1A. Large household appl. Excl. 1B and 1C 27.7
1. machines, dryers, refrigerators, air- 49 1B. Cooling and freezing 17.7
conditioners etc. 1C. Smaller items 3.6
Small household appliances Vacuum
2. cleaners, coffee machines, irons, toasters, 7.0 - 7.0
IT and telecom. equipment PCs, Laptops, 3A. IT and telecom. equip. excl. 3B and 3C. 8.0
3. cell phones, telephones, fax machines, 16 3B. CRT monitors 8.3
copiers, printers, etc 3C. LCD monitors 0.0
Consumer electronics Televisions, 4A Consumers electronics excl. 4Band 4C 7.8
4. VCR/DVD/CD Players, Hi-Fi sets, 21 4B. CRT TV’s 13.3
Radios, etc. 4C. Flat Panel TV’s 0.0
Lighting equipment Fluorescent tubes, 5A. Luminaries 0.7
5. sodium lamps etc. (Except: bulbs and 2.4
5B. Lamps 1.7
halogen bulbs)
Electrical and electronic tools Drills,
Electric saws, sewing Machines, lawn
6. 3.5 - 3.5
mower etc. (Except: large stationary
International Journal of Ecological Science and Environmental Engineering 2014; 1(2): 49-61 52

Sr. No. Category %age of total e-waste Sub-categories %age of total e-waste
Toys, leisure and sports equipment
7. Electric train sets, coin slot machines 0.1 - 0.1
treadmills, etc.
8. Medical devices 0.1 - 0.1
9. Monitoring and control equipment 0.2 - 0.2
10. Automatic dispensers 0.2 - 0.2

Ref: E-waste generated by the EU 27 member states in 2005.

The Table 02 shows that the categories 1 to 4 account for waste[ He et al. 2006, Cui and Zhang 2008]. The availability
almost 95% of the total e-waste generated and category 1 of recoverable material made e-waste a resourceful of metals
accounts for almost half the total weight. The least contribution and materials.
is Medical devices i.e. 01%. In EEEs manufacturing more than
thousand materials are used. However the schedule 1 has
categorized e-waste in two categories viz IT and
Telecommunication Equipment and Consumer Electrical and
Electronics. IT and Telecommunication covers Centralized
data processing: Mainframes, Minicomputers, Personal
computing: Personal Computers (CPU with input and output
devices)Laptop (CPU with input and output devices) Notebook,
Notepad etc., Printers including cartridges Copying equipment
Electrical and electronic typewriters Pocket and desk
calculators and other products and equipment for the collection,
storage, processing, presentation or communication of
information by electronic means User terminals and [Ref: (ETC/SCP, Former ETC/RWM)Widmer et al. 2005]
systems ,Facsimile, Telex, Telephones, Pay telephones, Figure 2. Weighted Percentage of Material in E-waste.
Cordless telephones, Cellular telephones, Answering systems,
And other products or equipment of transmitting sound, However, similar kind of study conducted by Empa
images or other information by telecommunications and in ( Swiss Federal Laboratories for materials testing and
consumer electrical and electronics: Television sets (incl LCD, research) reveals that all metals constitute 60.2%, Plastics
LED) Refrigerator, washing machine and air 15.2%, Metal-plastic mixture5%, Printed Circuit Boards
conditioners[Modified Draft Notification, the e-waste 1.7%, pollutants 2.7% etc. as shown in figure 3.
( (Management and Handling) Rules 2010 was published by
the Government of India in the Ministry of Environment and
Forests vide number S.O.1125 (E), dated 14thMay, 2010]. The
composition of these constituents will be described in section 2.

3. Composition Of Material In E-
The most of the Electrical and electronic equipment are
manufactured with the due control by PCBs which regulates
the function of the equipment. However, various other parts
are used in the manufacturing. With this e-waste has become Figure 3. Weighted Percentage of Material in E-waste.
a diverse and complex nature of waste having both hazardous
and non-hazardous ingredients. Broadly e-waste may be
classified in weightage proportions of materials recovered
4. Hazardous Components And
from the e-waste. Steel constitutes 50%, copper, aluminium Compounds In E-Waste
and other metals 13% and plastics 21% [ETC/SCP], however
The presence of heavy metals in e-waste made it indifferent
e-waste is made of wide variety of substances in thousands.
to the municipal biodegradable waste as they not only hamper
The hazardous and toxic metals constitute about 1% of the
the bio-degradation process but harms the human health and
total weight and rest of the material like precious metals
environment also. People engaged in the-waste treatment
constitute gold 0.1%, Silver 0.2% and palladium 0.005%
process are directly exposed to these metals while doing
respectively. The recoverable precious metals play a pivotal
recycling, recovery processes and are most affected. However,
role as it gives 95% financial support to the recycling
beyond threshold value these are toxic and hazardous, for
infrastructure, however other metals and materials like lead,
example dibutyl phthalate anddiethylhexy1 phthalate are
nickel and various plastics may worth after recovery from e-
53 M. C. Vats and S. K. Singh: E-Waste Characteristic and Its Disposal

considered “Toxic for Reproduction” at example The copper traces are woven in layers in PC-board to
concentrations >=0.5%.[CPCB Guidelines 2008.]. Hazardous facilitates the flow of current [AEA 2004, Eswaraiah et al 2008,
compounds are found in the components described in WEEE IGES 2009]. The components connected in this circuitry
Directives Annex II, which are to be removed immediately arrangement are switches, resistors, capacitors. The connecting
from the e-wasted equipments[European Commission 2003a]. media is soldering having tin and lead in the ratio of 60/40
Mostly, these components are always available in e-waste [Geibig&Socolof 2005]. The typical solder content in scrap of
[AEA 2004, EPS Canada 2006, and IGES 2009] and cause of PC board ranges between 4 to 6% by weight or 50 g/ m2 of PC
concern of hazardousness in equipments. For example board [AEA 2004].However, the solder contains other different
Capacitors containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), substances also. Similarly, relay and switches often contain
Mercury-containing components such as switches or mercury but also contain small amount of cadmium for plated
backlighting lamps, Batteries, PC-boards of mobile phones and contacts. All components in e-wasted equipment are not
of other devices if the surface area of the circuit board is hazardous. The table 2 will show the hazardous components
greater than 10 cm2.The percentage of heavy metals depends with respective hazardous compound used and applications of
upon the manufacturing requirements of the equipment, for the equipment.
Table 03. Components and Electrical and electronicequipment containing hazardous compounds.

Sr. No. Components Compounds of concern Applications

Printed circuit boards (PC- Pb, Sb in solder, Cd, Be in contacts and Switches Hg
1. Ubiquitous, from beepers toPCs.
boards) in switches and relays Ga,As in LEDsBFR in plastics
Ni and Cd in Ni-Cd batteries Pb in lead acid batteries
2. Batteries In various portable electronic devices.
Hg in Hg batteries
Various Hg containing Thermostats, sensors, relays, switches, gas discharge
3. Hg.
components. lamps, medical equipment and telecom equipment.
Pb and Sb in CRT glass Various metals (e.g. Cd) in
4. Cathode ray tubes (CRTs) Old TV sets, PC monitors, oscilloscopes.
the glass phosphor Ba in electron gun getter.
Liquid crystal displays Most devices with a screen,e.g. cell phones, laptops
5. Liquid crystals in the screen
(LCDs) etc.
PVC and Teflon as polymers BFRs, Cd, Pb, org-Sn
6. Plastics and polymers Wire insulation, plastic housing, circuit boards etc.
and phthalates as additives
7. PCB-containing capacitors PCB In various electronic circuits
8. Refrigerating circuits Freon Refrigerators, freezers, air-conditioners.
Laser printers, copying
9. Toner cartridges Toner, including carbon black
Machines, faxes.


The presence of all materials in equipment is in proportion Electronic Equipments) as the informal recyclers disposing
to meet the designed perimeters. The construction of majority the e-waste in unorganized manner and throw the left over in
of equipment are PCB based which contains maximum the municipal waste bins. In India a huge quantity of e-waste
numbers of hazardous compounds like lead, Stibium, are available and unfortunately 90 % of e-waste are treated
Cadmium, mercury, beryllium, Gallium, Arsenic, and BFRs. by the informal agencies like kabaris, recyclers etc. They are
However, OEMs are reducing these hazardous compounds in greedy to extract the intended material like copper,
their manufacturing of equipments under the instruction of aluminium, steel and leave behind or let burn in open the rest
RoHS. material of e-waste. The manufacturing of Electrical and
Electronic Equipment has emerged as fast growing sector
5. E-Waste Disposal Methods world over. For example in developing Nation like India, IT
industries leaded and increased with annual growth of 42.4%
The presence of worthwhile recyclable material in e-waste per year between 1995 to 2000 and PC industries grown with
has attracted the informal recycling and recovery system compound annual growth rate 25%. In 2005-06 India had
much in the developing Nations. Also, the pressing need of 4.64 million desktops, 431 thousands of note-books and 89
modern technology in developing Nation thereby obsoleting thousands servers [ CPCB, Guidelines, 2008].The new law
the existing in huge quantity. For example, In India, a serious enacted, facilitated a compatible e-waste management system
step has been taken to enact a law for the management and in India. It encompasses collection, storage, reuse, recycling,
handling of e-waste and it is in place w.e.f. 01st May 2012[E- recovery from e-waste and incineration and land-filling.
waste rule 2011]. The CPCB (Central pollution Control Presently, there is an increasing demand of advanced
Board) has registered e-waste recyclers countrywide. But still, technology on regular basis. The presence of hazardous
the users, manufacturers are not much aware about the far substances in e-waste indicates the careful handling of waste
going ill effects of mishandled e-waste. In view of this, the and processes it for reuse, recycle and recovery for all
users are either keep the EOL equipment in their possession recyclable materials as this sector of recycling has a potential
or handover it to the corner side Kabaris as there is no curb of components refurbishment. The recycling and recovery of
side collection mechanism for these EEEs (Electrical and materials from e-waste have become essential as they release
International Journal of Ecological Science and Environmental Engineering 2014; 1(2): 49-61 54

burden on natural resources, meet the virgin material

requirement, prevent the release of hazardous materials from
e-waste, reduce the volume of e-waste so that the land
requirement in metropolitan city may be kept minimum for
further expansion. Prior to incineration and land-filing the e-
waste undergoes recycling, reuse and recovery options as
shown in flow chart in fig 3. The informal recyclers are using
primitive and rudimentary e-waste disposal methods like Figure 5. Hazardous Methods of e-waste Disposal
open burning for the recovery of metals: copper, aluminium,
steel and put rest of the material plastics, PCBs, ceramics, The environmentally sound e-waste recycling stressing the
asbestos, which are all hazardous in nature and during manual dismantling of e-waste which helps in recovery of
incineration/ open dump burning, these explode in the recyclable metals, plastics, components and segregate the
atmosphere. Some of the hazardous methods are shown in hazardous components need further treatment e.g. mercury
fig.4. and lead containing components: batteries, CRT-Glass and
LCDs [Cui and Forsberg 2003, UNEP 2009]. For example
mercury containing components are normally treated in
specialized mercury recovery facilities or authorized
hazardous waste incinerators having modern flue gas
cleaning systems [OECD 2003].The other mechanical
processes like shredding, grinding, magnetic and eddy
current separation etc. are involved, which are the primary
requirement of recovery shown in Fig 6.

Figure 4. Options Prior to Incineration.

Fig. 6. Schematic of the first steps in a typical e-waste recycling process.

The profile for Dismantling and sorting varies according to deal with the e-waste.
the scale of the operations required as for small manual is Ideally, for Further refining of metal fractions, initially the
applicable as in large automated operations are desirable to pyro-metallurgical process is used followed by hydro-
55 M. C. Vats and S. K. Singh: E-Waste Characteristic and Its Disposal

metallurgical processes. However, the hydro- metallurgical Japan [IGES 2009].How this integrated facility works shown
process may also be used as alternate process in place of in the Fig.7.These are the following main steps in hydo-
pyro-metallurgical process since it consumes less energy and metallurgical process treating the solid material with caustic
it is exact and more predictable and easy to control during or acids caused leaching of the material resulting the
process. Both processes are in use as since more than two reduction in grain size of the material and facilitate more
decades and followed by electrolytic refining. For example, metal yields from the material. The leaching solvents are
for the recovery of non-ferrous metals and precious metals commonly used namely cyanide, thiourea, thiosulfate, and
pyro-metallurgical processes in copper smelter is used and sodium hydroxide and acids such as aqua regia, sulphuric
further refining electrolytic process is used [Cui and Zhang acid, nitric acid, and hydrochloric acid. After treatment, the
2008]. The recovery of metals achieved by this process is 99% metal of interest is isolated from the solution and
and the remaining 0.9% in electrolyte is treated with acidic concentrated by applying any of the suitable methods like the
solution to recover the metals from electrolyte. This kind of solvent extraction, precipitation, cementation, adsorption, ion
smelters are in place in Boliden in Sweden, Umicore in exchange, filtration and distillation [Cui and Zhang 2008,
Belgium, Noranda in Canada, NorddeutscheAffinerie AG in Antrekowitsch et al 2006].
Germany [Allsopp et al 2006] and Dowa Eco-System in

Fig. 7. Schematic of the processes used to recover copper and precious metals from ore concentrate, copper Scrap and e-waste at Boliden’s Rönnskär smelter
in Sweden [Boliden 2010].

For the recovery of plastics from e-waste is also essential oven gas and other chemicals by using pyrolysis and
like recovery of metals as plastics also have great potential of depolymerisation techniques as alternative recycling methods
recycling value [Kang &Schoenung 2005]. Hardly 25% of [Kang &Schoenung 2005]. Also, the plastics is being used
plastics is being recycled since the presence of numerous both for heat and energy recovery system and acts as a fuel
polymers and additives made it very complex materials and reducing agent in the smelter process and replaces some
[Schlummer et al 2007]. The different products and quality of of the coke used for the purpose [Kang &Schoenung 2005,
plastics are separated from the e-waste and subsequent Schlummer et al. 2007]. However, it contradicts in the
separation is being made by using the following techniques abatement of pollution resulting from the process as the
like sieving, density separation (in various aqueous or non- formation of dioxin and furan in the ambience.
aqueous media), electrostatic separation (e.g. triboelectric In the developing countries, the informal recyclers are
separation) and air-separation, in combination with various inviting health hazards not only for engaged workers but to
size reduction steps, such as grinding, milling and the environment also. During recycling they use rudimentary
granulation [Kang &Schoenung 2005]. The foreign material and primitive methods to recover the targeted metals like
in plastics is separated by performing the following copper, steel, plastics, aluminium etc and leave behind the
techniques magnetic separation, eddy current separation and precious metals either in the waste or in ash due to lack of
air-separation. The plastics so obtained are used in the awareness about the recovery of precious materials by new
manufacturing of new plastic products. However, the technology and techniques. These activities are carried out in
attempts are made to transform the plastics into coke, coke small workshops or just outdoors [BAN & SVTC 2002].They
International Journal of Ecological Science and Environmental Engineering 2014; 1(2): 49-61 56

do not have any control over the process/ emission generated separator ensures better separation of Aluminium fraction in
from the combustion of e-waste. comparison to the fraction of Copper, Silver and Gold. The
grounded material having size less than 2 mm, electrostatic
5.1. Environmentally Sound E-Waste precipitation is used for copper recovery most of time
Treatment Technologies [ Zhang and Forssberg, 1997; luga et al., 1998; Li et al, 2004,
These treatment technologies are used in three tier system Hamos GmbH; Kang and Schoenung, 2005]. However,
i.e. 1st level treatment, 2nd level treatment and 3rd level electrostatic separation gives poor separation efficiencies at -
treatment. 100 µm fine sizes [Wills, 1997]. [ Zhao et al. (2004)]
From the 1st level treatment Plastic is separated and the compared with column air separator.
remaining items like CRT, Circuit boards, cables, hazardous
waste, mercury switches are put as input in 2nd level
treatment further to extract metals further.
From 2nd level treatment the plastic mixtures and plastic
with flame retardants, glass, lead, are separated and the other
metals are separated by using Magnetic and Eddy current
separation of ferrous and non-ferrous metals like Fe and non
Fe (Cu, Al, Au, Ag and other precious metals using the
material physical properties like electric conductivity,
magnetic properties and density. These are dry process based
treatment are shown in the figure 8 and 9 respectively.
Fig. 9. Flow chart of 2nd level e-waste treatment.

A typical treatment process used for the treatment non-

CRT e-waste is shown in figure 10. As more efficient
treatment method denotes more recovery of metals/ materials
from e-waste and less environmental loading.

Fig. 8. Flow Chart of 1st Level treatment.

The pre-communicating of e-waste is essentially required

to prepare a feed stock for magnetic and eddy current
separation processes. It includes mill hammering, shear
shredding and pulverisation of e-waste. Further, the material Fig. 10. Now the feed stock is ready for recovery of various metals. It is the
is screened and de-dusted followed by separation of valuable input for 3rd level treatment of e-waste.
metal fraction of Copper, Aluminium and residual fractions
5.2. 3rd Level Treatment of E-Waste
of precious metals (Gold and Silver etc) by using
electrostatic, gravimetric, eddy current technologies. Overall The 3rd level treatment is based upon the input (residual
magnetic separation, eddy current separation, electrostatic fractions), technologies used and its final output. Apart from
separation, air tables, gravity air classifiers, air cyclones and eddy current separation, magnetic separation etc. the e-waste
shape screens are used among other processes also [ Goosey feedstock is treated with incineration; refining, smelting and
and Kellner, 2003; Li et al., 2004; Kang and Schoenung, distillation to get heat energy and concentrated metals. The
2005; Hamos GmbH].However, the yield of these metals various processes of 3rd level treatment are input, unit
besides these technologies depends upon the particle size and operations and respective output is presented in the table 04.
shape, feeding rate, optimum operations also. For example
eddy current separation for non-ferrous metals is best suited
for granular metal of size more than 5 mm. Also eddy current
57 M. C. Vats and S. K. Singh: E-Waste Characteristic and Its Disposal

Table 04. Input/ Output and unit operations for 3rd level treatment of e- waste.

Input/WEEE Residue. Unit Operation/ Disposal / Recycling Technique. Output.

Sorted Plastic Recycling Plastic Product
Plastic Mixture Energy Recovery/Incineration Energy Recovery
Plastic Mixture with FR Incineration Energy Recovery
CRT Breaking/Recycling Glass cullet
Lead Smelting Secondary Lead Smelter Lead
Ferrous Metal Scrap Secondary steel/iron recycling Iron
Non-ferrous metal Scrap Secondary copper and aluminium smelting Copper/Aluminium
Precious Metals Au/Ag Separation(refining) Gold/Silver/Platinum and Palladium
Batteries (Lead Acid/NiMH and Lead recovery and smelting
LiION) Re-melting and separation
CFC Recovery/ Reuse and incineration CFC/ Energy Recovery
Oil Recovery/Reuse and incineration Oil Recovery/ Energy
Capacitors Incineration Energy Recovery
Mercury Separation and Distillation. Mercury

Ref:- Ref: Guidelines for Environmentally Sound E-waste Management, 2008

The techniques are available with developed Nations to In developed Nations, the integrated facilities are in place
recover recyclable material like plastics, ferrous metals, non- to do recycling of e-waste and keep the level exposure
ferrous metals and their efficiencies are high and vary minimal of heavy metals. However due to stringent
material to material. For example magnetic separation Environmental laws in their countries and expensive
achieves a target of ferrous metal recovery is 90% to 95% recycling of e-waste, they are dumping this waste in the
from e-waste and eddy current separation of non-ferrous developing countries to get it recycled as the labour required
metals is more than 90%[MoEF, 2008]. for the recycling is much more cheap in these countries. The
developing countries without any infrastructure are treating
the e-waste generated indigenously as well as dumped by
6. Hazards Associated With E-Waste developed Nations and are most effected due to e-waste
Informal recycling and recovery processes in the rudimentary and primitive treatment. However due to
developing Nations like India, China are the vulnerable in the international effort as Basel Convention and new technical
abatement of pollution generated by the e-waste. The development like RoHS(Restriction of Hazardous Substances)
presence of heavy metals alone responsible for its decreased the use of hazardous substances in e-waste but still
hazardousness. They do the recycling and recovery in closed there are some hazardous substances remained in the e-waste.
small workshops cause occupational health hazards or dump Due to their presence, always there is a possibility of hazards.
the leftover after recovery of intended material and let the e- It encompasses hazards during collection and dismantling,
waste burn in open. This open burning of e-waste with heavy mechanical shredding and separation, pyro-metallurgical
metals penetrate in food chain, spoil our aquifers, spoil processing, hydro-metallurgical processing, recycling of
underground water reserves, decrease the fertility of soil. plastics, manual dismantling and recovery of valuable
These are persistent organic pollutants and remain in materials, acid extraction of metals, melting and extrusion of
atmosphere years together and harming the ecology Plastics, burning of plastics and other materials, dumping of
continuously. Even in the controlled and perfect recycling residual materials, Soil and sediment contamination, Water
there is possibility of heavy metals leakage. This section will contamination, Air contamination, Human exposures and
describe the hazards aspects involved for the e-waste health effects. Table 05 shows the hazards associated with
treatment and Disposal. EOL process, occupational and environmental hazards
created by traditional waste handling, controlled recycling
6.1. Hazards Associated while Recycling of and uncontrolled recycling.
E-Waste in Controlled Conditions

Table 05. Risks associated with end-of-life treatment of electronic waste (e-waste).

End-of-life process Occupational risks Environmental risks

Traditional waste handling.
Leakage of metals (e.g. Pb, Cu, Ni, Sb, Cd, Zn) and
Landfilling organic compounds (e.g. BFRs, plasticizers).Evaporation
of Hg and MeHg.
Emission of various metals and organic compounds via
exhaust gases (e.g. dioxins, BFRs, PAHs, Cu, Pb,
Sb).Leakage of various compounds from ashes (e.g.
dioxins, Cu, Pb, Sn)
International Journal of Ecological Science and Environmental Engineering 2014; 1(2): 49-61 58

End-of-life process Occupational risks Environmental risks

Controlled recycling.
Dust containing various compounds during dismantling
activities. Dust containing Pb and Ba-oxide from broken CRTs Emissions of volatile compounds (e.g. Hg) from broken
Collection and dismantling
Cuts from CRT glass in case of implosion.Volatile compounds components.
(e.g. Hg) from broken components.
Dust containing various compounds (e.g.BFRs, TPP, phthalates,
Cd, etc.).
Dust and fumes of the shredded material andthe melting process, Emissions of various metals (e.g. Pb, Cd, Hg, Be) and
containing various compounds (e.g. Pb, Cd, Hg, Be, BFRs, organic compounds from the melting process (e.g.BFRs
dioxins, TPP, phthalates). and dioxins).
Acid fumes containing various hazardouscompounds
Dust and fumes of various chlorinated andbrominated Emissions of various chlorinated and brominated
Plastic recycling compounds (e.g. BFRs anddioxins), and some metal additives compounds (e.g. dioxins) from the thermal processes
(e.g. Cd) used.
Uncontrolled recycling.
Dust containing various compounds during dismantling
Emission of dust and fumes containing various
activities, e.g. Pb and Ba-oxide from broken CRTs.
Collection and dismantling metals(e.g. Pb, Zn, Cu, Sn, Sb, Cd, Ni, Hg) and organic
Cuts from CRT glass in case of implosion. Volatile compounds
compounds (e.g. BFRs) to the local environment.
(incl. Hg) from broken components.
Exposure to fumes of various compounds from solder and PC- Leakage of various compounds (e.g Cu….) from dumped
PC-board heating
board components (e.g. Pb,Sn, BFRs and dioxins) PC-board residues.
Leakage of various compounds from emptied and
Toner sweeping Exposure to toner dust including carbon black.
dumped toner cartridges.
Leakage of various metals (e.g. Pb, Sn, Cu, Sb, Ni, Hg,
Exposure to acidic fumes containing various hazardous
Acid extraction Ba, Cd) and organic compounds (BFRs, phthalates, TPP,
dioxins) from dumped residues of the extraction process.
Dust and fumes of various metals and organic compounds Emissions of dust containing various plastics
present in the plastics (e.g. BFRs, phthalates, TPP, Cd, etc.) Components to the local environment.
Emissions of a wide range of metals (incl. Cd, Cu, Pb,
Exposure to a wide range of metals (incl. Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn, Sb)
Zn, Sb) and organic compounds (incl. PBDEs, PAHs,
Plastics and waste burning and organic compounds (incl. PBDEs, PAHs, PCBs, dioxins) via
PCBs, dioxins) to the local, regional and global
the smoke.
Exposure to dust and fumes, containing various compounds,
Dumping ofresidual Leakage of various metals and organic compounds to the
from dumped materials. Secondary exposure via contaminated
materials ground and water reservoirs in the surroundings
drinking water and food.

Ref:- SWEDISH ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY REPORT 6417, Recycling and disposal of electronic waste

The exposure to hazardous compounds takes place more are suffering from respiratory diseases, skin infections, and
while inhalation of fumes and dust. In the ambience of stomach problem[Leung et al. 2006, Sepúlvedaetal. 2009].
treatment facility, these POPs are affecting the residents The table 06 shows the individual effects of these hazardous
continuously and it is observed in Guiyu China that children compounds present in e-waste.
Table 06. Hazards Associated with Metal/Acid/Compound and Sources

Metal/Acid /Compound Source and Associated Hazards.

Mechanical breaking of CRTs, removal of solder from microchips. Being a neurotoxin affects the kidneys and the
reproductive system, mental development in children.
Breaking and burning of circuit boards and switches, microbial activity. It affects the central nervous system, kidneys and
Mercury immune system, impairs foetus growth and harms infants through mother’s milk and can enter the human food chain
through aquatic.
Crushing and milling of plastics, CRTs and circuit boards. Being a carcinogen causes Itai-itai disease, affects the kidneys
and softens bones.
It is found in circuit boards, cabinets and cables all contain carcinogens. BFRs or brominated flame retardants give out
carcinogenic brominated dioxins and furans. Dioxins can harm reproductive and immune systems.
It is used to protect metal housings and plates in a computer from corrosion. The Chromium 6 can damage liver and
kidneys and cause bronchial maladies including asthmatic bronchitis and lung cancer.
Beryllium It is found in switch boards and printed circuit boards. It is carcinogenic and causes lung diseases.
The Sulphuric and hydrochloric acids are used to separate metals from circuit boards. Fumes contain chlorine and sulphur
dioxide, which cause respiratory problems. They are corrosive to the eye and skin.
Beryllium oxide(Beryllia) They are very toxic and may cause cancer by inhalation.
It is very toxic may cause cancer by inhalation. However, Beryllium component scrap is classified as non-hazardous in
Beryllium metal.
the OECD, Basel and EU regime.
Selenium It exposure of high concentrations can cause selenosis.
Polychlorinated biphenyls It is used as dielectric fluids, heat transfer fluids, additives in adhesives and plastics. It causes cancer in animals. Also
(PCBs) effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, endocrine system.
59 M. C. Vats and S. K. Singh: E-Waste Characteristic and Its Disposal

Metal/Acid /Compound Source and Associated Hazards.

These are the by-products in the manufacture of substances like some pesticides as well as during combustion. Dioxins
Dioxin and Furan bio-accumulate in the body and can lead to malformations of the foetus, decreased reproduction and growth rates and
cause impairment of the immune system among other things .
Brominated flame retardants The flame retardants make materials, especially plastics and textiles, more flame resistant. It releases while combustion of
(BFRs) halogenated case material and printed wiring boards at lower temperatures and cause severe hormonal disorders.
It is a poisonous metallic element and its chronic exposure can lead to various skin disease, decrease nerve conduction
velocity, cause lung cancer.
It is used in sparkplugs, fluorescent lamps and "getters" in vacuum tubes. It is highly unstable in the pure form and forms
Barium poisonous oxides when in contact with air. Its short-term exposure can lead to brain swelling, muscle weakness, damage
to the heart, liver and spleen.

6.2. Pathways of Hazardous Compounds on irrigation ditches. The samples collected by BAN from the
Mammalians Lijiang River shows heavy contamination of cadmium (0.01–
0.033 mg/L against 0.003 mg/L (WHO guidelines)), lead (1.9
The pollutants so produced from e-waste mishandling, to 24 mg/L against 0.01 mg/L (WHO guideline). In view of
effects mammalians through a series of pathways like that people in Guiyu are bound to fetch water from nearby
exposure, uptake, metabolism etc. The whole network is town only after the one year existence of WEEE industry
represented in fig. The pollutants with intrinsic toxicity there [BAN et al., 2002].
activate metabolisms system. It interacts with other parts of The e-waste concerns are much more in terms of health
the body and initiates toxic effects anywhere in the body. The and valuable resource. The people engaged in the recovery,
physiological changes in the body takes place may be in CNS recycling and other activities are made aware and serious
(Central Nervous System), injury to the reproductive system, about the ill and long term effects of e-waste when they
interaction with nucleic acids leading to carcinogenesis. The handle it. The precautions should be forwarded along with
damage or changes depends upon the concentration of the materials and a due care should be ensured so that the
pollutants. The action of toxicants may cease storage, incidents due to mishandling may be obviated or reduced to a
biotransformation or excretion. minimum scale. The Identification and isolation of hazardous
materials is very essential before taking up any kind of e-
waste treatment and treat them as per their hazardousness.
In India, E-Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011
call for reduction the use of hazardous substances in
electrical and electronic equipments. The threshold value for
cadmium 0.01% by weight in homogeneous material and for
lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, poly-brominated-
biphenyls and polybrominated di-phenyl ether is 0.1% by
weight of the equipment. This reduction will be achieved by
01 May 2014. The equipments are exempted placed six years
before the commencement of these rules.[MoEF,
Implementation of e-waste rules 2011, CPCB Delhi 32].
Fig. 11. The poisoning process in animals and humans by Toxicants.
7. Conclusion
The concept soil-plant barrier was introduced in 1980,
explaining how metal addition, soil chemistry and plant E-waste management has become one of the emerging
chemistry affect human being when the soil is full of metals problem to the developed and developing countries both as it
(Chaney, 1980). The plants absorbed metals via pore water. is a fast growing waste contains very hazardous and toxic
The plants have both active and passive to take up and substances in their e-wasted components. It is generated
exclude metals depending upon the internal concentration more in developed countries than developing countries. The
[US EPA, 2003]. The metals (e.g. copper, selenium, and zinc) developed countries either dumped it land filling or
are nutritionally essentially required elements at low levels dispatched it to the developing countries like china and India.
but toxic at higher levels, and others (e.g. lead, arsenic, and The environmental laws for the recovery and recycling from
mercury) have no known biological functions as metals are e-waste are very stringent and money intensive in the
naturally occurring having organisms and accumulated in developed countries. In spite of Basel convention, they
essential metals (Fairbrother et al., 2007). dispatch the e-waste to the developing countries in the name
The pollutants emitted from the e-waste treating site of charity, recycling. The developing countries are facing
contaminated the water resources in plenty, as the processes problems as they do not have know how to handle this waste.
pertaining to treatment are both wet and dry and consumes a They are treating it to recover and recycle the material in
lot of water and air. For example, in China, the WEEE the equipment with bare hands with rudimentary and
residue and leftover either dumped in fields or in rivers and primitive methods like open burning, acid leaching and
recover in minimum the targeted material like copper, steel
International Journal of Ecological Science and Environmental Engineering 2014; 1(2): 49-61 60

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