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Electronic waste, e-waste, e-scrap, or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

(WEEE) describe loosely discarded, surplus, obsolete, or broken electrical or electronic
devices. Informal processing of electronic waste in developing countries causes serious
health and pollution problems. Some electronic scrap components, such as CRTs, contain
contaminants such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, mercury, and brominate flame
retardants. Even in developed countries recycling and disposal of e-waste may involve
significant risk to workers and communities and great care must be taken to avoid unsafe
exposure in recycling operations and leaching of material such as heavy metals from
landfills and incinerator ashes. Electronic Waste – or e-waste – is the term used to
describe old, end-of-life electronic appliances such as computers, laptops, TVs, DVD
players, mobile phones, mp3 players etc. which have been disposed of by their original
users. While there is no generally accepted definition of e-waste, in most cases, e-waste
comprises of relatively expensive and essentially durable products used for data
processing, telecommunications or entertainment in private households and businesses.

"Electronic waste" may be defined as all secondary computers, entertainment device

electronics, mobile phones, and other items such as television sets and refrigerators,
whether sold, donated, or discarded by their original owners. This definition includes
used electronics which are destined for reuse, resale, salvage, recycling, or disposal.
Rapid changes in technology, low initial cost, and planned obsolescence have resulted in
a fast-growing surplus of electronic waste around the globe.


Electrical and electronic equipment are made up of a multitude of components, some

containing toxic substances which can have an adverse impact on human health and the
environment if not handled properly. Often, these hazards arise due to the improper
recycling and disposal processes used.

For example, Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) have high content of carcinogens such as lead,
barium, phosphor and other heavy metals. When disposed carefully in a controlled
environment, they do not pose any serious health or environmental risk. However,
breaking, recycling or disposing CRTs in an uncontrolled environment without the
necessary safety precautions can result in harmful side effects for the workers and release
toxins into the soil, air and groundwater.

Another dangerous process is the recycling of components containing hazardous

compounds such as halogenated chlorides and bromides used as flame-retardants in
plastics, which form persistent dioxins and furans on combustion at low temperatures
(600-800°C) Copper, which is present in printed circuit boards and cables, acts a catalyst
for dioxin formation when flame-retardants are incinerated. The PVC sheathing of wires
is highly corrosive when burnt and also induces the formation of dioxins. A study on
burning printed wiring boards in India showed alarming concentrations of dioxins in the
surroundings of open burning places reaching 30 times the Swiss guidance level.

Land filling e-waste, one of the most widely used methods of disposal, is prone to
hazards because of leachate which often contains heavy water resources. Even state-of-
the-art landfills which are sealed to the long-term. Older landfill sites and uncontrolled
dumps pose a much greater danger of releasing hazardous emissions. Mercury, Cadmium
and Lead are among the most toxic leachates. Mercury, for example, will leach when
certain electronic devices such as circuit breakers are destroyed. Lead has been found to
leach from broken lead-containing glass, such as the cone glass of cathode ray tubes from
TVs and monitors. When brominated flame retarded plastics or plastics containing
cadmium are land filled, both PBDE and cadmium may leach into soil and groundwater.
In addition, landfills are also prone to uncontrolled fires which can release toxic fumes.

Disposal of e-wastes is a particular problem faced in many regions across the globe.
Computer wastes that are landfilled produces contaminated leachates which eventually
pollute the groundwater. Acids and sludge obtained from melting computer chips, if
disposed on the ground causes acidification of soil. For example, Guiyu, Hong Kong a
thriving area of illegal e-waste recycling is facing acute water shortages due to the
contamination of water resources.

This is due to disposal of recycling wastes such as acids, sludges etc. in rivers. Now
water is being transported from faraway towns to cater to the demands of the population.
Incineration of e-wastes can emit toxic fumes and gases, thereby polluting the
surrounding air. Improperly monitored landfills can cause environmental hazards.
Mercury will leach when certain electronic devices, such as circuit breakers are
destroyed. The same is true for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from condensers.
When brominated flame retardant plastic or cadmium containing plastics are landfilled,
both polybrominated dlphenyl ethers (PBDE) and cadmium may leach into the soil and
groundwater. It has been found that significant amounts of lead ion are dissolved from
broken lead containing glass, such as the cone glass of cathode ray tubes, gets mixed with
acid waters and are a common occurrence in landfills.

Not only does the leaching of mercury poses specific problems, the vaporization of
metallic mercury and dimethylene mercury, both part of Waste Electrical and Electronic
Equipment (WEEE) is also of concern. In addition, uncontrolled fires may arise at
landfills and this could be a frequent occurrence in many countries. When exposed to fire,
metals and other chemical substances, such as the extremely toxic dioxins and furans
(TCDD tetrachloro dibenzo-dioxin, PCDDs-polychlorinated dibenzodioxins. PBDDs-
polybrominated dibenzo-dioxin and PCDFspoly chlorinated dibenzo furans) from
halogenated flame retardant products and PCB containing condensers can be emitted. The
most dangerous form of burning e-waste is the open-air burning of plastics in order to
recover copper and other metals. The toxic fall-out from open air burning affects both the
local environment and broader global air currents, depositing highly toxic by products in
many places throughout the world.
Source of Constituent Health effects
Solder in printed
• Damage to central and peripheral nervous
circuit boards,
systems, blood systems and kidney
glass panels and
Lead (PB) damage.
gaskets in
• Affects brain development of children.
• Toxic irreversible effects on human
Chip resistors
Cadmium • Accumulates in kidney and liver.
(CD) • Causes neural damage.
• Teratogenic.
• Chronic damage to the brain.
Relays and
switches, printed Mercury (Hg)
• Respiratory and skin disorders due to
circuit boards
bioaccumulation in fishes.
protection of
untreated and Hexavalent • Asthmatic bronchitis.
galvanized steel chromium
plates, decorator (Cr) VI • DNA damage.
or hardner for
steel housings
Burning produces dioxin. It causes

Cabling and Plastics • Reproductive and developmental

computer including problems;
housing PVC • Immune system damage;

• Interfere with regulatory hormones

Plastic housing Brominated
of electronic flame
• Disrupts endocrine system functions
equipments and retardants
circuit boards. (BFR)
Short term exposure causes:
Front panel of
Barium (Ba) • Muscle weakness;
• Damage to heart, liver and spleen.
Motherboard Beryllium • Carcinogenic (lung cancer)
• Inhalation of fumes and dust. Causes
chronic beryllium disease or beryllicosis.

A set of interrelated and mutually supportive strategies are proposed to support the
concrete implementation of the activities:

1. To involve experts in designing communication tools for creating awareness at

the highest level to promote the aims of the Basel Declaration on environmentally
sound management and the ratification and implementation of the Basel
Convention, its amendments and protocol with the emphasis on the short-term
2. To engage and stimulate a group of interested parties to assist the secretariat in
exploring fund raising strategies including the preparation of projects and in
making full use of expertise in non-governmental organizations and other
institutions in joint projects.
3. To motivate selective partners among various stakeholders to bring added value to
making progress in the short-term.
4. To disseminate and make information easily accessible through the internet and
other electronic and printed materials on the transfer of know-how, in particular
through Basel Convention Regional Centers (BCRCs).
5. To undertake periodic review of activities in relation to the agreed indicators;
6. To collaborate with existing institutions and programmes to promote better use of
cleaner technology and its transfer, methodology, economic instruments or policy
to facilitate or support capacity-building for the environmentally sound
management of hazardous and other wastes.


In industries management of e-waste should begin at the point of generation. This can be
done by waste minimization techniques and by sustainable product design. Waste
minimization in industries involves adopting:

• inventory management,
• production-process modification,
• volume reduction,
• recovery and reuse.

Inventory management

Proper control over the materials used in the manufacturing process is an important way
to reduce waste generation (Freeman, 1989). By reducing both the quantity of hazardous
materials used in the process and the amount of excess raw materials in stock, the
quantity of waste generated can be reduced. This can be done in two ways i.e.
establishing material-purchase review and control procedures and inventory tracking

Developing review procedures for all material purchased is the first step in establishing
an inventory management program. Procedures should require that all materials be
approved prior to purchase. In the approval process all production materials are evaluated
to examine if they contain hazardous constituents and whether alternative non-hazardous
materials are available.

Another inventory management procedure for waste reduction is to ensure that only the
needed quantity of a material is ordered. This will require the establishment of a strict
inventory tracking system. Purchase procedures must be implemented which ensure that
materials are ordered only on an as-needed basis and that only the amount needed for a
specific period of time is ordered.

Production-process modification

Changes can be made in the production process, which will reduce waste generation. This
reduction can be accomplished by changing the materials used to make the product or by
the more efficient use of input materials in the production process or both. Potential
waste minimization techniques can be broken down into three categories:

i) Improved operating and maintenance procedures,

ii) Material change and

iii) Process-equipment modification.

Improvements in the operation and maintenance of process equipment can result in

significant waste reduction. This can be accomplished by reviewing current operational
procedures or lack of procedures and examination of the production process for ways to
improve its efficiency. Instituting standard operation procedures can optimise the use of
raw materials in the production process and reduce the potential for materials to be lost
through leaks and spills. A strict maintenance program, which stresses corrective
maintenance, can reduce waste generation caused by equipment failure. An employee-
training program is a key element of any waste reduction program. Training should
include correct operating and handling procedures, proper equipment use, recommended
maintenance and inspection schedules, correct process control specifications and proper
management of waste materials.

Hazardous materials used in either a product formulation or a production process may be

replaced with a less hazardous or non-hazardous material. This is a very widely used
technique and is applicable to most manufacturing processes. Implementation of this
waste reduction technique may require only some minor process adjustments or it may
require extensive new process equipment. For example, a circuit board manufacturer can
replace solvent-based product with water-based flux and simultaneously replace solvent
vapor degreaser with detergent parts washer.

Installing more efficient process equipment or modifying existing equipment to take

advantage of better production techniques can significantly reduce waste generation. New
or updated equipment can use process materials more efficiently producing less waste.
Additionally such efficiency reduces the number of rejected or off-specification products,
thereby reducing the amount of material which has to be reworked or disposed of.
Modifying existing process equipment can be a very cost-effective method of reducing
waste generation. In many cases the modification can just be relatively simple changes in
the way the materials are handled within the process to ensure that they are not wasted.
For example, in many electronic manufacturing operations, which involve coating a
product, such as electroplating or painting, chemicals are used to strip off coating from
rejected products so that they can be recoated. These chemicals, which can include acids,
caustics, cyanides etc are often a hazardous waste and must be properly managed. By
reducing the number of parts that have to be reworked, the quantity of waste can be
significantly reduced.

Volume reduction

Volume reduction includes those techniques that remove the hazardous portion of a waste
from a non-hazardous portion. These techniques are usually to reduce the volume, and
thus the cost of disposing of a waste material. The techniques that can be used to reduce
waste-stream volume can be divided into 2 general categories: source segregation and
waste concentration. Segregation of wastes is in many cases a simple and economical
technique for waste reduction. Wastes containing different types of metals can be treated
separately so that the metal value in the sludge can be recovered. Concentration of a
waste stream may increase the likelihood that the material can be recycled or reused.
Methods include gravity and vacuum filtration, ultra filtration, reverse osmosis, freeze
vaporization etc.

For example, an electronic component manufacturer can use compaction equipments to

reduce volume of waste cathode ray-tube.

Recovery and reuse

This technique could eliminate waste disposal costs, reduce raw material costs and
provide income from a salable waste. Waste can be recovered on-site, or at an off-site
recovery facility, or through inter industry exchange. A number of physical and chemical
techniques are available to reclaim a waste material such as reverse osmosis, electrolysis,
condensation, electrolytic recovery, filtration, centrifugation etc. For example, a printed-
circuit board manufacturer can use electrolytic recovery to reclaim metals from copper
and tin-lead plating bath.
However recycling of hazardous products has little environmental benefit if it simply
moves the hazards into secondary products that eventually have to be disposed of. Unless
the goal is to redesign the product to use non-hazardous materials, such recycling is a
false solution.

Trishyiraya Recycling is an E-Waste Recycling Company, which provides E-Waste

Management Consultancy, Electronic and Electrical Waste Recycling in India. TPL is the
only Indian company that offers safe and reliable disposal of e-waste.
It is located strategically in the High Security MEPZ.

The Govt. of India as well as the Pollution Control Board has certified the company. It
has constant surveillance mechanisms like CCTV monitors etc. No external or internal
element can pilfer your secrets. The Total Termination Process at TPL assures you
protection against resurfacing of components and exasperating legal litigations.

TPL feels proud of its innovative technology that helps recycle E-Waste. Adding feather
to its cap is the ‘Total Termination Process’ that is completely pollution free. There is no
contamination of water or air and, no sound pollution either. TPL nurtures the spirit of
Pollution- Free Green Globe.

Super Specialties:

TPL believes in constant and continuous self- improvement (Kaizan). At TPL, we have
some special domains of interest.

1. Wastage Management.
2. Expert Consultation on Waste - Minimization.
3. Special Training and Education to members and employees.
4. Spreading awareness on Eco - Friendly Practices.
5. Logistics Management.
6. Customer - Relationship Management.
The Process

1. Collection of e-waste material from premises and safe transportation to our factory
premises within the high security. Inspection of material by the customer following
rechecking again by our own alert personnel.

2. Segregation of the waste into various categories like PCBs, Ferrous and Non-Ferrous
Metals, Plastic etc.

3. Weight Ascertainment and Destruction of Waste into Non-Recoverable pieces (5-

10mm bits) by our custom– built Crushers.

4. Packaging the segregate material for global export.

Processing techniques

In developed countries, electronic waste processing usually first involves dismantling the
equipment into various parts (metal frames, power supplies, circuit boards, plastics),
often by hand. The advantages of this process are the human's ability to recognize and
save working and repairable parts, including chips, transistors, RAM, etc. The
disadvantage is that the labor is cheapest in countries with the lowest health and safety

In an alternative bulk system, a hopper conveys material for shredding into an

unsophisticated mechanical separator, with screening and granulating machines to
separate constituent metal and plastic fractions, which are sold to smelters or plastics
recyclers. Such recycling machinery is enclosed and employs a dust collection system.
Some of the emissions are caught by scrubbers and screens. Magnets, eddy currents, and
trommel screens are employed to separate glass, plastic, and ferrous and nonferrous
metals, which can then be further separated at a smelter. Leaded glass from CRTs is
reused in car batteries, ammunition, and lead wheel weights or sold to foundries as a
fluxing agent in processing raw lead ore. Copper, gold, palladium, silver, and tin are
valuable metals sold to smelters for recycling. Hazardous smoke and gases are captured,
contained, and treated to mitigate environmental threat. These methods allow for safe
reclamation of all valuable computer construction materials. Hewlett-Packard product
recycling solutions manager Renee St. Denis describes its process as: "We move them
through giant shredders about 30 feet tall and it shreds everything into pieces about the
size of a quarter. Once your disk drive is shredded into pieces about this big, it's hard to
get the data off.

An ideal electronic waste recycling plant combines dismantling for component recovery
with increased cost-effective processing of bulk electronic waste.
Reuse is an option to recycling because it extends the lifespan of a device. Devices still
need eventual recycling, but by allowing others to purchase used electronics, recycling
can be postponed and value gained from device use.


As there is no separate collection of e-waste in India, there is no clear data on the quantity
generated and disposed of each year and the resulting extent of environmental risk. The
preferred practice to get rid of obsolete electronic items in India is to get them in
exchange from retailers when purchasing a new item.

The business sector is estimated to account for 78% of all installed computers in India
(Toxics Link, 2003). Obsolete computers from the business sector are sold by auctions.
Sometimes educational institutes or charitable institutions receive old computers for
reuse. It is estimated that the total number of obsolete personal computers emanating each
year from business and individual households in India will be around 1.38 million.
According to a
report of Confederation of Indian Industries, the total waste generated by obsolete or
broken down electronic and electrical equipment in India has been estimated to be
1,46,000 tons per year (CII, 2006).

The results of a field survey conducted in the Chennai, a metropolitan city of India to
assess the average usage and life of the personal computers (PCs), television (TV) and
mobile phone showed that the average household usage of the PC ranges from 0.39 to
1.70 depending on the income class (Shobbana Ramesh and Kurian Joseph, 2006). In the
case of TV it varied from 1.07 to 1.78 and for mobile phones it varied from 0.88 to 1.70.
The low-income households use the PC for 5.94 years, TV for 8.16 years and the mobile
phones for 2.34 years while, the upper income class uses the PC for 3.21 years, TV for
5.13 years and mobile phones for 1.63 years.
Although the per-capita waste production in India is still relatively small, the total
absolute volume of wastes generated will be huge. Further, it is growing at a faster rate.
The growth rate of the mobile phones (80%) is very high compared to that of PC (20%)
and TV (18%).
The public awareness on e-wastes and the willingness of the public to pay for e-waste
management as assessed during the study based on an organized questionnaire revealed
that about 50% of the public are aware of environmental and health impacts of the
electronic items.
The willingness of public to pay for e-waste management ranges from 3.57% to 5.92% of
the product cost for PC, 3.94 % to 5.95 % for TV and 3.4 % to 5 % for the mobile

Additionally considerable quantities of e-waste are reported to be imported (Agarwal,

1998; Toxics Link, 2004). However, no confirmed figures available on how substantial
are these transboundary e-waste streams, as most of such trade in e-waste is camouflaged
and conducted under the pretext of obtaining ‘reusable’ equipment or ‘donations’ from
developed nations.
The government trade data does not distinguish between imports of new and old
computers and peripheral parts and so it is difficult to track what share of imports are
used electronic goods.


Despite a wide range of environmental legislation in India there are no specific laws or
guidelines for electronic waste or computer waste (Devi et al., 2004). As per the
Hazardous Waste Rules (1989), e-waste is not treated as hazardous unless proved to have
higher concentration of certain substances. Though PCBs and CRTs would always
exceed these parameters, there are several grey areas that need to be addressed. Basel
Convention has Waste electronic assemblies in A1180 and mirror entry in B1110, mainly
on concerns of mercury, lead and cadmium.

Hazardous Wastes (Management & Handling) Rules, 1989 as amended in 2000 & 2003.
The import of this waste therefore requires specific permission of the Ministry of
Environment and Forests. As the collection and re-cycling of electronic wastes is being
done by the informal sector in the country at present, the Government has taken the
following action/steps to enhance awareness about environmentally sound management
of electronic waste (CII, 2006):

• Several Workshops on Electronic Waste Management was organized by the Central


Control Board (CPCB) in collaboration with Toxics Link, CII etc.

• Action has been initiated by CPCB for rapid assessment of the E-Waste generated in
major cities of the country.

• A National Working Group has been constituted for formulating a strategy for E-Waste

• A comprehensive technical guide on "Environmental Management for Information

Technology Industry in India" has been published and circulated widely by the
Department of Information Technology (DIT), Ministry of Communication and
Information Technology.

• Demonstration projects has also been set up by the DIT at the Indian Telephone
Industries for recovery of copper from Printed Circuit Boards.
Although awareness and readiness for implementing improvements is increasing rapidly,
the major obstacles to manage the e wastes safely and effectively remain

• The lack of reliable data that poses a challenge to policy makers wishing to design an
e-waste management strategy and to an industry wishing to make rational investment
• Only a fraction of the e waste (estimated 10%) finds its way to recyclers due to absence
of an efficient take back scheme for consumers,

• The lack of a safe e waste recycling infrastructure in the formal sector and thus reliance
on the capacities of the informal sector pose severe risks to the environment and human

• The existing e waste recycling systems are purely business-driven that have come
without any government intervention. Any development in these e waste sectors will
have to be built on the existing set-up as the waste collection and pre-processing can be
handled efficiently by the informal sector, at the same time offer numerous job

The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs mandated the Swiss Federal
Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (EMPA) to implement the programme
“Knowledge Partnerships in e-Waste Recycling" and India is one of the partner countries.
The programme aims at improving e-waste management systems through Knowledge
Management and Capacity Building. It has analyzed e-waste recycling frameworks and
processes in different parts of the world (Switzerland, India, China, South Africa) in its
first phase (2003-04).


• The best option for dealing with E wastes is to reduce the volume. Designers
should ensure that the product is built for re-use, repair and/or upgradeability.
Stress should be laid on use of less toxic, easily recoverable and recyclable
materials which can be taken back for refurbishment, remanufacturing,
disassembly and reuse.

• Recycling and reuse of material are the next level of potential options to reduce e-
waste. Recovery of metals, plastic, glass and other materials reduces the
magnitude of e-waste. These options have a potential to conserve the energy and
keep the environment free of toxic material that would otherwise have been

• It is high time the manufactures, consumers, regulators, municipal authorities,

state governments, and policy makers take up the matter seriously so that the
different critical elements. It is the need of the hour to have an “e waste-policy”
and national regulatory frame work for promotion of such activities.

• An e Waste Policy is best created by those who understand the issues. So it is best
for industry to initiate policy formation collectively, but with user involvement.
Sustainability of e-waste management systems has to be ensured by improving the
effectiveness of collection and recycling systems (e.g., public–private-
partnerships in setting up buy-back or drop-off centers) and by designing-in
additional funding e.g., advance recycling fees.

Elements of e-waste management system for India

E-waste recycling

Many discarded machines contain usable parts which could be salvaged and combined
with other used equipment to create a working unit. It is labor intensive to remove,
inspect and test components and then reassemble them into complete working machines.
Institutional infrastructures, including e-waste collection, transportation, treatment,
storage, recovery and disposal, need to be established, at national and/or regional levels
for the environmentally sound management of e-wastes.

These facilities should be approved by the regulatory authorities and if required provided
with appropriate incentives. Establishment of e-waste collection, exchange and recycling
centers should be encouraged in partnership with governments, NGOs and manufacturers.
• Environmentally sound recycling of e-waste requires sophisticated technology
and processes, which are not only very expensive, but also need specific skills and
training for the operation.
• Proper recycling of complex materials requires the expertise to recognize or
determine the presence of hazardous or potentially hazardous constituents as well
as desirable constituents (i.e. those with recoverable value), and then be able to
apply the company’s capabilities and process systems to properly recycle both of
these streams.
• Appropriate air pollution control devices for the fugitive and point source
emissions are required. Guidelines are to be developed for environmentally sound
recycling of E Wastes. Private Sector is coming forward to invest in the e-waste
projects once they are sure of the returns.


• By the end of the current decade i.e. by the year 2010 end, the number of
computers becoming useless and being thrown away would be in the region of 3

• E-waste generated in the USA alone is sufficient to cover the entire city of New
York up to a height comparable to a 24 storey building

• The problem of e-waste is getting compounded as the number of computers

rendered useless increases every year while their disposal facilities are not
increasing in the same proportion

E-waste from around the world

Experts said exposure to toxic chemicals from e-waste – including lead, cadmium, and
mercury, chromium and polybrominated biphenyls – can damage the brain and nervous
system, affect the kidneys and liver, and cause birth defects.

The report was launched in Indonesia’s resort island of Bali. It used data from 11
developing countries to estimate current and future e-waste generation from discarded
computers, printers, mobile phones, pagers, cameras, music players, refrigerators, toys,
televisions and other items.
China produces an estimated 2.3 million tons of e-waste annually, and though the country
has banned e-waste imports, it remains a major dumping ground for waste from
developed countries, the report said.

The UN research predicts that in South Africa and China, e-waste from old computers
may jump by 200 to 400 per cent from 2007 levels and by 500 per cent in India.

E-waste from mobile phones in the same period is forecast to rise seven times in China,
and 18 times in India.

According to the report, over 1 billion mobile phones were sold in 2007 worldwide, up
from 896 million in 2006.

The report said most e-waste in China was improperly handled, with much of it
incinerated by backyard recyclers to recover valuable metals like gold.
Jim Pucket of the Basel Action Network, a non-governmental organization fighting the
international trade in toxic wastes, said massive amounts of discarded devices had been
exported to China for years.

But China is not alone in facing the serious e-waste problem. India, Brazil, Mexico and
others may also face rising environmental damage and health problems if e-waste
recycling is left to the vagaries of the informal sector.

Report urged governments to establish e-waste management centers, building on existing

organizations working in the area of recycling and waste management.


Rapid technology change, low initial cost, and planned obsolescence have resulted in a
fast-growing surplus of electronic waste around the globe. Dave Kruch, CEO of Cash For
Laptops, regards electronic waste as a “rapidly expanding” issue. Technical solutions are
available, but in most cases a legal framework, a collection system, logistics, and other
services need to be implemented before a technical solution can be applied. An estimated
50 million tonnes of E-waste is produced each year. The USA discards 30 million
computers each year and 100 million phones are disposed of in Europe each year.

In the United States, an estimated 70% of heavy metals in landfills comes from discarded
electronics, while electronic waste represents only 2% of America’s trash in landfills. The
EPA states that unwanted electronics totaled 2 million tons in 2005. Discarded
electronics represented 5 to 6 times as much weight as recycled electronics.
The Consumer Electronics Association says that U.S. households spend an average of
$1,400 annually on an average of 24 electronic items, leading to speculations of millions
of tons of valuable metals sitting in desk drawers. The U.S. National Safety Council
estimates that 75% of all personal computers ever sold are now gathering dust as surplus
electronics. While some recycle, 7% of cell phone owners still throw away their old cell
Surplus electronics have extremely high cost differentials. A single repairable laptop can
be worth hundreds of dollars, while an imploded cathode ray tube (CRT) is extremely
difficult and expensive to recycle. This has created a difficult free-market economy.
Large quantities of used electronics are typically sold to countries with very high repair
capability and high raw material demand, which can result in high accumulations of
residue in poor areas without strong environmental laws.
Trade in electronic waste is controlled by the Basel Convention. The Basel Convention
Parties have considered the question of whether exports of hazardous used electronic
equipment for repair or refurbishment are considered as Basel Convention hazardous
wastes, subject to import and export controls under that Convention. In the Guidance
document produced on that subject, that question was left up to the Parties, however in
the working group all of the Parties present believed that when material is untested, or
contains hazardous parts that would need to be replaced as part of the repair process, then
the Convention did apply.

Like virgin material mining and extraction, recycling of materials from electronic scrap
has raised concerns over toxicity and carcinogenicity of some of its substances and
processes. Toxic substances in electronic waste may include lead, mercury, and
cadmium. Carcinogenic substances in electronic waste may include polychlorinated
biphenyls (PCBs). Capacitors, transformers, and wires insulated with or components
coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), manufactured before 1977, often contain
dangerous amounts of PCBs.

Up to 38 separate chemical elements are incorporated into electronic waste items. Many
of the plastics used in electronic equipment contain flame retardants. These are generally
halogens added to the plastic resin, making the plastics difficult to recycle. Due to the
flame retardants being additives, they easily leach off the material in hot weather, which
is a problem because when disposed of, electronic waste is generally left outside. The
flame retardants leach into the soil and recorded levels were 93 times higher than soil
with no contact with electronic waste.[12] The unsustainability of discarding electronics
and computer technology is another reason commending the need to recycle or to reuse
electronic waste.

When materials cannot or will not be reused, conventional recycling or disposal via
landfill often follow. Standards for both approaches vary widely by jurisdiction, whether
in developed or developing countries. The complexity of the various items to be disposed
of, the cost of environmentally approved recycling systems, and the need for concerned
and concerted action to collect and systematically process equipment are challenges. One
study indicates that two thirds of executives are unaware of fines related to environmental

Responsibilities of the Government

(i) Governments should set up regulatory agencies in each district, which are vested with
the responsibility of co-ordinating and consolidating the regulatory functions of the
various government authorities regarding hazardous substances.

(ii) Governments should be responsible for providing an adequate system of laws,

controls and administrative procedures for hazardous waste management (Third World
Network. 1991). Existing laws concerning e-waste disposal be reviewed and revamped. A
comprehensive law that provides e-waste regulation and management and proper disposal
of hazardous wastes is required. Such a law should empower the agency to control,
supervise and regulate the relevant activities of government departments.

Under this law, the agency concerned should

o Collect basic information on the materials from manufacturers, processors

and importers and to maintain an inventory of these materials. The
information should include toxicity and potential harmful effects.
o Identify potentially harmful substances and require the industry to test
them for adverse health and environmental effects.
o Control risks from manufacture, processing, distribution, use and disposal
of electronic wastes.
o Encourage beneficial reuse of "e-waste" and encouraging business
activities that use waste". Set up programs so as to promote recycling
among citizens and businesses.
o Educate e-waste generators on reuse/recycling options

(iii) Governments must encourage research into the development and standard of
hazardous waste management, environmental monitoring and the regulation of hazardous

(iv) Governments should enforce strict regulations against dumping e-waste in the
country by outsiders. Where the laws are flouted, stringent penalties must be imposed. In
particular, custodial sentences should be preferred to paltry fines, which these outsiders /
foreign nationals can pay.

(v) Governments should enforce strict regulations and heavy fines levied on industries,
which do not practice waste prevention and recovery in the production facilities.

(vi) Polluter pays principle and extended producer responsibility should be adopted.

(vii) Governments should encourage and support NGOs and other organizations to
involve actively in solving the nation's e-waste problems.
(viii) Uncontrolled dumping is an unsatisfactory method for disposal of hazardous waste
and should be phased out.

(viii) Governments should explore opportunities to partner with manufacturers and

retailers to provide recycling services.

Responsibility and Role of industries

1. Generators of wastes should take responsibility to determine the output

characteristics of wastes and if hazardous, should provide management options.

2. All personnel involved in handling e-waste in industries including those at the

policy, management, control and operational levels, should be properly qualified
and trained. Companies can adopt their own policies while handling
e-wastes. Some are given below:

 Use label materials to assist in recycling (particularly plastics).

 Standardize components for easy disassembly.
 Re-evaluate 'cheap products' use, make product cycle 'cheap' and
so that it
has no inherent value that would encourage a recycling
 Create computer components and peripherals of biodegradable
 Utilize technology sharing particularly for manufacturing and de
 Encourage / promote / require green procurement for corporate
 Look at green packaging options.

3. Companies can and should adopt waste minimization techniques, which will
make a significant reduction in the quantity of e-waste generated and thereby
lessening the impact on the environment. It is a "reverse production" system that
designs infrastructure to recover and reuse every material contained within e-
wastes metals such as lead, copper, aluminum and gold, and various plastics, glass
and wire. Such a "closed loop" manufacturing and recovery system offers a win-
win situation for everyone, less of the Earth will be mined for raw materials, and
groundwater will be protected, researchers explain.

4. Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers should undertake the responsibility of

recycling/disposal of their own products.

5. Manufacturers of computer monitors, television sets and other electronic

devices containing hazardous materials must be responsible for educating
consumers and the general public regarding the potential threat to public health
and the environment posed by their products. At minimum, all computer
monitors, television sets and other electronic devices containing hazardous
materials must be clearly labeled to identify environmental hazards and proper
materials management.

Responsibilities of the Citizen

Waste prevention is perhaps more preferred to any other waste management option
including recycling. Donating electronics for reuse extends the lives of valuable products
and keeps them out of the waste management system for a longer time. But care should
be taken while donating such items i.e. the items should be in working condition.

Reuse, in addition to being an environmentally preferable alternative, also benefits

society. By donating used electronics, schools, non-profit organizations, and lower-
income families can afford to use equipment that they otherwise could not afford.

E-wastes should never be disposed with garbage and other household wastes. This should
be segregated at the site and sold or donated to various organizations.

While buying electronic products opt for those that:

o are made with fewer toxic constituents

o use recycled content
o are energy efficient
o are designed for easy upgrading or disassembly
o utilize minimal packaging
o offer leasing or take back options
o have been certified by regulatory authorities. Customers should
opt for upgrading their computers or other electronic items to the
latest versions rather than buying new equipments.

NGOs should adopt a participatory approach in management of e-wastes.


Electronic equipment has become a mainstay of our American way of life. In one way or
another, it is an integral part of everything we do and own: TVs in our homes, GPS’s in
our cars, cell phones and MP3 players in our ears, blackberries and video games in our
hands, and computers in our laps and on our desks. The electronic industry generates
nearly $2 billion a year, and it’s no small wonder. Americans own nearly 3 billion
electronic products.
For each new product that comes along, one or more becomes outdated or obsolete.
Consequently, we’re storing or discarding older electronic products faster than ever. In
1998, studies estimate about 20 million computers became obsolete in one year. In 2005,
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) estimates that between 26-37
million computers became obsolete. Along with computers, TVs, VCRs, cell phones, and
monitors—an estimated 304 million electronics—were removed from US households in
2005, with about two-thirds of those still in working order, according to Consumer
Electronics Association (CEA) estimates.
Although used electronics represent less than two percent of the municipal solid waste
stream, if we continue to replace old or outdated electronic equipment at our current rate
that percentage will likely grow. In 2005, used or unwanted electronics amounted to
approximately 1.9 to 2.2 million tons. Of that, about 1.5 to 1.8 million tons were
primarily disposed in landfills, and only 345,000 to 379,000 tons were recycled.

Recognizing the need to find better end-of-life (EOL) management for these products,
EPA has been working with stakeholders to help improve awareness of the need for
recovery of electronics and access to safe reuse and recycling options. State and local
governments, manufacturers, and retailers, who are already aware of the pressing need to
better manage these materials, are providing more opportunities to recycle and reuse this
equipment. At least seven states ban some electronics from landfills, and four have
instituted recovery programs. Many other states are considering some sort of legislation
to manage used electronics. Over 800 communities have instituted electronics collection
events to help manage obsolete electronics from households. Many computer
manufacturers, TV manufacturers, and electronics retailers offer some kind of take back
program or sponsor recycling events

Future of waste management- Article Link