Managing and minimizing e-waste

This article on talks about the massive amount of waste – often toxic – generated from consumer electronics. In this age of rapid technological overhaul, it is essential for designers, manufacturers and users to think about minimizing waste, recycling, and ensuring that our dependence on technology doesn’t degrade our environment and our health.

The production of electrical and electronic equipment is one of the fastest growing manufacturing activities worldwide. The emergent market penetration in developing countries, turnover in the developed world, and high obsolescence rates make e-waste also one of the fastest growing waste streams globally.

What’s in your e-waste?

The composition of e-waste is quite diverse and differs in products across different categories. E-waste contains more than 1000 different substances, which fall under ‘hazardous’ and ‘non-hazardous’ categories.

Roughly, it consists of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, glass, wood and plywood, concrete and ceramics, rubber, etc. Iron and steel constitute about 50% of the products, plastics – 21%, non-ferrous metals – 13%, and other constituents account for the rest. Non-ferrous metals are the likes of copper, aluminium, silver, gold, platinum, and palladium. The presence of elements such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, selenium, hexavalent chromium, and flame retardants classifies e-waste as hazardous waste.

Watch this brilliant video showing the life cycle of electronics

Read more: Tackling E-Waste (by an Environmentalist and a Professional in the Industry)

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