Waste Management

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Technology

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E-wastE ManagEMEnt In IndIa
You are welcome to change your personal computer, cell phone, refrigerator, or for that matter any electronic or electrical gadget, but be careful while disposing of the old one. throwing it into the dustbin is not the proper disposal of an electronic equipment which has attained obsolescence as per your judgement. It may end up adding to e-waste, which creates problems for the ecology in general and directly or indirectly for the living beings around there through air, water and soil pollution electronics items with newer models for various reasons. The net effect is a higher rate of obsolescence, which is leading to growing piles of e-waste. The aim of this article is to spread awareness among our readers about the various issues involved in generation and management of e-waste, particularly from Indian perspective.

what is e-waste?
Electronic waste (e-waste) comprises waste electronics/electrical goods that are not fit for their originally intended use or have reached their end of life. This may include items such as computers, servers, mainframes, monitors, CDs, printers, scanners, copiers, calculators, fax machines, battery cells, cellular phones, transceivers, TVs, medical apparatus and electronic components besides white goods such as refrigerators and air-conditioners. E-waste contains valuable materials such as copper, silver, gold and platinum which could be processed for their recovery.

T


aIr CMdE (rEtd) P BadonI, VsM .d.

he electronics industry is the world’s largest and fastest growing manufacturing industry. Recent policy changes in India have led to an influx of leading multinational companies to set up electronics manu-

facturing facilities and R&D centres for hardware and software. This has no doubt helped the Indian economy to grow faster and fueled increase in the consumption rate of electronics products. Along with the economic growth and availability of electronics goods in the market has increased temptation of consumers to replace their household

Is e-waste hazardous?
E-waste is not hazardous per se. However, the hazardous constituents present in the e-waste render it hazardous when such wastes are dismantled and processed, since it is only at this stage that they pose hazard to health and environment. Electronics and electrical equipw w w. e f y m ag . co m

5 2 • J a n ua ry 2 0 0 9 • e l e c t ro n i c s f o r yo u

Technology

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Discard Rate of electronics Items
Item Mobile telephone PC Camera Television Refrigerator Washing Machine IT accessories Discard/replace rate 1 to 3 years Every 2 years 3 to 5 years 10-15 years 10-15 years 10-15 years Very fast

Table II

Recovering copper from printed circuit boards (Photo courtesy: EMPA)

ment seem efficient and environmentally-friendly, but there are hidden dangers associated with them once these become e-waste. The harmful materials contained in electronics products, coupled with the fast rate at which we’re replacing outdated units, pose a real danger to human health if electronics products are not properly processed prior to disposal. Electronics products like computers and cellphones contain a lot of different toxins. For example, cathode ray tubes (CRTs) of computer monitors contain heavy metals such as lead, barium and cadmium, which can be very harmful to health if they enter the water system. These materials can cause damage

to the human nervous and respiratory systems. Flame-retardant plastics, used in electronics casings, release particles that can damage human endocrine functions. These are the types of things that can happen when unprocessed ewaste is put directly in landfill.

the scenario
The Basel Action Network (BAN) which works for prevention of globalisation of toxic chemicals has stated in a report that 50 to 80 per cent of e-waste collected by the US is exported to India, China, Pakistan, Taiwan and a number of African countries....
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