E-Waste Production and Green IT

Topics: Recycling, Green computing, Efficient energy use Pages: 14 (4454 words) Published: December 3, 2013
There is no doubt that information technology has revolutionized our way of living and has impacted our lives in a positive way. In the past ten years, there has been a tremendous growth in information technology. Electronic products like computers, tablets, mobile phones & laptops have become an integral part of our life. Because of high growth rate in the electronics industry, electronic products are becoming obsolete within a few months of their usage. This has resulted in the generation of an enormous amount of e-waste. According to a report by MOEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests), e-waste from old computers and mobile phones would jump by 500% and 1800% as compared to 2007 levels by 2020 in India. But before that, let us understand what exactly e-waste is, what are its implications and how companies are trying to curb this by using Green IT. Scenario of e-waste in India: Electronic waste (E-waste) in simple terms, refer to the discarded electronic devices. E-waste includes waste generated by discarding of equipments like computers, tablets, mobile devices, washing machines, televisions, refrigerators and many other consumer durables. At present, India generates approximately 400000 tones of e-waste annually, which is expected to grow at a rate of 10-15 % per year. In spite of laws and regulations, additional 50000 tonnes of e-waste was illegally imported in our country [1]. E-waste hazards: Electronic equipments are made up of many components, which contain toxic substances, which can impact the human health adversely. E-waste generated due to disposal of computers forms the major portion of total e-waste generated in our country due to the rapid growth in the software sector as well as increased penetration of IT in our country. Listed below are the toxic constituents of a computer [2].

Due to improper extraction of metals from the electronic equipments during recycling, these toxic elements enter into the bloodstream of extraction workers, resulting in respiratory and digestive problems, apart from causing cancer and bronchitis. Further, these toxic elements also adversely affect our environment by releasing poisonous gases into atmosphere, toxic leaching into earth by land filling of e-waste, contamination of water resources etc.

Value and Hazard of e-waste [3]
Thus, e-waste not only affects the extraction workers, it also impacts our lives indirectly by causing severe irreversible environmental damages. In the next section, we will find out who are the major stake holders in the e-waste. Stakeholders and e-waste flow cycle: Major stakeholders in the e-waste flow cycle are government, producers of electronic equipments, consumers in the form of households and corporates, recyclers in the informal as well as formal sector, scrap collectors, local government bodies and NGO’s like saahas and e-waard.

One of the most important questions is - Where does e-waste go? If we look at the e-waste flow cycle in our country, most of the e-waste that is generated is finally dumped in the landfills. E-waste is produced by domestic consumption, corporate, manufacturers and through import. Commercial and manufacturing e-waste is auctioned in the market. 90% of organizations don’t have any policies regarding disposal of e-waste. After auctioning, e-waste recyclers extract the working components and expensive metals from the e-waste and the rest of the e-waste is dumped in the landfills. Refer below table for trading price for some components in the unorganized sector [3].

Refer the complete e-waste flow diagram for detail understanding.

E-waste challenges: Management of e-waste is a challenging task, considering the quantum of e-waste production and lack of environmentally sound technology to dispose e-waste efficiently. Key challenges are: i) Reducing e-waste through recycling, recovering and reusing ii) Reducing use of toxic substances in the manufacturing of electronic equipments iii)...
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