E-waste – A big problem ahead

Countries like Australia, the United Kingdom, and Japan realized they had a significant problem when China prohibited 24 types of solid garbage last September. While China took in 70% of the world’s e-waste till the end of 2013, the rest of the e-waste is now being taken in by other countries. Europe and North America began sending more of this e-waste to Southeast Asia when China stopped taking it because of environmental concerns, but now Thailand and Vietnam, whose ports have been overloaded, are restricting imports of E-waste.

In 2016, the global population disposed of 49 million tones of electronic garbage. That quantity is expected to rise to more than 57 million tons by 2021.

What is E-waste?

Used electronics that are at the end of their useful life and are disposed of, donated, or given to a recycler can be referred to as “e-waste,” “electronic waste,” “e-scrap,” or “end-of-life electronics.” Electronic waste is not just electronic waste; it’s an entire category of used electronics, which can be reused, repaired, or recycled to reduce the amount of actual waste that may wind up in a landfill or an unprotected dumpsite both in the United States and overseas.

Unknown quantities of obsolete electronics are exported from wealthy countries like the United States to underdeveloped nations that cannot dispose of them properly. Even in countries where processing industries exist, public health and environmental concerns may arise if sufficient standards and enforcement are not in place.

Environmental and human health is at risk due to developing countries’ improper treatment of discarded electronics and e-waste. For example, open-air burning and acid baths, which expose employees to dangerous compounds, are problematic when recovering valuable elements from electronic components. Toxic chemicals are also leaking into the atmosphere. As a result of these activities, workers may be exposed to high concentrations of pollutants such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, all of which cause cancer, congenital disabilities, and neurological damage.

E-waste unit

Why is there an increase in e-waste?

It’s no secret that technology permeates every part of our daily lives more and more deeply. Wearable monitors, intelligent houses, internet-streaming TVs, and more are all possible because of the incorporation of semiconductors and sensors into previously sacred objects.

Read also: Books on How Technology Affects Society

In the meantime, the lifespan of electronics is increasing shorter—many things will be discarded once their batteries die, to be replaced by new ones. As a result of this deliberate obsolescence, more unique products are often more affordable and easier to maintain than older models, which are often no longer supported by the manufacturer. While this is going on, businesses continue to make money thanks to the continual flow of customers.

Furthermore, as a growing middle class adopts digital technology, electronic devices are in high demand worldwide as prices fall. Moreover, half of the world’s households have access to the internet, and 7.7 billion people use mobile phones.

Why is there an increase in e waste

The state of e-waste recycling

Formal and informal methods are used to recycle electronic waste. Disassembling the devices, sorting and cleaning the components, and then reassembling them are necessary steps in a professional e-waste recycling process.

Mechanical shredding is used to sort further the items, which are subsequently sorted by modern technologies. When treating electronic trash, companies must comply with safety regulations and utilize pollution-control technology that limits health and environmental risks. Because of this, formal recycling is quite pricey. So many companies and governments illegally ship their e-waste to developing countries where recycling is less expensive, as a result of this.

In 2012, the United States created more than 64 pounds of e-waste per person, the second-largest producer of e-waste after China. Only 29% of this was recycled in 2012 (EPA statistics for more recent decades are not yet available), while the rest was landfilled, burnt, or stuffed in a closet. The Basel Action Network used trackers to conduct a study and discovered that 40% of the e-waste recycled in the United States was exported. As a result, most materials were sent to underdeveloped countries like Asia, where informal recycling is standard.

During these unofficial recycling events, men, women, and children remove non-valuable materials by burning equipment, recover gold using mercury and acids, and disassemble devices by hand to recover other valuable materials of their own volition.

The state of e waste recycling

E-waste recycling plants:

1. Coparm:

Waste disposal and recycling systems and components are a specialty of Coparm, a global leader in system design, manufacturing, and assembly.

They offer services, from conceptual design and planning to production, modernization, optimization, start-up, assembly, conversions, maintenance, disassembly, and servicing of components to entire recycling and sorting systems. 

In any recycling plant, the performance of its components is critical. As a result, our machines are constantly improving to handle mechanical production procedures more effectively.


2. LA Plata

​​The ICT industry faces one of the most significant hurdles in dealing with e-waste. This stream necessitates environmentally sound practices to dispose of products after the end of their useful lives.

These Sustainable Development Goals-aligned solutions to urban e-waste concerns were created in a cooperative initiative with the University of La Plata in Argentina. Project partners from the business, public, and academic sectors work together to create awareness about the importance of recycling ICT trash responsibly and tackling electronic waste. The pilot facility in La Plata, Argentina, focuses on refurbishing donated computers for the most disadvantaged populations, including rural schools, indigenous people, and prisons. The plant employs students from various academic disciplines, including engineering, science, and mathematics, to carry out multiple tasks.

LA-Plata Argentina

3. ADuro QZ

The ADuro QZ shredder softly breaks up the input material, which serves as the plant’s centerpiece. Material composites are dismantled, and assembly groups are liberated in this manner. Because the batteries and capacitors aren’t damaged, the flow of materials is uncontaminated. It is possible to separate up to 80% of the input material using manual, automatic, or optical separation methods after processing in the ADuro QZ.

ADuro QZ shredder

Process advantages E-waste recycling

  •         Open up material composites softly by using a plant with accelerated tooling
  •         Input materials from a wide variety
  •         It is possible to sell most circuit boards to a metal foundry.
  •         The ADuro QZ’s operational settings dictate dimensions and shape.
  •         Sorting valuables and impurities more quickly and efficiently
  •         Materials are left in large chunks, with most of them being separated.
  •         Fe/Cu complexes, copper, aluminum, cables, and other non-ferrous materials can be easily separated from essential metals like iron, steel, and aluminum.
  •         Early removal of disruptive and coarse items will reduce wear and tear on the subsequent equipment.
  •         Additionally, the accelerating tools are not damaged by processing large parts.
  •         There is no leakage of dangerous compounds because of the careful dismantling of batteries and capacitors.

Process advantages e-scrap recycling

What you can do to help with E-waste

Wait until you need a new gadget before purchasing one. If possible, get your old product repaired; if not, consider reselling or adequately recycling it. Seal any broken parts in different containers so that hazardous substances don’t leak before recycling your gadget. Whenever you’re working with something that’s cracked, you should put on latex gloves and a face mask.

Find a reputable recycler and get in touch with them. Certified e-waste recyclers have their websites labeled with the E-Steward logo, indicating that they adhere to the strictest environmental and social guidelines. In addition to erasing personal data, E-Steward recyclers also do data de-identification.

Final Remarks!

For a variety of reasons, electronic trash is a difficult recycling challenge. The product’s material complexity, which includes valuable metals like Pb and Hg, as well as low-value plastics, necessitates that it be diverted from landfills. This consideration will continue to push the development of sustainable sound recycling technologies. It’s a vast range of consumer products with significantly varying rates of obsolescence and failure, which is the second reason. As a result, it isn’t easy to forecast how much volume a specific collection program type would generate and how much money it will cost.

There will be a significant increase in the number of electronic items that need to be retired during the next few years, necessitating the creation of a whole reverse supply chain. Diverse fields and businesses will face new difficulties and opportunities due to this.

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