Electronic waste Disposal, commonly referred to as e-scrap or e-waste, is the trash we generate from surplus, broken, and obsolete electronic devices. Electronics contains various toxic and unsafe chemicals and materials released into the environment if we don’t eliminate them properly. E-waste or electronics recycling is the process of recovering material from old devices to use in new products.
Frequently Replaced Electronics
With such a concise, useful life, electronics transition into e-waste at a rapid pace. On the brink of 500 million unused cell phones, it was estimated that people’s homes are accumulating. Globally, a telephone is sold to around 25% of the population annually. Millions of electronic devices like mobile phones, TVs, computers, laptops, and tablets reach the top of their useful life per annum.
What Happens to Devices at the top of Their Useful Life
Unfortunately, most of these electronic products end up in landfills, and just 20% of Electronic waste Disposal. According to a UN study, about 50 million tons of e-waste was discarded worldwide. 1 Electronics are filled with valuable materials, including copper, tin, iron, aluminium, fossil fuels, titanium, gold, and silver. Many of the materials utilized in making these electronic devices are often recovered, reused, and recycled—including plastics, metals, and glass.
Benefits of Electronic Waste Disposal
Recycling e-waste enables us to recover various valuable metals and other materials from electronics, saving natural resources (energy), reducing pollution, conserving landfill space, and creating jobs. According to the EPA, recycling a million laptops can save the energy equivalent of electricity which will run 3,657 U.S.
Households for a year. Recycling a million cell phones also can recover 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, 35,274 pounds of copper, and 33 pounds of palladium.3
On the opposite end, e-waste recycling helps hamper on production waste. According to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, it takes 1.5 plenty of water, 530 pounds of fuel, and 40 pounds of chemicals to manufacture one computer and monitor. 81% of the energy associated with a computer is used during production and not during operation.4
The Electronic Waste Disposal Process
Electronic Waste Disposal is often challenging because discarded electronics devices are sophisticated devices manufactured from varying proportions of glass, metals, and plastics. The recycling process can vary, depending on the materials being recycled and the technologies employed, but here is a general overview.
Collection and Transportation: Collection and transportation are two of the initial stages of the recycling process, including e-waste. Recyclers place collection bins or electronics take-back booths in specific locations and transport the collected e-waste from these sites to recycling plants and facilities.
Shredding, Sorting, and Separation: After collection and transportation to recycling facilities, materials within the e-waste stream must be processed and separated into clean commodities wont to make new products. Efficient separation of materials is that the foundation of electronics recycling. Shredding the e-waste facilitates the sorting and separation of plastics from metals and internal circuitry. The waste items are sliced into pieces as small as 100mm to prepare for further sorting.
A powerful overhead magnet separates iron and steel from the conveyor’s waste stream and then prepares it as recycled steel. Further mechanical processing separates aluminium, copper, AND circuit boards from the fabric stream, which is mostly plastic. Water separation technology is then wont to separate glass from plastics. The separation process’s final step locates and extracts any remaining metal remnants from the plastics to purify the stream further.
Preparation purchasable as Recycled Materials: After the shredding, sorting and separation stages are executed, the separated materials are prepared purchasable as usable raw materials to supply new electronics or other products.
Electronic Waste Disposal Associations
ISRI (Institute of Recycling Industries): ISRI is the largest recycling industry association with 1600 member companies, of which 350 companies are Electronic Waste Disposal.
CAER (Coalition for American Electronics Recycling): CAER is another leading e-waste recycling industry association within the U.S. with over 130 member companies operating around 300 Electronic Waste Disposal facilities altogether throughout the country.
EERA (European Electronics Recyclers Association): EERA is the leading Electronic Waste Disposal industry association in Europe.
EPRA (Electronic Products Recycling Association): EPRA is the leading Electronic Waste Disposal industry association in Canada.
Current Challenges for Electronic Waste Disposal Industry
The Electronic Waste Disposal industry has a significant number of challenges, which is exporting to developing nations. Exporting e-waste, including hazardous and toxic materials, leads to serious health hazards for workers dismantling electronic devices in countries without adequate environmental controls. Currently, 50%–80% of e-waste that recyclers collect is exported overseas, including illegally exported e-scrap, which is of particular concern. Overall, the inadequate management of electronics recycling in developing countries has led to varied health and environmental problems.
Although the quantity of e-waste is increasing rapidly, the standard of e-waste is decreasing. Devices are becoming smaller and smaller, containing less valuable. The material values of the many end-of-life electronic and electrical devices have therefore fallen sharply. Electronic Waste Disposal has suffered thanks to sagging global prices of recycled commodities, which have decreased margins and resulted in business closures.
Another problem is that as time goes on, many products are being made to make them not easily recyclable, repairable, or reusable. Such design is usually undertaken for proprietary reasons, to the detriment of overall environmental goals.
Organizations like ISRI are active in promoting policies to broaden the range of authorized companies allowed to repair and refurbish smartphones to avoid needless destruction. The current rate or level of e-waste recycling isn’t sufficient. The current recycling rate of 20% has much room for improvement, as most Electronic Waste Disposal still is relegated to the landfill.