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E-Waste, Hemant Gaule,

E-Waste, Hemant Gaule,

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Published by Hemant Gaule
A review paper on electronic waste, where we have discussed the hazards and possible environmentally friendly treatment/recycling options of electronic waste.
A review paper on electronic waste, where we have discussed the hazards and possible environmentally friendly treatment/recycling options of electronic waste.

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Published by: Hemant Gaule on Apr 10, 2009
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E-Waste Management: A Profit Making Industry
Hemant Gaule, Anchal Gupta, and Arvind Kumar Mungray*Department of Chemical Engg. Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology, Surat-395007, IndiaAbstract
Over the past two decades, the volume of electrical and electronic waste has increased by lessthan half a million units annually in the mid-1980s to over twenty million units worldwide by 2007.People are upgrading their electronic devices more frequently than before. Not only is E-Waste being generated at an alarming rate, but it is being handled improperly widely, most of it beingdumped or incinerated directly into the environment.The waste contains many valuable substances, some in larger concentrations than their ownrespective ores; but unfortunately these substances are being extracted by highly inappropriatemethods, which result in liberation of many hazardous compounds. E-Waste contains elements thatare poisonous carcinogens, and so improper disposal of the waste gives them a dangerous exposureto the environment, since most of these are also quite volatile.If appropriate means are employed to extract these substances, they can produce huge revenues.In other words, recycling is perhaps the most lucrative of all the management options for E-Waste.Creation of such a comprehensive recycling process will involve review of the entire life-cycle of the electronic gadget, right from the materials and processes employed to manufacture it, to its possible use after it’s rendered obsolete. For instance, the knowledge of who are the major producersof E-Waste to where it ends up, how it ends up there and how can it be handled, preferably, recycledafter that.
Key words:
E-Waste; computers; hazards; management; disposal*(corresponding author) Tel.: +91-9904173019E-mail address:akm@ched.svnit.ac.in;amungray@yahoo.com1
 
1. Introduction
E-waste is a popular, informal name for discarded and end-of-life electronic /electrical products. Electronic waste includes computers, entertainmentelectronics,mobile phonesand other items that have been discarded by their original users. Whilethere is no generally accepted definition of electronic waste, in most cases electronicwaste consists of electronic products that were used for data processing,telecommunications, or entertainment in private households and businesses that are nowconsidered obsolete, broken, or irreparable.As new technologies and hardware replace the old ones, consumers get a wider choice of, better and relatively cheaper range of electronic goods to buy from. Thisgenerates huge amounts of E-Waste. The waste contains many potentially harmfulsubstances, which may cause numerous harms to the environment. Unfortunately, despiteof its hazardous content, the waste is treated in such a way that most of the hazardousconstituents get easily exposed to the environment. This is mainly because most of theelectronic circuits contain valuable elements like gold, platinum and copper, and that tooin larger concentrations than their own respective ores which are simply stripped awayfrom the waste and the residue is simply dumped or burned away. For many developedcountries, handling the amount of E-Waste that they generate would be costlier thanexporting it (sometimes illegally) to other developing/undeveloped countries, (like thoseof the Indian subcontinent, and Kenya etc.), where a workforce willing to work for lowwages in such hazardous conditions is easily available. Moreover, most of this export isillegal.Despite its common classification as a waste, disposed electronics are a considerablecategory of secondary resource due to their significant suitability for direct reuse (for example, many fully functional computers and components are discarded duringupgrades), refurbishing, and material recycling of its constituent raw materials.Reconceptualization of electronic waste as a resource thus preempts its potentiallyhazardous qualities. Considering all these aspects, the idea of an industry is suggestedthat efficiently collects and processes E-Waste will not only prevent the hazards that may be caused by improper dumping of E-Waste, but will also produce a whole lot of rawmaterial and therefore, revenue. Creating such an industry will involve contributions of the government, the manufacturer and the consumer. This paper reviews the hazards and possible management options that may be used to cope up with E-Waste
1.1 Quantity of E-waste
European studies estimate that the volume of E-waste is increasing by 3% - 5% per year, which is almost three times faster than the municipal waste stream is growing.Today, electronic waste likely comprises more than 5% of all municipal solid waste;that’s more than disposable diapers or beverage containers, and about the same amount asall plastic packaging [1]. Taking computers for instance, newer software rendering theold ones obsolete (software pushing), and cheaper, attractive hardware cause rapidobsolescence of computers. In 1994, it was estimated that approximately 20 million2
 
 personal computers (about 7 million tons) became obsolete. By 2004, this figure was toincrease to over 100 million personal computers. Cumulatively, about 500 million PCsreached the end of their service lives between 1994 and 2003. 500 million PCs containapproximately 2,872,000 tonnes of plastics, 718,000 tonnes of lead, 1363 tonnes of cadmium and 287 tonnes of mercury [2]. This fast growing waste stream is accelerating because the global market for PCs is far from saturation and the average lifespan of a PCis decreasing rapidly for instance for CPUs from 4–6 years in 1997 to 2 years in 2005[3].As in the case of India, it was estimated that obsolete personal computers werearound 2.25 million units in 2005, which are expected to touch a figure of 8 millionobsolete units by the year 2010 at an average annual growth rate of approximately 51%Considering an average weight of 27.18 kg for a desktop/personal computer approximately 61,155 tonnes of obsolete computer waste would have been generated inIndia in 2005, which would increase to about 217,440 tonnes by the year 2010 at the projected growth rate [4].Similarly, for US, it was estimated that 20 million computers became obsolete in1998, and the overall E-waste volume was estimated at 5 to 7 million tonnes. The figuresare projected to be higher today and rapidly growing. A 1999 study conducted byStanford Resources, Inc. for the National Safety Council projected that in 2001, morethan 41 million personal computers would become obsolete in the U.S. Analysts estimatethat in California alone more than 6,000 computers become obsolete every day. InOregon and Washington, it is estimated that 1,600 computers become obsolete each day[5].To make matters worse, solid waste agencies and recyclers are anticipating a major increase in the volume of computer and TV monitors discarded in the next 5 years. Ascathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors currently in use will be replaced by smaller, and moredesirable liquid crystal display (LCD) screens, this could mean massive dumping of CRTmonitors at an even higher rate. This leap in technology is also expected to lead to asignificant increase in television disposal. So is the case with every other category of E-Waste, which indicates that it is very likely that the quantity of this waste will onlyincrease.
1.2 Composition of E-waste
Eectronic waste contains the following elements [6]:
Elements in bulk:Tin, Copper ,Silicon,Carbon,IronandAluminum,
Elements in small amounts:CadmiumandMercury,
List of examples of devices containing these elements
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