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Disposal Issues And Solutions Of Electronic Waste Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 2511 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Electronic waste E-waste is the result of obsolete electronic devices such as computers and mobile phones. E-waste isneeds to be distinct from other forms of industrial waste chemically and physically; it contains both valuable and hazardous materials and causes harm to environment and human health whenwithout the use of special handling and recycling method are not used (Robinson 2009, p.184). Rapid changes in technology, poor coordination between new software and existing hardware, and the expenseiveness offor reusinge or recycling result in a large amount of e-waste annually. These electrical obsoletes are either landfilled, or exported from rich countries to poor countries (Robinson 2009, p.184). Since at least 2002, cases of unmanaged disassembly and recycling e-waste in developing countries have been reported (Gibson 2006, p.323).This will lead to not only detrimental effect on workers in e-waste receiver countries but environmental contamination, and may adversely impact human health risk. Thus, issues stemming from e-waste are considered as a global transactional issue amongst producers, consumers in rich countries and e-waste receiver countries in poor countries., These which may require international policies or supports by governments and organisations. Design for the environment in products (Amos, Deathe, & MacDonald & Amos 2008, p.322), e-waste take-back (Xu 2008, pp.1-3) or other municipal and organisational policies have addressed the issues as environmentally friendly approaches. This will enable consumers to reduce, reuse and recycle more greater and perhaps will perhaps lead to more environmentally friendly operating procedures.

The purpose of this report is to describe issues of e-waste, analysis of the problems, some approaches for producers and e-waste receivers in order to deal with the issues along with organisations and government policies.

2. Growth of e-waste asand a global transactional issue

2.1. The growth of e-waste

Technological advents in the electronics industry and the short life-cycle ofin products have been generating enormous amount of electronic wastes (e-waste). Consumers accept the benefit of technological innovations and a. A gGrowing volume of waste electronic equipments are generated as consumers continue to upgrade and replace obsolete, broken devices everyin a few years. The total global e-waste production iswas estimated to be 20-25 million tonnes per year, with most e-waste being produced in Europe, the United States and Australia (Robinson 2009, p.183). According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, over 100 million computers, monitors, and televisions are becoming obsolete each year. Most estimate say that 20 million computers and televisions become obsolete annually, and less than 6 % are being recycled (Gibson 2006, p.322). As a result, the total global production of e-waste has continued to increase considerably, and most e-waste is currently landfilled or exported to developing countries for recycling.

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Rapid technological evolution in electronic products and competitive electronic marketplaces means more consumers in rich countries are generating large amount of waste equipments, much of which is still operational. Robinson (2009, p.185) states that the total number of computers and other potential possible e-waste devices is potently correlated with the country¿½fs GDP, and consequently, he predicts Eastern Europe, Latin America and China will become major e-waste producers in the next 10 years.

The concern over e-waste is not only the amount produced but also the toxic footprint involved in the course of the disposal disassembly and destruction of the equipments. Unlike other waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) such as washing machines and refrigerators, e-waste contains potential environmental contaminants (Robinson 2009, p.185). Clearly, it is necessary to take effective actions to address the exponential e-waste production and the concentration of environmental contaminants associated with e-waste, taking into account recycle and reuse.

2.2. E-waste producers and consumers¿½f dilemma

The shorter lifespan ofin electronic products means that consumers continue to purchase or replace a product within a few years, and the design of a product is often incompatible between new software and existing hardware. A replacement frequency of computers or cell phones is 2-3 year in 2005, which was dropped from 4-6 years in 1997 (Cairns 2005, p.238; Robinson 2009, p.185). Cairns (2005, p.237) argues that current product design features and changes in technology and wireless services often cause users to necessitate frequent replacements of operational electronics equipment. Many software or hardware companies usually set an end-of-support policy in their products so that it will encourage their potential customers to migrate old version of their products to new ones, which makes it difficult for customer to keep old ones. Therefore, consumers are pressured into replacing their products regardless of their inclinations.

According to Huang (2009, pp.115-116), the development process of information systems which have been used for decades, is divided into five stages; planning or investigation, analysis, design, implementation, and maintenance. Many of the current electronics have a lack of the concept of sustainability in each stage. For example, the battery of some MP3 players or mobile phones requires intricate disassembly. It is often cheaper to consider the purchase of a new one instead of sending it to a customer support for the replacement. This will in turn lead to create the customers¿½f dilemma to use out-dated electronic items.

It is essential for producers to listen to customers¿½f voices and design their products to meetting the demands including a sustainable life-cycle. This will enable customers with enough information, less costly for reuse and recycle, and technical support to encourage and facilitate product upgrades and repairs.


3. Impacts of e-waste

3.1. E-waste receiver countries

Most electronic equipment that fulfils its lifespan by product strategies or faults is discarded without being recycled or reused. However, substantial quantity of the obsolete electronics is exported to developing countries, especially to China, after India, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Nigeria and Ghana for recycling or disposal (Puckett el al. 2005, cited in Robinson 2009, p.187; Cairns 2005, p.241). It is reported that some 70% of all exported e-waste is delivered to China (Liu et al. 2006, cited in Robinson 2009, p187). Although some exported electronic devices might be used for some time, most of them will be disassembled and landfilled due to inability to cope with the increasing e-waste globally.

In e-waste receiver countries, operations for the disassembly may be primitive and landfills may be poorly managed. The process of mechanical separation of component contains smelter, reclamation and burn, and can be automated or carried out by hand burn (Cairns 2005, p.241; Robinson 2009, p.187). Since an electronic device consists of many components and most products are hardly considered the disassembly process in their designs, the workers in the receiver countries may work in their own way without enough information for the dismantlement processes. These processes may contain an environmental hazardous.

3.2. Environmental issue

Many e-waste contaminants may be involved in the process of the dismantlement without the use of special handling or tools. Most developing nations have more relaxed environmental regulations, especially in China, India, and Pakistan (Ruth 2009, p.75). The loose regulations for the e-waste dismantlement can lead to insurmountable environmental problems within the e-waste receiver countries. For example, villagers and workers who engage in the de-assembling process use environmentally unfriendly techniques including the open-air burning and wastewater discharge at the factories (Robinson 2009, p.188). A result of the dumping, burning hazardous chemicals and the wastewater disposal of e-waste will cause a variety of environmental problems such as water, air and soil contaminations.

E-waste that contains some base materials or valuable components may be environmentally important, while these devices may contain high concentrations of flame retardants and heavy metals (Cairns 2005, p.241). The e-waste contaminants bring an adverse effect on an aquatic ecosystem. Many studies discover the fact that higher rate of hazardous elements in the livers or creatures such as waterfowl is found in the downstream areas from e-waste recycling factories and towns (Robinson 2009, p.188). Combustion of e-waste by melting plastic or burning invaluable metals has resulted in concentrations of toxic percentage in aerial samples from areas near the e-waste recycling workshops (Robinson 2009, p.188). Soils are also contaminated in e-waste sites where acid leaching was used to recover valuable metals (Gibson 2006, p.323; Robinson 2009, p.188).

Uncontrolled burning, disassembly and disposal processes of e-waste in the receiver countries can have a horrific deterioration on ecosystem such as groundwater contamination, air pollution, or even water pollution not only within the e-waste disassembly areas but other areas and neighbouring countries.

3.3. Human health

A lack of adequate facilities for recycling with primitive techniques may involve significant risk to the workers as well. The workers in most villages currently use unsafe primitive techniques without goggles, masks or gloves, which have adverse effects on the workers (Robinson 2009, p.188). The primary route of exposure to a toxic chemical is spread into the air via dust, and contaminated dust is found in human breast milk (Dealthe, MacDonald & Amos 2008, p.321). Consequently, it is difficult to minimise the expanding damage caused by e-waste.

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The flux of electronic products that generates in rich countries and exported to poor countries may contain many serious transactional issues in some cases. Foods or products imported from the e-waste receiver countries, where are environmentally deteriorated may also threaten human health. For instance, children¿½fs toys, imported from China, are reported to have elevated rates of toxic elements (Chen et al. 2009, cited in Robinson 2009, p.189). The content of detrimental substance is collected in the ground and surface-waters, agricultural soils, rice, egg, fish and eventually humans (Robinson 2009, p.189). Hence, the contaminant implicated in e-waste is not only the issue within the e-waste receiver countries but ultimately to humans in other countries.

4. E-waste solutions

4.1. Organisation and government policies

Problem of most electronic products currently is a lack of the concept for reuse and recycle in their products. Producers should focus on creating reusable products and provide a rule of e-waste take-back at the obsoleteness. There are several ongoing projects to create environmentally-friendly electronic products and recycle policies in several States in the US, Canada and EU countries. These challenges encourage product makers to design for remanufacturing in order to minimise disposal of harmful components of electrical equipment, share design information, and protect against negative health and environmental impacts along with organisations and governments policies.

4.2. Deposit fees for recycling and guidelines

It is important to raise capital in order to introduce and continue with the recycling approaches. However, the cost of electronic products generally does not include extra fees for e-waste collectors and recyclers (Deathe, MacDonald & Amos 2008, p.327). In California, consumers pay fees when they purchase a certain type of electronic devices so that the budgets will be used for managing these devices (Gibson 2006, p.324). Similarly, a Statewide Computer Recycling Pilot Program in Maryland requires computer manufactures to submit fee for the state recycling (Gibson 2006, p.328). In addition to the recycling fee, it is necessary to be implemented guidelines and legislation in order to manage or define hazardous substances in electronics. Several states in the U.S. , Canada and EU countries set disposal guidelines or regulations, and have banned the sale of certain electronic devices that contain specific hazardous materials (Gibson 2006, p.324; Deathe, MacDonald & Amos 2008, p.329).

4.3. Design for Environment

For producers, it is also crucial to review the design of their products more environmentally-friendly to create recyclable and reusable products. To do so, it will be necessary to determine guidelines or policies in order to standardise the implementations. The International Standards Organisation has standardised the implementation of design for environment and instruct producers to create a roadmap of product design in order to minimise environmental issues (Deathe, MacDonald & Amos 2008, p.322). Huang (2009, p.116-119) proposes Sustainable Systems Development Lifecycle (SSDLC) that on each stage of product developments; Planning, Analysis, Design, Implementation, Maintenance and Disposal, producers should consider sustainability for the products. With regard to new products, these policies and regulations will protect against negative health and environmental impacts. For existing waste, for instance, the EU WEEE Directive requires for producers to be assigned financial responsibility based on their current market share (Deathe, MacDonald & Amos 2008, p.326). These will reduce a product¿½fs hazardous footprint.

4.4. Producer Take-Back Programmes

Another approach for producers is e-waste take-back programmes. Products are taken back to the producers or take-back disassembly centres to disassemble safely (Xu 2008, p.1). Since electronic devices are made intricately, it must be difficult and unhealthy for the workers to break down the parts in e-waste receiver countries where there is little knowledge of disassembly. Instead of e-waste being exported to developing countries, it would be environmentally effective to take-back the e-waste within the producer countries. The use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) for each electronic will be easier to track the process of e-waste take-back when they are obsolete (Xu 2008, p.1). If the products still can be used then they can be transported to second-hand makers for sale while there is no value (Xu 2008, p.2). Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Apple have already introduced their own take-back programmes in Canada (Deathe, MacDonald & Amos 2008, p.322). RFID also provides excessive range of information on their products….

5. Conclusions



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