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Electronic Waste Popularly Known As E Waste Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 4915 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Electronic waste, popularly known as e-waste can be defined as electronic equipment or products connecting with power plug or batteries which have become obsolete due to advancement in technology, changes in fashion, style and status. “E-waste is a popular, informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their useful life” (Hawari and Hassan, 2008). This includes discarded computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, fax machines, electric lamps, cell phones, audio equipment and batteries.

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Electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) is one of the most emerging issues that has caught the attention of various parties including policy makers, non-governmental organization (NGO) and the general public globally. This growing concern is due to the ever increasing volume of e-waste being generated resulting in activities such as collecting, dismantling and disposal of e-waste that has caused environmental pollutions and adverse impact on public health (Rosnani, 2010).

“E-waste in Malaysia is being regulated under the Environmental Quality Act (Scheduled Wastes) Regulations 2005 that came into effect on 15 August 2005” (Rosnani, 2010). The inclusion of e-waste the 2005 regulation is to adequately control the management of these wastes generated in the country as well as to enable Malaysia to disallow importation of used electrical and electronic equipment either for refurbishment or recovery only for short term usage, following which equipment is disposed off.

Today, it is frequently cheaper and more convenient to buy new machine to accommodate the newer generations of technology than it is to upgrade the old. Expanding e-waste especially mobile phone and computer in all kind of sectors causing the increasing of the quantity of e-waste.

E-waste contains significant quantities of toxic waste. “Each computer or television display monitor contains an average of 4-8 pounds of lead. Monitor glass contain about 20% lead by weight. About 70% of heavy materials like mercury and cadmium found in landfill come from electronic equipment discard” (Hawari and Hassan, 2008).

These heavy metals and other hazardous substances found in electronic can contaminate groundwater and pose other environmental and public health.

Moreover, “the health impacts of the mixtures and material combination in the products often are not known” (Noraida, 2010). The production of semiconductors printed circuit board, disk drives and monitors used particularly hazardous chemical. Therefore, one of the objective of this study is to find out the applicable management of e-waste around the world and their effects to human health.

There are various issues of concerns with regard to e-waste disposal and recycling. This research proposal overview the issues specifically related to the export for recycling. Particularly, it discusses documented effects on human health and the environment that have been tied to unsafe recycling practices in developing countries. It also provides an overview of various factors necessary to be understand why e-waste disposal has become a concern on each countries.

Therefore, it is important to have a good e-waste management in order to ensure that it will not harm to human and environment. If we not do the recycling, these e-waste will be disposed off. There are several methods to dispose e-waste either landfill or incinerator or open burning. However, if we look at to it closely, all this method will give negative impacts to human and environment. Other than that, problem related to facilities and location of e-waste disposal is occurring. “When we landfill the e-waste, it will contaminate groundwater. If we incinerate e-waste, it will produce hazardous smelt and left hazardous residue. If we recycle the e-waste, it will harm the recycle team. Lastly, we export the e-waste to other country” (Noraida, 2010). Now, we have no choice and scientist today should do more research on these problem.

E-waste management need to fulfill different objectives which go beyond pure technical implementation. Especially in developing countries and countries in transition, which a lacking legal and institutional framework, as well as missing infrastructure, e-waste management demands for a comprehensive and structural approach. This has been echoed by various international organizations and initiatives, including the United Nation Developing Organization (UNIDO), the United Nation Environment Programmed (UNEP), the Basel convention, the Solving the e-Waste Problem (StEP). Several development cooperation project adopted a three step approach. [1] 

Understand the current framework condition

Developing a structured strategy in a multi-stakeholder approach

Implementing the strategy through a roadmap with assigned responsibilities and a timeframe

The research will give beneficial to all community. Government can either try to avoid all the methods that can give negative impacts or if not, just look for the better management we have around the world that also included in this proposal. It also can give public awareness for those concerns.

. It is hoped that these research proposal will assist in the better understanding and management of e-waste and a prompt action can be taken by the government to improve what we have now before it is too late.


to find out the issues and challenges on developing and implementing e-waste management

To find out the applicable management of e-waste around the world and their effects to human health.

To study the recommended actions that can be taken to tackles the e-waste issues

Literature review

Examining E-waste Related Legislations and Regulations

In its list of recommendations to combat illegal dumping of E-waste, the Basel Action Network (BAN) “urges governments to pressure manufacturers to remove toxic chemicals from products as soon as possible. BAN also calls on strict enforcement of the Basel Convention [2] and lauds Australia for its efforts in that regard” (Michael, 2012).

Regarding issues in Australia, it requires full testing of electronic waste to certify that it complies with the Basel Convention before it is exported. The BAN report on dumping in Lagos calls the U.S. “the worst actor” among developed countries that perpetuate dumping of hazardous waste in developing nations.

Other place, “Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection state that cathode ray tube no longer be accepted at transfer stations, landfills or landfill operators or a penalty of USD 25000 for each offense” (Iswalah, 2008).

Transboundary movement of hazardous waste is con-trolled by the Basel Convention, which entered into forcein 1992. [3] 

In Malaysia, government legislations have been introduce to control this situation. First under Environment Quality Act !974 Sect. 18(1). There are;

E-Waste classified as Scheduled Waste and given the code of SW 110

E-Waste can only be handled by licensed contractors.

Act enforced by Department of Environment.

Enforcement-oriented rather than Facilitation-oriented.

(PEWOG, 2009) [4] 

Second is under ‘Public Cleansing and Solid Waste Management Act (2007), it state that all waste belongs to the government or its contractor’ (PEWOG, 2009). The question is the present of collection and processing activities illegal because all waste belongs to the government or its contractors. Then, confusion and uncertainty begin to float.

Besides using the Environmental Quality Act (1974) to manage these wastes, the DOE is also using the “Custom Order (Prohibiton of Import/Export) Order 2008 to control the importation and export of e waste” (Ong, 2009).

2. Issues And Challenges On Developing And Implementing

3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle)

There are several methods to manage all these e-waste materials. “The most safe, encourage and cheapest is by 3R that are reduce, reuse and recycling”. it can be summarized as follows (Hawari and Hassan, 2008) :

• Reduce: attempt to reduce the amount of waste generated reduce/eliminate use

of toxic substances like lead and mercury.

• Reuse: repeated use of items or parts of items which are still usable

• Recycle: use of waste itself as resource

Since e-waste recycling is largely unregulated, accurate data regarding the end markets, both domestic and abroad, are not publicly available. Therefore, it is difficult to know how much e-waste that is collected for recycling is actually exported for processing (Linda, 2010).

In the waste management hierarchy, 3R is high on the priority list and country analysis paper by Malaysia in one of its forum [5] state that Malaysia is capitalizing on technologies which are environmentally friendly, proven and cost effective to enhances its 3R programmers and activities in the country. The analysis paper also state that the construction, operation and maintenance of plants using such technologies involves high capital and cost. The banking sector is quite reluctant to provide the financial support especially when new technologies are involved.

We still have weakness in recycling system around the world. The infrastructure like network of waste collection, transportation, and sorting activities is still being developed. Then proceed to the actual processing on the e-waste, if compared to recycling of paper, glass, and plastic, the process is more costly and expensive.

Most local authorities in Malaysia did not have a sound financial resources to pay for all the new technologies carried out to treat and dispose the waste. Without the federal government intervention or commitment to provide the bridging finance, the introduction of environmentally friendly and modern technology will face an uphill task. [6] 

Then other problem on the situation when e-waste may be processed domestically after collection is also limited. “A company that operates as a “recycler” may actually be a waste consolidator that sends the waste to another vendor.” Those downstream vendors may separate the units for reuse, ship whole units abroad for processing, or process it domestically to some other uses (Linda, 2010).

Good news is the electronics manufacturers are currently driven by various forces to make their products more easily recyclable and with fewer hazardous constituents. [7] “Any future changes to electronic devices have no impact, however, on the hundreds of millions of devices currently in use or obsolete devices currently in storage” (Linda, 2010). Eventually those devices will make their way to the disposal or recycling markets.

Disposal (Incineration, Open Burning Or Landfilling)

Incineration means destroy something especially waste material by burning. It is “associated with a major risk of generating and dispersing contaminants and toxic substances” (Mathias, 2010). The gases released during the burning and the residue ash is often toxic. Municipal solid waste (MSW) state that incineration plants have shown that copper, which is present in printed circuit boards and cables, “act as catalyst for dioxin formation when flame retardants are incinerated” (Gongkia, 2000).

At this time incineration of toxic e-waste is taking place without much restriction around the world, especially in poorer countries. Incineration of electronic waste should be the last resort and should be at a minimum if not completely banned (April, 2010). Same goes to open burning which releases many pollutants into environment Since open fires burn at relatively low temperatures, they release many more smoke than in a controlled incineration process (Hawari and Hassan, 2010)

When we landfill the e-waste, the problems comes by the leachate produces. It is often contains heavy metals and other toxic substances which can contaminate ground and water resources. Even state-of-the-art landfills which are sealed to prevent toxins from entering the ground are not completely tight in the long-term (Singh et al., 2012).

Significant impacts from landfilling could be avoided by conditioning hazardous materials from e-waste separately and by landfilling only those fractions for which there are “no further recycling possibilities and ensure that they are in state-of-the-art landfills that respect environmentally sound technical standards” (Gongkia, 2000)


“In America, according to National Safety Council (1999), currently the cheapest e-waste recycling option in the US is to send e-waste overseas” (McCarthy, 2002). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), up to 80% of American recycle e-waste is exported to poorer countries. “However , how it is used or disposed of there is largely unknown” (McCarthy, 2002). Example in Guiyu [8] , China, the PCs and peripherals forming mountain and overflowing into streets, with its people making a living stripping away PC part with their bare hands.

Ministry of environment in India showed no results concerning report of e-waste, but the ministry admits that a 100% controls of the borders is not possible. What complicate the problem is that computer waste, which does not have any resale or reuse value, is openly burnt or disposed off in landfills.

Although it is difficult to know exactly how much e-waste collected for recycling is exported, it appears that India or developing countries in Asia or Africa are most likely to receive e-waste. In these area, children and adults are not wearing safety to dismantle the e-waste in order to sell salvageable items. The rest of the materials are burned or buried. In Ghana, China and India, many of the workers are children, maybe substantially exposed to these hazardous materials (Kevin, 2007) [9] .

3. Management of E-waste in Malaysia.

Malaysia has been putting a lot of effort to eradicate this problem before it gets persistent and out of control. “The ‘Recycle PC’ campaign, spearheaded by the Association of the Computer and Multimedia Industry of Malaysia (PIKOM) and waste management company Alam Flora Sdn. Bhd [10] , is picking up steam since its launch in march 2005″ (Vatis, 2005). This campaign aims to create environmental awareness by encouraging the public and organisations to recycle PCs and the peripherals. Between the period of March 10 and April 30, 2005, Alam Flora has collected 816 computers and peripherals. This includes 194 computer monitors, 147 central processing units (CPUs) 428 printers, and 47 miscellaneous PC components (Karim, 2005)

Panasonic Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. is among the first corporations to answer the call to recycle when it handed over 60 used PCs and laptops to Alam Flora within a week from launching the PC recycling campaign. The Japanese technology giant also pledged to donate more PCs to the Recycle PC campaign each time its embarks on a PC upgrading exercise. Alam Flora has assigned collection points and recycling centers all over the country for people to drop off their old PCs (Hawari and Hassan, 2008).

Malaysia is not a destination for others countries put their e-waste. The non-systematic exporting and disposal of e-waste will give threat to our environment. Because of that, Department of Environmental is undergoing a research on ‘take back policy’ specifically for encourage the producer companies to take back the electric and electronic that do not want to be used anymore for being recycle or dispose in safety ways (Douglas, 2010).

Scrap computer/ television/ mobile phone and other e-waste

Free/ sell

Scrap collector

Middlemen/ junkshops

Recycling centres

2nd hand item

Disposal facility Sell

e-waste recylers

Pre-treatment (separation)

Scrap plastics/ others

Raw materials

Main board

Electronic component

Export market/ reassembling

Local market

Re-furnish/ recondition


Figure 1 : Materials flows of e-waste in Malaysia

(Japan International Cooperation Agency, 2005)

Currently, “there are 138 e-waste recovery facilities in Malaysia. 16 out of them are the full recovery facilities and the other are the partial recovery facilities” (Rahman, 2008). The main technology employed to recover e-wastes in terms of precious metal in Malaysia is still limited to wet chemical processes and electrolysis.


Partial recovery facility

Full recovery facility










Negeri Sembilan






Pulau Pinang









Wilayah persekutuan






Grand total


Table 1 : distribution of e-waste recovery facilities in Malaysia. (Rahman, 2008)

But some of them that do not going to recycle are required to be transported by licensed contractors and dispose off in the centralized scheduled waste treatment and disposal facility in Bukit Nanas, Negeri Sembilan. (Theng, L. C., 2008) [11] 

The Bukit Nanas Waste Management Centre in Bukit Pelanduk, Negeri Sembilan, has the country’s sole landfill for hazardous waste. Here waste that has been treated, stabilized and packed in drums or durable plastic bags are buried in the landfill.

4. Effects On Environment And Human Health

According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 3.2 million tons of e-waste ended up in us landfills. European studies estimate that the volume of e-waste is rising by 3% to 5% per year, almost three times faster than municipal waste stream. Therefore, early action needs in order to tackle this problem before it is going up in our country.

From Basel Action Network (BAN), estimate that the 500 million computers in the world contain 2.87 billion kilogram of plastics, 716.7 million kilogram of lead and 286700 kilogram of mercury. Table 2 shows some of the hazardous material that contain in the computer and their effects to human and the environment.

Hazardous material




Soldering of printed circuit boards and other electronic component

Glass panels in computer monitors (cathode rays tube)

Damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, blood system and kidney in human.

effects to the endocrine system

negative effects on the development of the brain in children have been well documented (Howell, 2001).


SMD chip resistors, infrared detectors and semiconductors.

Possible risk of irreversible effects on human health (Howell, 2001).

Easily be accumulated in amounts that cause symptoms of poisoning


Batteries, switches/ housing, and printed wiring board.

Causes chronic damage to the brain.

Polyvinyl Chloride


Cabling and computer housing.

Cause of dioxin [12] formation.

Brominated Flame Retardant

Printed circuit board

act as endocrine disrupters

cause an increased risk of cancer to the digestive and lymph systems

reduce levels of the hormone thyroxin [13] in exposed animals.

Table 2 : toxic chemicals contain and their effects (Hawari and Hassan, 2008).

Various scientific observations indicate that polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDE) might act as endocrine disrupters. The levels of PBDEs in “human breast milk are doubling every five years and this has prompted concern because of the effect of these chemicals in young animals” (Howell, 2001)

In addition, organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1993 state that hexavalent chromium also exists in some of e-waste. It can easily pass through membranes of cells. It causes strong allergic reactions even in small concentrations. Asthmatic bronchitis is another allergic reaction “linked to chromium VI. Chromium VI may also cause DNA damage” (Howell, 2001)

The incineration, land-filling, and illegal dumping of electronic wastes all contribute toxic chemicals to the environment. Environmental impacts includes contamination of all local environmental media like soil, air, surface water and ground water. For example, the primary hazardous recycling operations in Guiyu involve;

Metal recovery that involves in open burning of wires to obtain steel and copper, cathode ray tube cracking to obtain copper-laden yokes, disordering and burning of circuit boards to remove solder and chips, and acid stripping chips for gold.

Plastic recycling through chipping and melting; and

dumping of materials that cannot be further processed (such as leaded CRT glass and burned circuit boards) and residues from recycling operations such as ashes from open burn operations, spent acid baths, and sludges (Yan, et al, 2009).

Children in Guiyu were found to have blood lead levels (BLL) that were significantly higher than those in the neighboring village. Elevated BLLs in Guiyu children were common as a result of exposure to lead contamination caused by primitive e-waste recycling activities (Xia, 2007).

. Prevents Options To Tackle The E-wastes

In this section, some actions that can be adopted are reviewed. Almost all of these

actions have to be carried out simultaneously. Someof them are targeted to create a wider

awareness amongst the end-users.

Binding purchasing with take-back product responsibility

The aim of extended producer responsibility is to encourage producers to “prevent pollution and reduce resource and energy use in each stage of the product life cycle through changes in product design and process technology ” (Hawari and Hassan, 2008). Hence, the producers have a great deal of responsibility to take back their products and recycle them at the end of the products’ operational lives. It puts full financial responsibility on producers to set up collection, recycling and disposal systems.

In Malaysia, suitable “take scheme on e-waste will enhance the management of e-waste” (Rahman, 2008). He state that Voluntary take back scheme of e-wastes has not been implemented widely by the producer/ importer of electronic and electrical equipment, hence a compulsory requirement of take back scheme through legislation is required.

Campaign to increase awareness

If E-waste causes problems, the first priority should be to reduce its generation. In this regard, “consumers in exporting countries should change their lifestyles” (Moriguchi et al, 2006)

Other we can do by giving some “reward to the public to encourage them involve in 3R and the reward is not necessary in kind of money” (Iswalah, 2008).

The end-user should contact the local or state government representatives, “explain to them why he or she is concerned and ask them to get involved in developing solutions” (Hawari and Hassan, 2008).

“By donating used electronics, schools, non-profit organizations, and lower-income families can afford to use equipment that they otherwise could not afford” (Hawari and Hassan, 2008).

Swiss Association for the Information, Communication and Organizational Technologies (SWICO) system

This system compared to other is one of the most best management of e-waste nowadays.The system considers material flows related to electronic equipment from the point where it becomes waste until the point where the fractions resulting from sorting, dismantling, recycling and disposal processes become secondary raw materials or are disposed of in a landfill (Doka, 2003).

So, how its work? According to Muller and Esther (2009), Manual dismantling is the first step, more traditional way to separate hazardous materials from recyclable materials, and to generate recyclable materials from electronic waste. In a pre-sorting process, the incoming e-waste first is separated into the different categories.

Then, mechanical dismantling, the typical components of it plant crushing units, shredders, magnetic separators and air separators. The exhaust gases are clean up in waste gas purification plants and the dust generated collected with dust filters.

And for refining, it is included mechanical, thermal and chemical processes and typically performed for fractions such as batteries, ferrous and non-ferrous metal, recyclable plastic and printed boards.


Most of the methodology of my research proposal is by doing library and internet research. It is important to get background information and to study the past research. It is also useful to make the literature review. I will go through some of the journals, articles, reports and projects there.

To get better understanding, I will get some interviews with the workers at Department of Environtment (DOE) to get details data about how e-waste is managing in Malaysia and generally around the world.. I also will go for interview with Prof. Aghamuthu [14] (lecturer in UM) for his opinions. By using recorder, all the conversations and dialogues will be recorded.

Survey is also useful to get the information. It will be distributed them to the workers that work in landfill site especially in Bukit Nanas, Negeri Sembilan. The survey contain more on investigating their body’s health and to be related with the symptoms due to toxic discarded from e-waste.

Site visit also involved in my methodology. It will take up to a fully day for me to see all the process. It is also to make sure that i will not left behind all the important information. Along the visit, camera will be used to take photos there to help me get a better analysis.

Expected output

There still a lot of issues that should be consider in managing the e-waste.


Work Plan

The work plan start in week three and it takes about 11 weeks to finish it.




Choose the title

To make sure that the title is not to narrowed or broad, and to make sure it can be done on the time given.


Library and internet research

By collected, take note, and borrows the materials from them before further analyse.


review and Analyse data

Organize all the information into the structure of research proposal and relate the information of one reading to another.


Presentation work

Prepare the slide that summarize the research proposal.


Submit report

Do some repair on the lack and comment from presentation.


Estimated budget:


Price (RM)


– for fuel and public transportation



– for survey’s paper, and all the reading materials that cannot be borrowed.



– for interviewers





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