Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) that has been thrown as waste by its owner without the intention of reuse is referred to as electronic waste or e-waste.
In various parts of the world and various contexts, electronic waste is also known as WEEE (Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment), electronic waste, or e-scrap.
Almost any appliance or commercial device with circuitry or electrical components with power or battery supply is included in the broad spectrum of products that it covers.
What’s Included in E-Waste?
The concept of “e-waste” is extremely broad and includes six types of waste
1. Equipment for exchanging temperatures:
Also known as cooling and freezing equipment. Refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and heat pumps are examples of typical equipment.
2. Displays and monitors:
Televisions, monitors, laptops, notebooks, and tablets are examples of typical equipment.
Fluorescent lights, high-intensity discharge lamps, and LED lamps are examples of common equipment.
4. Large equipment:
Washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, electric ranges, big printing presses, copiers, and photovoltaic panels are examples of typical equipment.
5. Small equipment:
Examples of typical equipment include Hoover cleaners, microwaves, ventilators, toasters, electric kettles, electric shavers, scales, calculators, radios, video cameras, small electrical and electronic tools, toys, small medical devices, and small monitoring and control instruments.
6. Communications and IT equipment:
Examples of such equipment include cell phones, GPS units, pocket calculators, routers, laptop computers, printers, and telephones.
These days, there is a significant demand for electronic equipment, which raises disposable income levels and accelerates urbanization.
Electronics are known for having a long lifespan and being notoriously difficult to fix.
Most people are aware that we shouldn’t throw away outdated devices, but do you know where the e-waste goes?
E-Waste Facts and Stats in the USA:
Each year, the amount of electronic waste dumped in the United States rises, but less than 20% of it is recycled.
We disposed of 47 million computers in 2005 alone, accounting for just 2% of all toxic waste dumped in landfills.
If nothing changes soon, there will be exponential growth in the number of obsolete computers being abandoned during the next few decades as computing power doubles every two years.
For instance, if we choose to recycle a large number of cell phones, we may be able to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1000 cars for an entire year and a half.
Which countries produce more e-waste?
Look at the figure below, which shows the amount of electronic garbage generated in various nations.
The United States produced around 7000 metric tonnes of e-waste, closely followed by China with 10,129 metric tonnes.
European countries produce a lot less electronic garbage than other nations do. The top producing nations of e-waste in KiloTons are listed in the table below.
|Country||E-waste production in kt||Recycling Rate|
You must have realized from the above table how much e-waste is generated in each country and how much of it is recycled.
Do you believe that the majority of e-waste, measured in tons, comes from computers and TVs?
Let’s check the growing effect of the products mentioned above on humans:
Growing effect of toxic materials:
- Birth defects
- Damage to central and peripheral nervous systems
- Distorted blood composition
- Damaged lungs, liver, and kidneys
What is the remedy to prevent these eruptions? Right, e-waste recycling:
Check out the figures for recycling e-waste and the trends that can guide us toward a sustainable future as we move forward.
E-waste recycling statistics and trends:
- A significant portion of e-waste is not trash, but instead full machines, parts, or recycled materials.
- A million recycled mobile devices yield 35,274 lbs. of copper, 772 lbs. of silver, and 33 lbs. of palladium.
Did you know?
- Each year, just 20% of e-waste is recycled.
- To conserve energy, 1 million laptops are recycled, which is equal to the annual electricity use of 3600 US homes.
- One monitor or computer requires 539 lbs of fossil fuel, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 1.5 tonnes of water to produce.
E-waste Statistics in the USA:
According to the article’s above sections, the US is one of the top manufacturers of e-waste.
- Each year, just 15% of the e-waste in the US is recycled.
- Nearly $7.5 billion worth of valuable raw materials were generated in e-waste by the USA in 2019.
- Electronic waste accounts for 40% of the heavy metals in US landfills.
Factors leading to the rise in e-waste generation:
Understanding the conditions that caused the creation of e-waste to skyrocket in the first place will help us reduce the rate at which it is growing.
1. Social Trends:
I believe this issue to be one of the primary reasons why the creation of e-waste is increasing with time, in addition to other empirical factors that have an importance of their own.
Because he is a social animal, man is surely influenced by societal trends. In relation to that, allow me to give a little example.
Every year or so, Apple releases a new phone, and even if you already have the most recent model, you may feel tempted to upgrade.
Aaron Blum, the co-founder and chief operating officer of ERI, endorses it as well.
Why? As a result of the chatter and flexing that will surround you.
Your old phone eventually becomes obsolete as a result, and as a result, it ends up in landfills and e-waste management plants.
2. Improper Recycling Methods:
According to the UN, only around a quarter of the e-waste produced (in the US alone) is effectively recycled.
This is quite concerning because it shows that the harmful components of the remaining e-waste are being released into the environment to create pollution simply because we are not aware of efficient e-waste recycling techniques.
Even though over 19 states in America have laws prohibiting the disposal of electronics in normal trash, the majority of people simply toss their unwanted electronic equipment into the trash.
This is also due to the regulatory bodies’ lack of attention to their duties in preventing people from disposing of their e-waste in such a manner.
3. Companies that make products that quickly become obsolete:
The users of more modern technologies must choose newer models because they do not last as long as those produced in the 1970s and 1960s.
For instance, businesses are producing laptops and phones with non-replaceable batteries, which means the only choice available to you after your item quits storing the charge is to purchase a new one.
Similarly to this, modern PC and laptop models do not work well with obsolete cables, etc.
Last but not least, as the most recent versions of them are incompatible with older devices,
the ongoing software updates are also one of the primary reasons why consumers are forced to migrate from one gadget to another.
4. Leaner devices are difficult to reuse:
All of us enjoy using slim devices. Your desire to purchase a phone or laptop increases with how thin it is.
They may be more portable or simply look more aesthetically sophisticated, depending on your perspective.
Due to their microscopic components being so tightly glued together, these devices are sadly the hardest to reuse or recycle.
As a result, users are often forced to discard them and purchase new ones rather than attempt repairs or reuse them.
In addition, the majority of these ultra-smart cell phones employ non-replaceable lithium batteries, which if attempted to be recycled could result in disastrous fires.
Latest recycling trends to follow in 2023:
Statista estimates that the worldwide e-waste market, which was valued at $49.88 billion in 2020, will grow at a CAGR of 14.3% during the following five years to reach $140 billion.
E-waste is not usually recycled on its whole. To find out what changes have occurred in the environment, look at the top e-waste recycling trends.
1. Increase of work-from-home employees:
More workers are finding comfort in working from home, With a home office setup, productivity has increased.
The amount of e-waste generated as a result rises.
Employees will require their printers at home rather than sharing one at work, for instance.
The same is true for modems, routers, and internet connections. The amount of electronic waste will rise as a result of all of these new purchases of devices.
2. More funds invested in recycling e-waste:
The Biden-Harris administration had previously pledged a $375 million investment to be used for activities aimed at trash reduction, recycling, and reuse.
This is the biggest financial commitment to a recycling program.
This makes recycling simple for people, enabling the development of a prosperous circular economy across the country.
3. Recycling drivers assigned across the cities:
Recycling drives are now being held in several cities. Tons of garbage can be loaded by individuals and transported to drop-off points.
The old electronics are then appropriately recycled. Other cities are making adjustments to offer drop-off containers at strategic locations in light of people’s busy schedules.
4. The EU has approved a universal charger policy:
You have probably run across the problem of needing various chargers for various technological devices.
An e-reader needs USB-A, an Android needs USB-C, and an iPhone needs a lightning charging cable. The amount of e-waste produced rises as a result of all these wires.
Therefore, the EU adopted the Universal Charger Policy, according to which all devices must support USB-C by 2024.
Apple is primarily attempting to make the switch to wireless charging, though, to eliminate the additional requirement for wires.
Will the USA take similar measures? Well, some businesses believe that this law reduces the likelihood of innovation.
There may still be concerns after reading the e-waste figures and trends above. To lessen waste or make sure that e-waste is correctly recycled, we must take an effort.
Yet how? Let’s rapidly ascertain the answer.
How Can You Reduce the Fastest-Growing Waste Streams?
We hope that after reading the e-waste statistics, you will understand how important it is to recycle e-waste properly.
Regardless of where it was acquired, e-waste is accepted for recycling in many large cities.
As was already noted, if just 20% of e-waste is recycled, more activities are required to tackle this challenge each year to prevent environmental contamination.
You can read our most recent article on easy methods to decrease e-waste for additional assistance.
Upper is a powerful and easy-to-use piece of software that aids in organizing and enhancing routes for various waste pickup locations.
Improper handling of electronic waste raises serious dangers to current human health and has the possibility to pollute the ecosystem for future generations to come.
Toxic chemicals are generated when electronics are incorrectly disposed of and wind up in landfills, which affects the environment’s air, soil, and water—and ultimately, human health.
1. The Negative Effects on Air:
When electronic waste is informally disposed of by dismantling, shredding, or melting the components, dust particles or chemicals, such as dioxins, are released into the environment, hurting respiratory health and producing air pollution.
Burning is a common practice for e-waste that has little value, but it can also be used to extract valuable metals like copper from devices.
Burning e-waste increases the chance of developing chronic illnesses and cancer because it releases tiny particles that can travel thousands of kilometers and pose several dangers to both human and animal health.
Highly integrated electronics frequently have higher value components like gold and silver removed using acids, desoldering, and other chemicals, which can create fumes in locations where recycling is not well regulated.
The people who handle this material are most at risk from the harmful air consequences of informal e-waste recycling, although the pollution can travel thousands of miles from recycling centers.
Particular animal species are more negatively impacted by e-waste’s air pollution than others, which could put these species and the biodiversity of particularly heavily contaminated areas in peril.
Over time, air pollution can impair plant species, soil quality, and water availability, harming ecosystems in ways that cannot be repaired. By extracting precious metals from e-waste, for instance, parties developed an informal recycling hub in Guiyu, China. As a result, the area has exceptionally high lead levels in the air, which are inhaled and then consumed when returned to water and soil. Larger animals, wildlife, and nearby humans may sustain disproportionate neurological damage as a result.
2. The Harmful Effects on the Soil:
Both heavy metals and flame retardants can seep directly into the soil during improper e-waste disposal in regular landfills or in locations where it is illegally dumped.
This could harm the groundwater underneath the crops as well as neighboring or nearby crops.
Heavy metal contamination of the soil makes crops more susceptible to absorbing these toxins, which can lead to many ailments and reduce the productivity of the field.
Because of the amount of weight and size they have, large particles released during electronic waste burning, shredding, or dismantling rapidly re-deposit to the ground and pollute the soil.
A few of the factors that determine how much soil gets contaminated are temperature, soil type, soil pH, and soil makeup.
These pollutants can linger in the soil for a very long time and affect both plants and soil microbes.
Animals and other wildlife that rely on nature for their existence will eventually eat affected plants, which will have negative effects on their internal health.
3. Water’s Negative Effects:
E-waste heavy metals including mercury, lithium, lead, and barium later move even further through the earth to reach groundwater after contaminating the land.
Once they enter groundwater, these heavy metals eventually make their way into ponds, streams, rivers, and lakes.
Even if a town is miles away from a recycling facility, these canals contaminate the water, making it dangerous for communities, animals, and plants. It gets harder to find clean water to drink.
Acidification can kill marine and freshwater animals, disturb biodiversity, and harm ecosystems.
Acidification can harm ecosystems to the point where recovery is difficult, if not impossible if it affects water sources.
4. The Harmful Effects on People:
As previously indicated, harmful materials found in electronic waste include lithium, barium, lead, cadmium, mercury, and polybrominated flame-retardants.
Humans exposed to these chemicals can suffer harm to their brain, heart, liver, kidney, and skeletal systems.
It also significantly affects the human nervous and reproductive systems, which can lead to illness and birth defects.
Moreover, it is crucial to raise awareness about the hazard posed by improper e-waste disposal because it poses an incredibly serious risk to the ecosystem worldwide.
It is very vital to correctly e-cycle electronic trash so that products can be recycled, refurbished, resold, or reused to prevent these hazardous effects of e-waste.
If people are not informed about the proper methods of disposal, the expanding stream of e-waste will only get worse.
The Need for Effective E-waste Disposal Methods:
This trend will only persist into the future since digital technology has aided industries in becoming more connected, efficient, and productive than at any previous time in human history.
Our growing reliance on digital technology has several drawbacks, including a rapid rise in the production of e-waste. In the US alone, landfills get nine million tonnes of electronic waste annually.
That amount increases to a startling 50 million tonnes when criteria are expanded globally.
Despite only making up around 2% of the overall rubbish produced by people, electronic waste accounts for 70% of the harmful waste produced because the majority of it is made of plastic, silicone, and metal.
Any form of electronic product is considered e-waste.
While a large portion of the increase in its bulk can be attributed to our reliance on computers and other digital technologies, it also includes goods like bulbs, fittings, cable, and many other pieces of machinery.
It is clear why effective e-waste disposal methods are crucial, so let’s begin by going over some of the most widely used options.
Typical E-waste Disposal Techniques:
The disposal of electronic trash can be done in a few different methods, each of which has its environmental drawbacks.
This is the process of effectively digging a large hole in the ground, filling it with garbage, and then covering it with soil.
Although the pits are lined with clay or plastic and equipped with a leachate basin to stop toxic waste from seeping into the environment, some contaminants, such as cadmium, Inevitably, groundwater and soil both contain lead and mercury.
2. Acid Bath:
Metals can be removed from electrical circuits by immersing them in powerful sulfuric, hydrochloric, or nitric acid solutions.
The metals can then be recycled and used to create new products.
However, the extremely risky acid waste must be disposed of with great care to avoid it contaminating adjacent water sources and causing a new problem with trash disposal.
An extremely primitive method of getting rid of electrical waste involves burning the waste at very high temperatures.
In addition to providing energy that can be put to other uses, this has the combined benefit of drastically reducing the amount of trash.
Unfortunately, a significant amount of harmful gases, including cadmium and mercury, are discharged into the atmosphere during the burning of electronic waste components.
Several electronic waste items can be broken down into their component parts, which can then be used to create new products.
Using e-waste recycling procedures, valuable metals from circuit boards can be recovered and melted down to create new products like jewelry or new technologies.
The most environmentally friendly way to dispose of electronic waste is by far to reuse the equipment.
Many organizations are happy to collect used electronics that can be repaired and given to those in less fortunate communities.
What are some of the biggest obstacles to recycling e-waste?
The absence of adequate infrastructure and facilities for the collection, transportation, and processing of e-waste is one of the biggest obstacles to e-waste recycling.
Additionally, it is challenging to recycle electronic gadgets effectively due to their complexity and variety. Another issue is the poor value of some e-waste components, which renders recycling them commercially unviable.
What are the advantages of recycling e-waste?
Recycling electronic waste has many advantages, including:
- Preservation of the environment
- Decrease in hazardous waste
- Creating jobs
- Power savings
What is the rise of waste recycling services?
Due to rising environmental awareness and the demand for sustainable waste management techniques, the trash recycling services business has been expanding steadily over the past ten years.
A CAGR of 14.3% is predicted between 2021 and 2028 for the market for handling electronic waste, which was forecast to be worth $49,880 million in 2020. By 2028, it is expected to be worth $143,870 million.
After discussing every aspect causing the rise in e-waste, it is important to consider what role we may play in bringing its levels down.
For instance, by adopting certain straightforward habits like using your items more than once, checking for an environmental label when making purchases,
teaching your children about e-waste, and properly disposing of your old electronics, we can make a big difference.
Try to make rational decisions about purchasing new e-gadgets based on your needs rather than simply following trends.
Use your phone, for instance, if it is currently functioning flawlessly until it can no longer be used. Do not simply buy the most recent model to keep up with the competition.