E-waste management is defined as a method to remove e-waste from the environment in a safe and scientific manner to avoid its negative damaging effects on the environment. It includes recycling, refurbishing, and reusing e-waste that has outlived its usefulness.

Harmful effects of E-waste

When waste is not properly disposed of, it causes harm to the environment which further affects living beings. Similarly, improper e-waste disposal harms the ecosystem and has a negative impact on the health of those who live in it. The following are some of the negative consequences of e-waste:

On the air: E-waste contributes to air pollution. When e-waste is disposed of informally by disassembling, shredding, or melting (to obtain a metal such as copper), fine dust particles or hazardous fumes are released, which can travel hundreds of kilometres, pollute the air, and harm living creatures.

On the ground: When e-waste is disposed of on public land or in an unauthorized location. The e-waste then contaminates the land and water beneath it. When a crop is planted on polluted land, it becomes sensitive to absorbing the toxins, resulting in illnesses and a decrease in soil yield.

On the water: e-waste contributes to water contamination. Mercury, lithium, lead, and barium, among other elements, are commonly found in e-waste. As a result, when e-waste is buried in the soil, it leaks into the groundwater, contaminating the water, and eventually making its way to ponds, streams, rivers, and lakes. As a result, they harm aquatic animals, plants, humans, and other living things.

On humans: As we all know, e-waste contains toxic chemicals such as mercury, lithium, lead, and barium, among others, which are harmful to human health.

Classification of E-waste

E-waste is categorized primarily based on its composition and components.

Composition of e-waste: The composition of e-waste is divided into six categories: Metals that include iron, non-ferrous metals that do not contain iron, plastics, glass, pollution, and other are examples of ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Iron is widely employed in the fabrication of electrical equipment, while plastic is the second-most commonly used material since it is inexpensive and abundant. Non-ferrous metals such as copper, aluminium, and gold have a high commercial value in the technical market and are utilized to create electronic and electrical equipment parts. In some parts of electronic gadgets, poisonous elements such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and others are employed. These toxic compounds are considered contaminants and damaging to the environment when their threshold value is exceeded.

E-waste is considered the “fastest-growing waste stream in the world” with 44.7 million tonnes generated in 2016- equivalent to 4500 Eiffel towers. In 2018, an estimated 50 million tonnes of e-waste was reported, thus the name ‘tsunami of e-waste’ given by the UN. Its value is at least $62.5 billion annually.

Rapid changes in technology, changes in media (tapes, software, MP3), falling prices, and planned obsolescence have resulted in a fast-growing surplus of electronic waste around the globe. Technical solutions are available, but in most cases, a legal framework, a collection, logistics, and other services need to be implemented before a technical solution can be applied.

E-waste Components: Major Appliances, Small Appliances, Computer and Telecommunications Appliances, Lighting Devices, Electrical and electronic tools, Electronic Toys, Medical Devices, Monitoring Devices, Vending Machines, and other e-waste components are divided into numerous categories.