E-waste means electronic appliances that have reached their end-of-life, like washing machines, cell phones, refrigerators, computers, TVs and microwaves. Electronics contain ferrous & non-ferrous metals, glass, circuit boards, wood, plastics, rubber, ceramics, etc.
Illegal dumping and land-filling of e-waste contribute to toxic chemicals in the environment. Some of the techniques used to recycle e-waste include dissolution in acids and burning, often with very few measures being set to protect the environment and human health.
Consumers and workers are often exposed to chemicals present in electronics through their life cycle, with workers involved in unprotected handling e-waste getting health problems through inhalation and skin contact. These workers are often reported to have blood that contains a high level of flame retardants, arising from being exposed to contaminated air.
E-waste contains various toxic elements like mercury, lead, selenium, arsenic and chromium. Unlike industrial and municipal waste, e-waste requires special handling techniques because of the presence of toxic, expensive, and valuable materials.
Proper management of e-waste calls for effective efforts of recovering base and reusable components, especially precious metals and copper. However, because of inadequate facilities to recycle, tough environmental regulations and high labor costs, many countries resort to export or landfills to dispose e-waste.
Tens of millions of e-waste is generated annually with a significant fraction ending up in landfills and dumpsites. According to research findings, only 15% to 20% of e-waste gets recycled, with the rest being dumped in developing countries.
E-waste recycling offers a better option of disposing electronic waste. The benefits e-cycling offers are many. First and foremost, it helps to conserve natural resources. Electronics contain valuables such as aluminum, copper and gold which can be recycled to make new products, conserving natural resources. Secondly, recycling helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Typically, the use of recycled materials helps to consume less energy compared with using virgin materials and when less energy is used, the greenhouse gases emitted are fewer. Third e-cycling helps to protect the environment and our health. A small amount of toxins contained in electronic released into the water, air and soil can prove hazardous. Therefore, e-cycling helps to protect the environment and our health, by keeping these toxic substances away from landfills.
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