What is E-waste?

E-waste or Electronic waste can be described as discarded electrical or electronic devices. Such e-waste poses serious health and pollution problems as they may contain contaminants such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, or brominated flame retardants.

Electronic waste may be defined as discarded computers, office electronic equipment, entertainment device electronics, mobile phones, television sets and refrigerators. E-waste includes used electronics which are destined for reuse, resale, salvage, recycling, or disposal.

There is, however, no standard or generally accepted definition of e-waste in the world. In most cases, e-waste comprises of the relatively expensive and essentially durable products used for data processing, telecommunications or entertainment in private households and businesses.
Many define "re-usables" (working and repairable electronics) and secondary scrap (copper, steel, plastic, etc.) to be "commodities", and reserve the term "waste" for the residue or material which is dumped by the buyer rather than recycled, including residue from reuse and recycling operations. Since loads of surplus electronics are frequently mixed (good, recyclable, and non-recyclable), several public policy advocates apply the term "e-waste" broadly to all surplus electronics.

What are the components of E-waste?

Substances found in large quantities include epoxy resins, fiber glass, PCBs, PVC (polyvinyl chlorides), thermosetting plastics, lead, tin, copper, silicon, beryllium, carbon, iron and aluminium. Elements found in small amounts include cadmium, mercury, and thallium. Elements found in trace amounts include americium, antimony, arsenic, barium, bismuth, boron, cobalt, europium, gallium, germanium, gold, indium, lithium, manganese, nickel, niobium, palladium, platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, selenium, silver, tantalum, terbium, thorium, titanium, vanadium, and yttrium.

Almost all electronics contain lead and tin (as solder) and copper (as wire and printed circuit board tracks).

What are the health hazards of E-waste?
Health Hazards

Most E-Waste has the following chemicals that are hazardous to life:

E-Waste Found Health Hazard Caused
Americium radioactive source in smoke alarms Is known to be carcinogenic.
Mercury found in fluorescent tubes, tilt switches (mechanical doorbells, thermostats) and flat screen monitors Mercury causes sensory impairment, dermatitis, memory loss and muscle weakness. Environmental effects in animals include death, reduced fertility, slower growth and development.
Sulphur found in lead-acid batteries Health effects include liver damage, kidney damage, heart damage, eye and throat irritation. When released in to the environment, it can create sulphuric acid.
Arsenic   Disrupt cell communication and interfere with the triggers that cause cells to grow, possibly contributing to cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes if someone is exposed in chronic, low doses.
Cadmium   Affects your body's ability to metabolize calcium, leading to bone pain and severely weakened, fragile bones.
Chromium   Can cause skin irritation and rashes and is potentially carcinogenic.
Copper   Can irritate the throat and lungs and affect the liver, kidneys and other body systems.
Lead poisoning   Can cause a whole slew of health problems including the impairment of cognitive and verbal activity. Eventually, lead exposure can cause paralysis, coma and death.
Nickel   Is carcinogenic in large doses.
Silver   Probably won't hurt you, but handle it too frequently and you might come down with a case of argyria -- a condition that permanently stains your skin a blue-gray shade.

E-waste poses a serious issue to environmentalists as large numbers of electronic waste is discarded at landfills every year. People are unaware of the fact that electronic goods like computers and mobile phones contain toxins that can poison the soil and damage the environment.

What is Hazardous Waste?

The Free Dictionary states that hazardous waste is a substance, such as an industrial by-product, that is potentially damaging to the environment and harmful to humans and other living organisms.

Hazardous wastes include heavy metals and toxic chemicals used in industrial products and processes as well as infectious medical wastes and radioactive materials such as spent nuclear fuel rods.

Traits of Hazardous wastes

Hazardous wastes are known or tested to exhibit one or more of the following four hazardous traits:

    • Flammable/ignitability – ignitable wastes can create fires under certain conditions, undergo spontaneous combustion or have a flash point less than 60 degees celcius.
    • Reactivity – reactive wastes are unstable under normal conditions. They can cause explosions or release toxic fumes, gases or vapours when heated, compressed or mixed with water.
    • Corrosivity – corrosive wastes are materials, including solids, that are acids or bases, or that produces acidic or alkaline solutions. Spent battery acid is an example.
    • Toxicity – toxic wastes are harmful or fatal when absorbed. For example, wastes containing mercury, lead, DDT etc. When toxic wastes are disposed, the toxic constituents may leach from the waste and pollute ground water.
Hazardous wastes at home

Our homes have Household Hazardous Wastes or Domestic hazardous wastes. Such kind of waste that is generate from residential households. Household hazardous wastes apply to wastes that are the result of the use of materials that are labelled for and sold for "home use". Such wastes include:

    • Paints and solvents
    • Automotive wastes
    • Pesticides, insecticides
    • Thermometers, switches, fluorescent lighting
    • Electronics

Hazardous waste is a waste with properties that make it potentially dangerous or harmful to human health or the environment. The universe of hazardous wastes is large and diverse. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids or contained gases. They can be the by-products of manufacturing processes, discarded used materials, or discarded unused commercial products, such as cleaning fluids (solvents) or pesticides.

What are the three kinds of Wastes?

According to a White Paper, growth of population, increasing urbanization and rising standards of living have contributed to an increase in both, quantity and variety of wastes generated by various activities. Broadly, waste can be classified as urban waste, biomass waste and biomedical waste.

What is Urban Waste?

Urban wastes are wastes from households, commercial activities, etc. (excluding waste arising from mining, construction, or demolition processes, etc.). This includes Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), Sewage and Fecal sludge..

What is Industrial Waste?

Industrial waste can be categorized under solid, semi-solid, liquid or gaseous or residual materials (excluding hazardous or biodegradable wastes from industrial operations)..

What is Biomass Waste?

Biomass waste is defined as biomass by-products, residues and waste streams from agriculture, forestry and related industries..

What is Municipal Waste?

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) includes commercial and residential wastes generated in municipal or notified areas in either solid or semi-solid form. It consists of household waste, construction and demolition debris, sanitation residue, waste from streets and so forth..

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