Electric and electronic equipment demand on the market is steadily rising, forcing the electronics industry to produce updated goods with shorter lifespans. Electronic items become obsolete as a result of the technological revolution; these products are commonly referred to as e-waste. Any electronic or electrical device that is thrown by the user due to its end-of-life or technical advancement is referred to as WEEEs, or "e-waste." Examples of these devices include computers, TVs, laptops, mobile phones, refrigerators, etc. Global E-waste Monitor 2017 data showed that whereas e-waste represents 2% of municipal waste creation in underdeveloped nations, it accounts for 8% of solid municipal waste streams in the European Union (EU). According to the global situation, the United Nations (UN) claimed that 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste were produced globally in 2016, and that number has since increased to 50.2 million tonnes.

E-waste is a mixture of organic material, metals, and ceramics that contains over 1000 "hazardous" and "non-hazardous" compounds. E-waste mostly consists of ferrous, plastic, and non-ferrous metals, in proportions of 50%, 21%, and 13%, respectively. It also contains some glass, wood, and ceramic.

With an average annual generation of 20–50 million tonnes, e-waste production is expected to continue to increase. According to the annual estimation of 2016, China positioned at the top with total 7.2 million metric tons contribution. According to EPA statement United State alone contributes 3.19 million tons of e-waste and placed at second rank after China. The main source of e-waste is thought to be from developed nations with highly saturated electric and electronic demand. Regulatory gaps, in the emerging and underdeveloped nations, allow the cross-border transportation of "hidden fow" that is untraceable and undocumented.

Effects of E-waste on environment

One of the largest environmental effects of e-waste is the release of harmful compounds into the atmosphere when it is subjected to heat. Following that, such hazardous substances may seep into the groundwater, endangering both land and marine life.

Air pollution can also be a result of electronic trash. These are items that shouldn't be thrown away with ordinary garbage because they contain lead, mercury, cadmium, and other compounds that could be dangerous. Studies have even suggested a connection between e-waste in landfills and potential risks to people's health, including significant respiratory problems.

It is important to take into account how technological products affect climate change. Every piece of equipment ever built leaves a carbon footprint and contributes to the global warming caused by humans. A ton of laptops can produce up to 10 tons of CO2 emissions. When considering the carbon dioxide released across a device's lifetime, it occurs primarily during production, prior to customers purchasing a product. This makes reduced carbon production techniques and inputs—such as the utilization of recycled raw materials—and product lifespans—key factors in determining the overall environmental impact.

E-waste disposal and management

E-waste management is the term used to describe the proper disposal and treatment of electronic waste, which includes outdated or abandoned electronic devices including phones, laptops, and televisions. The procedure entails the collecting, transportation, recycling, refurbishing, and ecologically responsible disposal of electronic debris.

E-waste management seeks to lessen the harm that electronic waste causes to the environment and to people's health by reducing pollution, preserving energy and resources, and fostering sustainability. The recovery of valuable materials from electronic waste, such as copper, silver, and gold, to make new products, is another benefit of proper e-waste treatment.

E-waste management Laws

Many nations have launched steps and imposed numerous laws in an effort to address this constantly expanding e-waste problem and benefit from this priceless secondary resource. The harmful effects of e-waste are currently under control thanks to more than 2000 articles of legislation that are in effect in more than 90 countries. Earlier, the majority of laws and management plans were driven by and intended to protect the environment, but at the moment, the majority of these plans are being executed with considerations for human health.

The Basel Convention was endorsed in 1992 to prevent the export of hazardous waste from countries that create it. 172 countries support the accord, but the US has not ratified it. Japan started the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) movement. It works to reduce the production of electronic waste, permits export to other nations for recycling and remanufacturing, and advances the objectives of the Basel Convention treaty.

For effective management of e-waste, the "repair and reuse" principle should be used to promote both e-waste reduction and recycling. Government should support refurbishment models that attract consumers with incentives like lower tax rates to buy reconditioned goods in order to put this principle into practise. In addition to promoting resource reuse and recycling, producers should be required by law to adhere to the principle, and rules must stipulate the minimal use of hazardous materials and virgin raw materials. Additionally, there is a need to strengthen the current laws and policies through regular evaluations and revisions.


International E-Waste Day is celebrated annually on October 14 as a time to consider the effects of e-waste and the steps that must be taken to improve the circularity of e-products.

About the Author: Nimra Cheema is enthusiastic about climate change and biodiversity. She is a researcher in the field of zoology & microbiology.