E-waste are described as discarded electrical or electronic devices. Globally, the quantum of e-waste generated annually is rising at an unprecedented rate. Various factors including increasing consumerism, rapid technological innovations, digitalization and growing population are some of the reasons that have led to this unparalleled growth.
However, a report expressed concerns that recycling activities are not keeping up with the amount of e-waste that people are generating each day. According to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2020, 53.6 million metric tonnes of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019, an increase of 21% from 2014. Only 17.4% of 2019’s global e-waste was collected and properly recycled, which means that 44.3 million metric tonnes of e-waste, valued at US $57 billion, were either placed in landfill, burned or illegally traded and treated in a substandard way.
The report also predicts global e-waste will reach 74.7 million metric tonnes by 2030, almost a doubling of e-waste in just 16 years, adding that the global amount of e-waste is increasing at almost 2 million metric tonnes per year. This makes e-waste the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream, fueled mainly by higher consumption rates of electric and electronic equipment, short life cycles, and few options for repair, despite 71% of the world’s population being covered by e-waste legislation.
As the number grows, the main environmental concerns are resource depletion and dangerous substances arising. The growing volume of electronic waste, including mobile phones, laptops, televisions, refrigerators and electrical toys represents just 2% of solid waste, but 70% of the hazardous waste that ends up in landfill. Certain components of electronic products contain materials that are hazardous – deadly toxins such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, chromium, polybrominated flame retardants, barium and lithium, to name a few, when not disposed of correctly, poses a major threat to the environment and human health.
The national and local government must develop a responsible and sustainable e-waste management ecosystem that promotes a circular economy in the country, where resources are mobilized and utilized efficiently, and sustainability is embodied in theory and practice. An interplay of innovative approaches, and extensive multi-stakeholder collaboration coupled with stringent value adding enforcement can enable this transition. This will lead to the strengthening of the sharing of information, knowledge, and expertise.
Moreover, the public must effectively implement the Ecological Solid Waste Management (ESWM) Act of 2000, which provides guidance on proper segregation at source, transportation, storage, transfer, processing, treatment, and disposal of solid waste and other waste management activities that do not harm the environment.
By enhancing comprehensive programs for the collection, reuse and recycling of e-waste, this will achieve the shared mission of increasing the implementation of environmentally sound management of e-waste.