Authored by Ms. Radhika Kalia, MD, RLG India
Advances in and increasing reliance on technology have led to an increasingly pressing problem of e-waste (a term used to denote any discarded electronic item or equipment) management.
With the proliferation of electronic gadgets (including smartphones, laptops, LCD monitors, tablets, printers,washing machines, refrigerators, etc.) and ever-widening interconnectivity, the volume of electronic waste generated is rising at a rather alarming rate.
In 2019, the amount of e-waste generated across the globe reportedly stood at nearly 53.6 million metric tons; the figure is expected to touch 74million metric tons by 2030. This poses a significant threat to the environment, as well as to the health and well-being of present and future generations.
E-waste disposal has several significant environmental implications. Electronic devices carry toxicsubstances including cadmium, lead and mercury which may seep into and contaminate soil and water and cause serious health problems in addition to environmental damage.
Improper disposal ofe-waste could also cause air pollution, as burning e-waste releases harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. Further, e-waste generally ends up in landfills, and may contribute to the release of greenhouse gases such as methane.
Therefore, in light of the various dimensions of e-waste management, including collection and transportation, sorting and segregation, innovation and technology, recycling and disposal, policy and regulation, public awareness and education, corporate responsibility, environmental and social impacts, among others, it is imperative that steps be taken to ensure a safer, greener, and healthier earth for posterity.
These may include the following:
Collection and transportation: Establishing collection points and systems facilitating proper and convenient disposal of e-waste. Collection centres should be erected at strategic locations in partnerships with logistics companies to ensure safe and efficient transportation of e-waste.
Sorting and segregation: Focus must be on facilitating efficient and effective recycling of e-waste. This includes identifying and separating hazardous materials and components from non-hazardous ones to prevent environmental and health risks.
Innovation and technology: Promoting innovation and technology to devise more durable, repairable, and sustainable electronic devices. Circular economy practices such as reuse, refurbishment, and recycling must be stressed upon
Recycling and disposal: Developing and implementing efficient and effective recycling and disposal systems to ensure safe and responsible management of e-waste. This includes establishing recycling facilities and partnering with specialized recycling companies.
Policy and regulation: Developing and enforcing policies and regulations promoting responsible e-waste management. These could include the establishment of legal frameworks and standards for e- waste management, levying penalties for non-compliance, and providing incentives for environmentally friendly practices.
Public awareness and education: Educate the public on the importance of responsible e-waste management and its environmental and health impacts through awareness campaigns, offering information on proper disposal methods, and promoting eco-friendly behaviours.
Corporate responsibility: Encouraging corporate responsibility through promotion of sustainable practices and establishment of corporate social responsibility programs. This could include adopting environmentally friendly policies, supporting recycling initiatives, and reducing waste generation.
Environmental and social impacts: Assessing and mitigating the environmental and social impacts of e-waste management through identification and addressal of environmental and health risks associated with e-waste, encouraging responsible disposal, and supporting initiatives benefitting affected communities.
With the help of these dimension-specific measures we could strive towards a safer, greener, and healthier earth for future generations and ensure that e-waste is managed in a responsible and sustainable manner.