A UN report says that the global generation of e-waste crossed 30-50 million ton last year. E-waste recycling and disposal in China, India and Pakistan are highly polluting due to the release of toxic chemicals. The lack of responsibility on the part of government and electronics industry, consumers, recyclers and local governments toward viable and sustainable options for disposal of e-wastes.
E-waste is blend of plastics and chemicals, improper handling of e-waste is harmful to the environment as well as mankind. For the recycling of e-waste, in India unorganized sector are major contributor and only a handful of an organized e-waste recycling facilities are available. In informal recycling untrained workers carry out the dangerous procedures without personal protective equipment, which are detrimental not only to their health but also to the environment. Examples of such crude techniques worth mentioning are physical dismantling using tools such as hammers, chisels, screw drivers and bare hands to separate different materials, Removing components from printed circuit boards by heating over coal-fired grills ,Stripping of metals in open-pit acid baths to recover gold and other metals, chipping and melting plastics without proper ventilation ,burning cables to recover copper, and burning unwanted materials in the open air ,disposing unsalvageable materials in fields and riverbanks. The various disposal methods available to manage the e-waste heaps are: Landfilling, incineration Recycling and reuse.
Recycling options for managing plastics from end-of-life electronics are of three types chemical recycling, mechanical recycling ,thermal recycling. Any recycling process involves dismantling, that is, removal of different parts of e-waste containing dangerous substances such as PCB, Hg, separation of plastic, removal of cathode ray tube (CRT), segregation of ferrous and nonferrous metals and printed circuit boards. Recyclers use strong acids to remove precious metals such as copper, lead, gold. The value of recycling from the element could be much higher if appropriate technologies are used. The recyclers are working in poorly-ventilated enclosed areas without mask and technical expertise results in exposure to dangerous and slow poisoning chemicals. Monitors and CRT, keyboards, laptops, modems, telephone boards, hard drives, floppy drives, Compact disks, and mobiles, fax machines, printers, CPUs, memory chips, connecting wires and cables can be recycled. Hazardous effects due to recycling are potential threat to human health and the environment, Lead causes damage to the central and peripheral nerve system, blood system and kidneys in humans, Mercury impacts brain functioning and development.
It is the responsibility of the government to turn away more e-waste flowing from informal to formal sectors and to achieve positive utilization of informal collection networks for collecting e-waste from households thereby developing efficient incentive system for poor collectors and recyclers. Technical improvements of informal recycling processes coupled with proper training in handling WEEE has to be offered to the local industry and community so to obtain better environmental performance without sacrificing the economic and social benefits. This will provide a remedy for the occupational health hazards related to the informal recycling of e-waste. Developing a better understanding of informal recycling and implementing more supportive policies for the informal sector that could result in hundreds of job opportunities for low-skilled workers in a complete safe environment is a sustainable solution for the current issue. Educating the children who are actively involved in e-waste processing in their own line creates e-experts for future generation and can handle this hazardous waste and turn in to the valuable resource.