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E waste – a side effect of new technology

Our electronic goods like televisions, laptops, computers and mobile phones to name a few, do not have a long life in terms of use. As consumers, we are lured by new and smarter technologies in the field of electronics almost everyday. While be update our kitties with new stuff, the old ones are dumped carelessly as waste. This is what is known as e-waste or electronic waste.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with buying new electronic products if that makes our work easier. The problem is about dumping the old ones. Most of our electronic goods have toxic contents that get released on decay and as a result are a threat to the environment.  Most of the time, the brands that we by our electronic stuff from do not have a take back policy or as even at large, recycling or the proper way of doing away with the old electronic products is not dealt with even in the instruction books.

Unaware, consumers carelessly dump the electronics, creating an environmental hazard known as e waste.

E waste is not a problem merely because of the release of hazardous contents from electronic goods. It also is about wasting precious metals and releasing greenhouse gases in the process of production of new electronic goods.

As per a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – ‘Recycling from E-waste to Resources’ released in February 2010, the e-waste generated globally is growing up by 40 million tons a year. About 3 per cent of silver and gold, 13 per cent of palladium and 15 per cent of cobalt mined around the world in a year goes into the manufacturing of electronic goods like mobile phones and personal computers. So the rise in e waste also means wasting precious metals. The carbon dioxide emissions released while mining for metals to be used in the production of electronic equipments is another cause of concern, estimated to be over 23 million tones.

India alone produces 4,37,700 tonnes of e waste from refrigerators, televisions, personal computers printers and mobile phones put together. In about 10 years, India’s e waste from computers, as per the report, will jump by 500 per cent. Apart from Acer, Wipro and HCL, not many companies in India have a functional take-back service.

E waste recycling is not good enough when under the informal sector. Here, the focus is on recovering precious metals like gold and not disposing off the electronics in a non-polluting way. Proper recycling needs state-of-the-art industrial facilities which demand a good finance, which makes it difficult for it to be a substitute to cheaper informal alternatives that are well-placed into the system.

India and other developing countries are often used as dumping grounds for e wastes from western countries, which needs to be checked too at an international level. Managing e waste is as much of concern as is production of greener, eco-friendly goods and services.

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