Impact of Electronic Devices, A Growing Need
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Humans have progressed so much that now for almost every work, whether menial or not, there is a machine that does the work or does many parts of that work. Electronic waste or e-waste is the electric and electronic equipment that no longer satisfy its original purpose or is of no value to the user anymore.
These materials can either be any white goods that include refrigerators, washing machines, microwaves or brown goods such as radios, televisions, cell phones, and computers. E-waste is nowadays one of the fastest growing waste streams. People are crazed for new technology and in lieu of that most electronic products have lost their utility value either because of redundancy, replacement or breakage. Moreover, the information and technology revolution has increased the use of new electronic equipment, it has also produced growing volumes of obsolete products. India is a developing country and it must focus on the e-waste recycling capacity as India accounts for third largest e-waste producing country. With the release of this data, UN’s global e-waste monitor has shown worrying scenario that only 18% of the e-waste was collected and recycled globally. E-waste are toxic in nature are injurious to human health, environment and India’s incapability in recycling e-waste to mine precious and critical materials is a loss to country’s economy as well.
Impact of e-waste on human health: Electronics have started to constitute an indispensable part of human life. Electronics are now a part of daily life and if humans indulge electronics in their life that much, it ought to be the primary responsibility of humans to properly dispose of its waste a well. Not only it is ethical for humans to dispose of the e-waste, it is mandatory as well because without precaution, these e-waste would wreak havoc human health. E-waste may not seem dangerous in regards of human health but it definitely is. Even a growing body of epidemiological and clinical evidence has clearly stated the possible threats of e-waste on human health. In the times, where humans are working so hard to find the perfect diet and foods that help in growth of human health, they definitely cannot ignore the improper disposal of e-waste that adversely affects the human health. For developing countries like India and China, it is must for these countries to engage in proper disposal of e-waste. Informal sectors are engaged in primitive methods for disposal, recycle and reprocess e-waste materials that expose the persons involved in the process to a number of toxic substances. Workers performing processes are unknown to the safety equipments like gloves, face masks, ventilation fans and are even unknown to the effects of improper disposal of e-waste. They are unaware that some of the processes can result in direct exposure and inhalation of harmful chemicals. For example, concentration of dioxins in the surrounding areas increases where the printed wiring boards are burned openly. When anyone present in that area, inhales these toxins, is exposed to the risk of cancer.
Precious metal is one substance that is considered as gem for manufacture of electronic gadgets and while manually extracting tiny quantities of such substances, it is possible that toxic metals and poison would enter the bloodstream of the persons involved in such process and are exposed to poisonous chemicals and fumes of highly concentrated acids. Resalable copper are recovered by burning insulated wires can cause neurological disorders and damage to kidney, liver and may cause bone loss when exposed to cadmium that are found in semiconductors and chip resistors. It is established that long term exposure to lead can damage central and peripheral nervous system and kidneys, which are found on printed circuit boards, computer and television screens.
E-waste as metal: E-waste is a unique source of rare metals that are critical for manufacture of e-waste gadgets. Currently, China enjoys the luxury of these metals from mining and primary source as well. Sooner or later, India has to see these e-waste as strategic and precious source as it contains almost 69 elements of periodic table including those highly precious and strategic in nature. It might be tough for country like India, with such vast population, to create mechanisms to enforce systems for managing e-waste in the scenario. Though, India has implemented legislation regarding e-waste but it still remains a challenge as enforcing rules isn’t the end of the problem. For their proper implementation, proper infrastructure for collection and logistics, standards of collection, dismantling and treatment of e-waste are some requisite processes that are mandatory to monitor. Implementation and compliance deficits are the major areas that require constant monitoring for proper e-waste management. There are many inadequate mechanisms that are needed to be revised. Current regulation ignore the informal sector which has access to most e-waste. These are some areas that must be regulated by proper authorities to combat this situation and achieve excellence in e-waste management. Informal sector must be integrated into a transparent recycling system. India is a developing country that can convert this challenge of e-waste to opportunity and help the environment as well as its own economy.
Impact on environment: Electrical and electronic equipments are now a part of routine. It can be said that humans have now become dependent on these equipments, but continue to ignore the hazardous effects these equipments brings to their life. These electrical and electronic equipments interface with the environment when they are manufactured, reprocessed or disposed.
There are certain methods which are used to recover metals like burning of equipments leading to emission of gases, fumes and particulate matter into the air causing air pollution. Air pollution caused from e-waste is a serious concern as the emission of such gases or particulate matter is hazardous for human health and can cause serious illness to the persons inhaling these fumes.
When recycled in the informal sector, waste materials of no value are dumped and littered either on the ground or underground aquifers making the underground water quality not suitable for human consumption or agricultural use. Dust particles loaded with heavy metals and flame retardants enter the atmosphere while the process of dismantling causing atmospheric pollution. These dust particles can enter the water streams or can enter into the soil, causing soil or water pollution. Soil becomes toxic when substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls and other substances of like nature are deposited into the soil. Clean soil, water and air are the necessities of the good health and a better tomorrow for humans and environment, but e-waste must be managed with proper caution or else humans will be compromising with their safer future and present.
Government keeping in view how important e-waste management is for a better future and present, implemented E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016 with the purpose to reduce e-waste production and increase recycling. Ahead of these rules, government introduced EPR to combat the situation of e-waste which makes producers liable for collection of e-waste they produce. But legislating rules isn’t the end of the problem, they must be followed with proper caution and awareness must be spread to general public about the hazardous effects of e-waste.