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E-Waste Recycling: There’s so much we don’t know about Electronic Waste

E-Waste Recycling: There’s so much we don’t know about Electronic Waste

Humans and electronics have been inseparable, since the rise of dependency on electronics in the 21st century. Electrical and electronic equipment such as laptops, phones, refrigerators, blenders, ovens and many more have become vital for our daily needs. We wake up every morning and make our coffee – either by using a coffee machine or a kettle, we check the refrigerator to see if there’s something to eat and then we check our phones for juicy tidbits of information. These appliances are all an integral part of our lives, but they come with an expiration date. What happens to these electronics when they are deemed unusable? These used electronics turn into e-scrap. They no longer serve a purpose and such waste electrical and electronic equipment end up in junkyards, polluting the soil and its surroundings. However, when we raise awareness about e-waste, we can come together to sharpen our methods of electronic recycling and ensure that these appliances are disposed off the right way. Let’s get into it!

What is e-waste?

“E-waste” or “electronic and electrical waste” is defined as electronics that have reached the end of their useful life and are therefore discarded. Due to the rapid advancement of technology – whether in the physical body or updates in the OS/software, the rate of creation of electronic waste is increasing. What happens when your phone or laptop is working just fine but the software is incompatible with the new apps in the market? More often than not, we upgrade our electronic products entirely, making the old one obsolete and an addition to the pile of e-waste. Did you know that in 2020 alone, India generated e-waste of 10,14,961 tonnes? This was 32% more than the previous year. This is the reason why e-waste recycling is one of the most discussed and encouraged practices in the world today. It is essentially the reuse and reprocessing of any obsolete electrical and electronic equipment. E-waste recycling was initiated to mitigate the harm on humans and the environment alike. As the volume of e-waste increases, so should the capacity for e-waste recycling and e-waste management.

Why is recycling e-waste important?

With the volume of e-waste on the rise, what we can do to safeguard the effects of e-waste on the environment and human health is recycling. The e-waste recycling benefits are endless. By recycling your electronics, you may be giving use to parts within the device that are still running, and you are properly disposing of waste that is actually made of some recyclable material like plastic, glass and metals. E-waste is a rich source of metals such as gold, silver, and copper, which can be recovered and brought back into the production cycle. What looks like junk to you may serve an essential purpose and not add to the tonnes of e-waste and its negative effect on the environment. However, there are many intricacies to recycling. For example, not all glass can be used. The glass in the CRTs of computers also contains lead which can be harmful to humans and the environment. This means proper recycling facilities need to be in place to have the equipment required to extract the toxic substances, be it mercury or lead and then recycle the material. E-waste goes through a long process which generally includes collecting and transporting, shredding and sorting, dust extraction, waste separation, purification of waste stream and preparing recycled materials for sale. As we mentioned earlier, increasing awareness by building information campaigns and capacity building is critical to promote environmental friendly e-waste management programmes.

Ideas on how to reduce e-waste

Recycling comes after you’ve used your device, but is there any way we can nip the problem in the bud? Minimizing e-waste is not only important, it’s a social responsibility. And this comes down to being a conscious consumer.

  • On an individual level, we can start by segregating e-waste from normal waste. This ensures the organic waste does not become contaminated and the e-waste is still recyclable.
  • We can also join hands with the head of the apartment/locality we live in to create separate bins for e-waste much like many progressive Resident Welfare Associations have been following. If all residential societies follow this practice, e-waste can be collected and recycled in a more efficient way.
  • Before you buy that gadget, ask yourself if you really need it or if you could manage without it. Just asking yourself this simple question can exercise the muscle of being a conscious consumer.
  • Look after the devices you already own with protective gear such as covers, tempered glass and by maintaining other habits like not over-charging devices. This can increase longevity of your devices and reduce e-waste.
  • Donate your old devices to the less fortunate. This way, they won’t need to purchase a new one and your device won’t lie in your junk drawer, unused.
  • Look for an Ecomark on the device before you purchase as it’s a sign that the company is doing its bit to reduce the environmental impact.

These small steps can ensure that Noida as well as the rest of India can emerge as a cleaner and safer space to inhabit. Entities such as HCL Foundation are always here to help you with the process and with solid waste management in Noida city, but a clean Noida truly begins with you!

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