Electronic waste (e-waste) – Facts and Solutions

  • By: Admin
  • Date: December 08, 2009
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Electronic waste (e-waste) now makes up five percent of all municipal solid waste worldwide, nearly the same amount as all plastic packaging, but it is much more hazardous. Not only developed countries generate e-waste; Asia discards an estimated 12 million tonnes each year.

E-waste is now the fastest growing component of the municipal solid waste stream because people are upgrading their mobile phones, computers, televisions, audio equipment and printers more frequently than ever before. Mobile phones and computers are causing the biggest problem because they are replaced most often. In Europe e-waste is increasing at three to five percent a year, almost three times faster than the total waste stream. Developing countries are also expected to triple their e-waste production over the next five years.

Some Facts

  • The average lifespan of computers in developed countries has dropped from six years in 1997 to just two years in 2005.
  • Mobile phones have a lifecycle of less than two years in developed countries.
  • 183 million computers were sold worldwide in 2004 - 11.6 percent more than in 2003.
  • 674 million mobile phones were sold worldwide in 2004 - 30 percent more than in 2003.
  • By 2010, there will be 716 million new computers in use. There will be 178 million new computer users in China, 80 million new users in India.

Regulations :

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)Directive: sets collection, recycling and recovery targets for all types of electrical goods. The directive rests the responsibility of collection and eco-friendly disposal of used electrical and electronic goods on the manufacturer of such goods.

WEEE Directive URL:

Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive: restricts the use of six hazardous materials in all types of electrical and electronic equipments. It is often referred to as lead-free directive but restricts the following six substances – Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Hexavalent Chromium, Polybrominated Biphenyl and Polybrominated diphenyl ether. The emphasis is to use alternative materials but the directive has set percentage of permitted concentrations for each of these materials. This works in close conjunction with WEEE Directive.

RoHS Directive URL:

Possible Solutions

Manufacturers of electronic goods, who have benefited from sales of their products, should take responsibility for them from production through to the end of their lives. To prevent an e-waste crisis, manufacturers must design clean electronics with longer lifespan, that are safe and easy to recycle and will not expose workers and the environment to hazardous chemicals.
Clean up: Electronics manufacturers must stop using hazardous materials. In many cases, safer alternatives currently exist.

Take back: The taxpayer should not bear the cost of recycling old electrical goods. Manufacturers should take full life cycle responsibility for their products and, once they reach the end of their useful life, take their goods back for re-use, safe recycling or disposal.

What we can do:

  • Support companies that make clean products.
  • Think twice before buying whether you really need a new device.
  • Return your equipment to the manufacturer when you have finished with it.

‘© European Communities,

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