Electronic Waste and Electronic Stewardship: A Comprehensive Guide

What is electronic stewardship and how does it work? Learn everything about e-waste and electronic stewardship here and educate your surroundings about the same.

Electronic Stewardship

When the entire world is talking about efficient electronic waste disposal and electronic stewardship, it’s become impossible for us to be quiet for a long period of time. So here is everything that you should know about electronic waste disposal and why like every other individual, you also act on it from right now. Let’s begin.

What is E-waste?

E-waste is also known as electronic waste consists of all electrical appliances that are obsolete, disposed of, damaged, or unwanted by the user. Electronic items that are undesired, broken, or nearing or at the end of their useful life are referred to as e-waste.

Everything that ranges from smartphones to household electronics such as refrigerators and microwaves, that is discarded or disposed of are considered e-waste. If you have ever owned and disposed of an electrical device, it has probably become e-waste. In fact, whichever electronic device you are viewing this article on will also someday become electronic waste. Electronic waste is one of the most rapidly growing waste streams on earth. We annually produce approximately 50 million tonnes of e-waste. This figure is constantly increasing due to the increased production and accessibility to electronics globally.

All over the world, only 10 percent of our e-waste is properly recycled. This statistic continues to decrease drastically. The rest 90 percent is found incinerated, illegally traded, or dumped in landfills.

Some examples of e-waste are laptops, mp3 players, headphones, televisions, and children’s electronic toys. They contain certain valuable and toxic components. Some of its valuable components are Platinum, plastics, aluminum, silver, copper, and gold. The processes that include the manufacturing and refining of these materials harmfully contribute to the environment as these processes consume massive amounts of energy and produce heavy carbon emissions. The problem of how to properly dispose of obsolete and unwanted devices isn’t new, it has been around since the 1970s.

However, a lot has changed since then, particularly in terms of the number of electronics that are being wasted. With the effect of economic and population expansion, technical advancements, industrialization, and urbanization, electronic trash (E-waste) have been growing quite rapidly. Hazardous chemicals in e-waste can have negative impacts on human health and the environment.

So, let’s discuss the effects of e-waste on environment and human health in more detail.

Harmful Effects of E-Waste

Globally, the amount of e-waste is increasing. They increased by 21% in the five years leading up to 2019, when 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste were created, according to the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership (GESP).

According to the most current GESP estimates, only 17.4 percent of e-waste created in 2019 reached legitimate management or recycling facilities; the remainder was illegally discarded, primarily in low and middle-income countries, where it is reprocessed by informal workers.

Improper e-waste disposal in landfills or other non-dumping areas poses a severe hazard to present public health and has the potential to damage ecosystems for future generations. Toxic chemicals are produced when electronics are illegally disposed of and wind up in landfills, affecting the earth’s air, soil, water, and, eventually, human health.

The negative impact of e-waste on human health

Electronic trash contains a variety of hazardous components, including mercury, lead, cadmium, polybrominated flame retardants, barium, and lithium, which damage almost every system in the human body. Polyvinyl chloride is also found in the plastic casings of electronic devices. These poisons can cause birth abnormalities and harm to the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and skeletal system in people. They will also have a profound impact on the neurological and reproductive systems of humans.

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Soil pollution due to e-waste

Toxic heavy metals are released as e-waste degrades. Lead, arsenic, and cadmium are examples of heavy metals. Due to their size and weight, big particles generated during burning, shredding, or disassembling e-waste quickly re-deposit on the ground and cause soil pollution. These contaminants can persist in the soil for a long time, posing a threat to soil microbes and plants. Animals and creatures that rely on nature for existence will eventually consume the damaged plants, resulting in internal health issues.

The negative impact of e-waste on air

When e-waste is dumped in a landfill, it is often burnt in on-site incinerators.

This process can contaminate the air that many animals and people rely on by releasing hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. Moreover, these hydrocarbons have the capacity to boost the greenhouse gas effect, which many scientists believe is a major cause of global warming.

The negative impact of e-waste on water

Toxins are released into groundwater when e-waste is inappropriately disposed of by homeowners or companies. Many surface streams, ponds, and lakes are based on groundwater. Many creatures rely on these water routes for survival. As a result, these poisons causing water pollution have the potential to make these creatures sick and disrupt the global ecology.

E-waste and sustainability are linked with each other. Instead of being thrown in the trash, if a product is completely unusable or broken, it must be disposed of by a certified e-waste recycler or taken to a designated drop-off at a government building, school, or organization, as e-waste can harm humans, animals, and the environment if improperly disposed of.

Due to many rich countries exporting their e-waste to underdeveloped countries, the hazards are particularly significant. According to studies, global e-waste has negative consequences for both those who deal with it and those who live in its vicinity. As a result, a suitable recycling procedure must be implemented in order to safeguard ourselves and future generations.

Businesses are also beginning to recognize the hazards of discarding gadgets, in addition to helping the environment. In a day when phishing schemes are the most common security issue, most people disregard their garbage, putting their businesses in danger.

What is Electronic Stewardship?

Electronic stewardship refers to the promotion and encouragement of responsibly reusing and recycling electronics worldwide. It is in regard to the rapidly growing e-waste that is generated globally and is irresponsibly disposed of. This careless disposal harms the environment and often releases toxins that damage the health of the workers around the waste and the public. Electronic stewardship aims to make people aware and encourage them to practice socially and environmentally responsible measures when disposing of as well as recovering electronic waste. 

To provide the reader with awareness, below mentioned are the various stages of the lifecycle of electronic products with suggestions regarding electronic stewardship. Along with the stages, ways to make the stages sustainable are also mentioned. 

Collection of raw materials

Electronics frequently contain raw materials such as iron, gold, palladium, platinum, copper, and essential elements. They perform vital roles in items that have an impact on our daily lives. These elements are extracted, transported, and processed from the ground. These activities consume a lot of energy, emit greenhouse gases, pollute the environment, and deplete our natural resources. Natural resources, energy, and pollution may all be saved by using less-polluting raw materials.

The manufacturing of electronic products

Environmentally desirable electronics will utilize fewer resources overall, more recycled materials, and will be more durable and recyclable. As a result, the product’s total impact on human health and the environment is lessened.

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Selling of electronic equipment

To utilize electronics in a sustainable manner, it is necessary to prioritize acquiring equipment that has been built with environmentally friendly features. Consumers should support companies that produce and sell environmentally friendly gadgets and practice electronic stewardship.

Utilizing electronic products

Manufacturers should have a mission to design electronic goods that are long-lasting, durable, reusable, and recyclable, but customers also have a role to play in keeping their devices well maintained for durability. Powering down or placing an electronic item in sleep mode when not in use, utilizing energy-efficient appliances, lowering brightness, and printing papers on both sides are some suggestions for saving energy and extending the life of a product.

Disposal of electronic equipment

It is important to hire a certified electronics recycler to guarantee that old gadgets are handled appropriately. Reusable electronics are reconditioned and resold after collection, while recyclables are transferred to recycling centers where they are sorted, cleaned, and converted into materials that may be utilized in manufacturing. Unfortunately, gadgets are frequently discarded as garbage to be collected by municipalities or landfills. 

Accumulation of disposed of electronics in landfills

Modern landfills are designed to accept certain types of trash, such as solid waste, building and demolition debris, and hazardous waste, and deposit them for eventual disposal. These devices are made to reduce the risk of hazardous waste being released into the environment. The precious metals and other components in these goods cannot be recovered once they have been disposed of in landfills.

Recycling electronics waste

Sorting, disassembly, mechanical separation, and recovery of precious materials are all part of domestic recycling. Used electronics can be recycled to produce materials (such as gold, copper, glass, and aluminum) that can be re-consumed in the supply chain, decreasing the number of raw materials used and the total requirement for disposal. Better, more efficient recycling methods can be developed over time. Refurbished gadgets are updated and fixed in preparation for resale. Reusing old electronics improves product lifespans and helps to reduce raw material use.

Benefits of Electronic Stewardship

Increasing efforts to handle electronics in a more sustainable way can result in green jobs, more profitable reuse of precious materials, and a thriving worldwide recycling and refurbishment sector. Recycling electronics helps to decrease pollution created during the production of new products as well as the requirement to extract precious and scarce virgin resources. Electronic recycling also decreases the amount of energy consumed in the production of new products.

Besides, electronics donations enable schools, charitable groups, and low-income families to receive equipment that they would not be able to buy otherwise. Tax benefits for donated computer equipment are also available to businesses. Recycling obsolete electronics recovers valuable resources that may be utilized to create new goods. As a consequence of taking less raw materials from the planet, we save energy, decrease pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve natural resources.

Here is How to Practice Electronic Stewardship at Home

There are really quite easy methods that we can all help decrease e-waste, which is especially essential at a time when our ever-increasing reliance on electronics has resulted in e-waste being the world’s fastest-growing waste stream. All it takes is your determination to avoid either tossing away or storing your used devices and hoarding them at home. Personal security should also be an essential part of any e-waste reduction strategy, such as ensuring that any personal information on your electronic device is deleted so that it does not get into the wrong hands.

  1. By utilizing recycled parts to create new items, we can help keep the cost of new consumer goods low. For manufacturers, this is a considerably less expensive option than mining for virgin ore to create new metals. This implies that once manufacturers have access to the parts they need from the recycling sector, the cost of producing a new smartphone, or any other electronic gadget, decreases.
  2. One can be a conscious consumer while purchasing a new item if one does some research beforehand. Make sure that the electronic gadgets that are being bought are not ones that can quickly break or become damaged once you buy them. In other words, seek items that are likely to last a long time, so you don’t have to replace them every few years or even months.
  3. Reuse as much as you can. If you have functional components and equipment, consider fixing the electrical item before purchasing a new one. If the equipment can no longer be fixed, it should be recycled.
  4. Learn about the components that go into your gadgets. Knowledge is a powerful tool. Researching the basic materials used to make your phone or laptop can help you understand how hazardous those materials and poisons can be if they’re thrown away in a landfill. The more you learn, the more you’ll be able to buy goods that aren’t damaging to the environment.
  5. Limit the number of technological devices you own. Look for devices with numerous purposes if you don’t actually need another gadget. Preserve what you’ve got. Small changes might help you maintain what you’ve got operating for longer. Clean your computer frequently and don’t overcharge your battery to extend the life of your battery.
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Electronic stewardship is a fairly new concept but one that is the need of the hour. It’s critical to share your awareness about the negative consequences of discarding or retaining such gadgets; this provides others with an incentive to follow your advice. Let your friends and relatives know how simple it is to recycle e-waste if they value recycling and consistently discard their plastics, cans, and papers in municipal bins.

Editor’s Note

E-waste is generated from all the electrical items that we use on a day-to-day basis. By following the aforementioned ways to practice electronic stewardship, individuals can drastically decrease the harms of E-waste and irresponsible electronic stewardship. It is critical that the younger generation be educated on how to practice electrical sustainability. The younger generations are our future, and it helps if we can establish a commitment to e-waste recycling in them at an early age.



What are the harmful effects of electronic waste?

E-waste poses a severe hazard to present public health and has the potential to damage ecosystems for future generations. Toxic chemicals are produced when electronics are illegally disposed of and wind up in landfills, affecting the earth’s air, soil, water, and, eventually, human health.

Where is e waste dumped?

According to the recent GESP estimates, only 17.4 percent of e-waste created in 2019 reached legitimate management or recycling facilities; the remainder was illegally discarded, primarily in low and middle-income countries.

Can e-waste be recycled?

Yes, absolutely! There are a number of plants worldwide dedicated to recycling e-waste. Besides, the growing number of e-waste businesses and start-ups are helping more e-waste to be recycled.

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