The Effects of Electronic Waste (E-waste) on Environment

Meaning: E-waste or electronic waste it refers to discarded electrical and electronic equipment after their effective lifespan is over, the users generally throw away their electrical equipment when they are either partially or completely damaged or when the upgrade to a better equipment, the resultant and generation of tons of electrical waste on daily basis this waste is not just filling up the land but the improper disposal of this waste also leads to many ecological problems, harm to the environment, as well as human health problems.

Generation: India on an average generate approximately 3 million tons of e-waste and holds the 5th position worldwide in terms of e waste generation according to the joint study conducted by ASSUCHAM & WEC. This is mainly due to overpopulation industrialization increase in consumerism and rapid development of technologies


CLASSIFICATION OF E-WASTE: Mainly e-waste is generated from two main sources and is broadly classified into 10 major categories the main sources for e waste generation are household and industries. The main types of e waste from household include large appliances like refrigerator, air conditioners,

Etc. Small appliances like electrical shavers, microwave, other categories include consumer items, it equipment, lamps, etc. The industrial e waste generally consists of large machinery it equipment medical machinery automobile electronic components, etc.

Globally the most e-waste is generated from Asian countries followed by European American and African countries but still Europe has the largest generation per citizen data by global e-waste statistic partnership.

Few examples of classified e waste are stated below

Telecommunication waste:

· Mobile phones

· Telephones

· Telephone exchange wireless equipment cables and related scrap material

· PC and TV

Electrical waste:

· Switches

· Relays

· Connectors and related scrap

Electronic waste:

· Electronic- metal wires

· Printed circuit boards

· E-equipment and machinery

· IC

· Sockets connectors

Cable waste


· Pre insulated copper and aluminum cable waste


The E-Waste affects the environment by polluting it. It affect negatively on Air, Soil, Water, etc. The negative effects on the environment affects further negatively on the human and other living things on the earth. The reason behind this the disposal of the e-waste is that it is not disposed properly in prescribed way.

The Negative Effects on Air

When E-Waste is disposed by melting the material or dismantling or shredding of material. This release the dust particles or toxins which can cause the air pollution. The burning of E-waste may contain metals like copper and some other fine particles. This air pollution caused due to e-waste can affect the human being as well as other living things on the earth. It mainly effects on the respiratory system of the human being. The polluted air is inhaled by the human that can damage their respiratory system as well as other body parts. Along with human being it also affects the some animals species that can be on endanger. Also further the air pollution can also affects the water and soil quality, will affects the plants and other ecosystem.

The Negative Effects on Soil

When e-waste is disposed in improper way in landfill or in illegal way then the flame and retardant get mixed with soil directly, which further makes the soil contaminated. This contaminated soil can also affect the agriculture, crop planted in nearby area at present or in future. If the soil become contaminated due to this, then the crop will become vulnerable for absorbing the toxins that might result to various illnesses. It will also affects the productivity of the farmland. The contamination level of the soil is depend on the various factors such as temperature, type of soil, pH levels and composition of soil. All these pollutants remains in soil for longer period.

The Negative Effects on Water

After contaminating the soil, the heavy metals of E-waste like lithium, mercury, lead, barium, etc get leak in to water bodies mainly in groundwater. After reaching of these heavy metals on the groundwater level, it makes the way in the various other water bodies like ponds, river, sea, lakes, etc. This acidification and toxification in the water bodies are not safe for all living things such as human, animal and plants. Drinking of such water would also affects the health.

These acidification water can also but the life of aquatic organisms in endanger. Various people eating fish can indirectly consume the waste from electronic which has been entered in the body of the fish.

The Negative Effects on Humans

As said above the toxics components of the e-waste such as mercury, lead, copper, cadmium, barium, lithium, etc., are very much dangerous for the health of the human. It affects the various organs of the human such as brain, heart, liver, kidney, bones, etc., This can also affect the nervous as well as reproductive system of the human body and the effect can pass on to next-generation i.e. genetics and results to birth defects.

The consumption of the food by the human being grown on toxic soil, drinking of toxic water, inhale of such toxic air will result to enter of toxic substance in the human body easily.


Although many laws and regulations have been passed on global scale by various organizations like UN but the management it at the ground level is still a challenge to be tackled. Few of the agreements signed by various organizations globally are mentioned below;

1) International Convention for the prevention of pollution from ships. According to this agreement in annex 5 chapter 3, it is clearly stated that ships and vessels sailing in international waters are strictly prohibited from discarding any type of solid waste including E-waste and plastics in the oceans.

2) Basel convention on the control of transferee movements of hazardous waste and their disposal.

Basel convention annex 8 and 9 which prohibit the trans-border movement of materials containing inorganic components and metals directly reflects to prevention of illegal movement of e-waste.

3) Montreal protocol.

The introduction of Montreal protocol made the E-waste recycling in Australia free. It also aims to provide similar support to other countries by joint implementation.

4) Hong Kong international convention for the safety and environment the sound recycling of ships.

In this convention the chapter 2 of annex, article 17 article 18 and article 19, focus on the development of systems and regulations to ensure complete safety of humans and environment while recycling ships. As ships contain large number of electrical equipment it is very important to recycle it with care.

5) Minamata convention on Mercury 2013

In minamata convention the entire annex A is based on mercury containing products which mostly include the EEE which have mercury or mercury compounds present in them.

6) Connect 2020 agenda for global telecommunication ICT development.

In the connect agenda 2020 the goal 3 is sustainability and the Target 3.2: Volume of redundant e-waste to be reduced by 50% by 2020

Main cause and requirement for these types of agreements not only the impacts on the environment and human health but also the economic impact arising because of illegal dumping of the electronic waste in the third world countries like India Bangladesh China etc., without properly evaluating the safety standards of the equipment to avoid the expenses arising due it also so as a to them reverse effect on the developed countries as the E-waste is refurbished or remanufactured by the developing nations which creates problems for the manufacturers of the electronic items.


Another topic of concern arising due to the massive E-waste generation is the information security breaching, as most of the modern IT equipment used personally or professionally are having some kind of personal information or important document the data can be simply recovered from the hardware using right technique and machinery which can be used to exploit individuals or companies if landed in the wrong hands hence it is very important to secure your IT devices before disposing them. It can't be done by simply deleting the files two common methods available are full-disc overwriting and data deletion using standard operating approach.

To summarize e-waste as a growing concern of topic as it impacts the entire society in terms of environmental deterioration economical deficits and ecological imbalances.


The E-waste generation of a family directly depends upon the income and expenditure of family. The research reveals that most people with an average income of below 3 lakhs, on an average spend less than 50 thousand rupees a year. Hence making it clear that most waste generated in the city comes from the industries and offices. Most electronic equipment at households are 6-10 years old reflecting longer duration of using electronics. Although longer usage of electronics may avoid the generation of E-waste but it also increases the emissions by certain equipment into the atmosphere. As technologies in telecommunications have gained a pace at development many individuals prefer changing their cellphones often these days, once in 2-3 years. Even though there an increase observed in the purchase of primary electronic equipment the rate of purchase secondary equipment is still quite less comparatively. Although major portion of the respondents were quite educated there was still a lack observed in the awareness about the management and problems caused by E-waste.

Most waste discarded by the people would definitely find its way in the informal recycling industries this was observed.

Most people weren’t willing to buy a secondhand electronic item which states the increase in e-waste over time and movement of the waste in informal recycling industries.

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