Minimise e-waste for a sustainable future

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Minimise e-waste for a sustainable future

Thursday, 06 June 2024 | shainy sharma

Minimise e-waste for a sustainable future

Forge a greener future by maximising resources and minimising waste

Living in the so-called globalised world, the term electronic waste/E-waste is a time bomb for it comprises electronic devices that are unwanted, not working or have reached the end of their “useful life”. However, it is not just a technology-based problem but everyone’s problem. Around 80 to 85 per cent of electronic products are discarded in landfills. While it’s good to recycle, at the same time it is crucial to prioritise safety and proper practices when handling such waste. No doubt that recycling does aim to reduce pollution, but it should not contribute to environmental harm just because of human irresponsible practices.

However, the serious environmental risks associated with e-waste are significant and multifaceted, affecting ecosystems, wildlife as well as human health.

As per several research studies, the fastest increase in e-waste output is people’s insatiable need to own technological devices. With the growing age and generation, the rapid technological innovation has led to frequent releases of new models of electronic devices. Moreover, human greed too has encouraged consumers to upgrade to the latest versions, resulting in the disposal of older but still functional devices. Frequent disposal of small equipment such as microwaves, toasters, mobiles, laptops, computers, printers, and televisions followed by large equipment such as washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators and many more just to maintain the status quo makes Asia generate the most e-waste by the America, Europe, Africa and Oceania with a recycling rate of just 17.4%. Not only this, according to the World Health Organization(WHO), several adverse health effects are also caused by exposure to e-waste like negative birth outcomes such as premature birth, changes in lung functions and respiratory issues. And not to be surprised, these challenges are emerging day by day.

With recycling and dumping issues emerging, today many electronic products are often designed with shorter lifecycles due to planned obsolescence, where manufacturers intentionally limit the lifespan of a product to encourage repeat purchases, but improper e-waste disposal leads to habitat destruction. For example, when e-waste is dumped in natural areas, it can disrupt local wildlife habitats, leading to a loss of biodiversity. In some countries, regulations governing e-waste management are either lacking or not effectively enforced, leading to improper disposal and recycling practices. In regions without Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies, manufacturers are not held accountable for the end-of-life management of their products, contributing to the accumulation of e-waste.

By addressing these underlying factors through comprehensive policies, public awareness campaigns and improvements in recycling infrastructure, it is possible to mitigate the growing e-waste problem and promote more sustainable practices in electronic consumption and disposal. Also, by addressing the environmental risks of e-waste, one can work towards more sustainable and safer management practices that protect both the environment and public health. While recycling e-waste is generally better for the environment than disposing of it in landfills, some recycling processes are energy-intensive and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Improving the efficiency of recycling technologies and processes can help mitigate this impact.

It is time to embrace the power of circular thinking as one transforms waste into opportunity, by taking one step at a time. It’s time to break free from the linear mindset and forge a path towards a greener future, where resources are maximised and waste is minimized.

(The writer is an educator; views are personal)

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