E-Waste Recycling Environmental and Health Impacts

Authored by: Rajasekhar Balasubramanian , Obulisamy Parthiba Karthikeyan

Remediation of Heavy Metals in the Environment

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781466510012
eBook ISBN: 9781315374536
Adobe ISBN:


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Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE or E-waste) generation is identified as one of the fastest growing waste streams. Developing countries in Asia are currently importing more than 80% of the E-waste generated worldwide (2050 million tons/year) and recovering valuable components through informal waste recycling approaches. These recycling centers are neither using appropriate recycling technologies, nor handling the E-waste properly taking into consideration environmental and health impacts. In many cases, precious metals are recovered from the electrical components (including electrical wires) by simple burning, which releases deadly toxic airborne pollutants such as phthalates and dioxins into the environment. Also, acid leaching, wet chemical processing, and melting treatment are in place for metal recovery purposes. These processes, when carried out under unsafe and environmentally risky conditions, pose great risks to health and create impacts to the surrounding environment. These aspects of E-waste recycling are given prime focus in this chapter. Further, the need to comply with the existing rules and regulations for the safe treatment and disposal of E-waste, especially in developing Asian countries, is also highlighted. The absence of a management infrastructure, the refusal of extended producer responsibilities, and the lack of institutional capacities are identified and discussed as the major issues in managing E-waste in this chapter.

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