SEATTLE (Waste Advantage): It becomes increasingly important to employ effective recycling, manufacturing and disposal tools to properly manage e-waste, especially given the fact that the life cycle of various products is continuously decreasing.
This means that the generation of e-waste is set to exponentially increase, given that more and more of technology becomes obsolete with rapid technological progress. For developing countries, this is a major problem as lack of regulation and an effective legal framework causes them to be the biggest importers of e-waste from developing countries.
Therefore, firstly the accumulation of e-waste is rapidly increasing due to the import of it from developed countries and the obsoleteness of electronic products due to their decreasing life cycle, has caused a dire need for effective management and disposal of this e-waste, with in-depth research and case studies about the safest and most ecologically friendly way to do the same.
Secondly, various laboratory and field studies have revealed the extremely harmful impact of toxic substances which are deeply embedded in the production and manufacturing process of electronic products, most of which are heavy metals and POP’s, which continue to linger and penetrate landfills where they are dumped, adversely impacting the ecosystem there, and the deteriorating ground water quality as they seep through as leachates in the landfills.
With lack of proper barriers to prevent this leakage, and the high concentration of these toxic substances, the impact of the e-waste on the ecosystem is extremely long-lasting, irreversible and dangerous to the sustainability of everyone around that eco-system.
In fact, studies in China, India and Ghana have revealed the dangerously toxic levels of pollutants as a result of e-waste accumulation and mismanagement, and the long-lasting health and environmental effects of their amalgamation and intertwining with the local eco-system.
Sometimes the unintended consequence of this e-waste accumulation can be chemical reactions of unprecedented risks and dangers, due to mixing of various toxic substances from various e-waste sources in landfills, which cannot effectively segregate electronic items into their most basic chemical compositions, due to their complex integration.
Thus initial research has revealed the dire consequences of differential compositions of toxic substances and their release as landfill leachates in various regional contexts. Lastly, e-waste disposal becomes increasingly important in today’s time when we consider the rapid technological diffusion this world has experienced in the last decade, with mobile phone and laptop penetration in developing countries also reaching extremely high levels.
This has significantly reduced the cost of electronic products, and rendered most of the technology of the previous decade obsolete (hence accumulation of e-waste) which will naturally raise future costs due to irreversible health and ecological damage.
But more importantly, the decreasing costs of technology and electronic products as a result of this rapid technological dissemination and diffusion will increasingly fail to take into account the ‘end-of-life-cycle’ costs and the true environmental and health impact of the marginal e-waste generation, as a result of the production of any electronic item in today’s time.
To put it in simpler words, a production of a Mac-book, which comes out with a new version every year, also results in decreasing costs of the Mac-book due to increasing sales, decreasing production costs, competitiveness etc., but this new lower price of the Mac-book will in no manner capture the latent costs of production, which include the negative externalities of the e-waste generated as a result of this production (by the previous Macs and laptops made obsolete by the new Mac-book, which are now e-waste, and the future e-waste which will be generated when the new Mac-book becomes obsolete and the toxic substances used in its production are not effectively managed/disposed).
Thus, the disposal of e-waste becomes increasingly important as the production of it captures only the explicit economic cost of production, but not the implicit environmental and health costs associated with its use and disposal.