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Latin America is facing a rapid increase in internet use along with fast growing computer sales. Penetration with electronic equipment is in some countries approaching the level of industrialized countries. There is an evident need to resolve the management of "end-of-life" computers and other electronic equipment. Several studies in Latin America assessed the increasing e-waste quantities and confirmed the importance of a sustainable e-waste management. This paper gives an overview on the status on e-waste management in Latin America, explains the challenges for establishing an e-waste management system in a developing country setting and highlights the social and economic potential and the possibilities of a regional approach.
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E-Waste Recycling in Latin America: Overview, Challenges and Potential
Heinz Boeni1, Uca Silva2, Daniel Ott1
1Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Material Testing and Research
Lerchenfeldstr. 5, CH-9014 St.Gallen, Switzerland
2SUR, Corporación de Estudios Sociales y Educación;
JM Infante 85, Providencia, Santiago, Chile
Keywords: e-waste recycling, e-waste management, IT-waste, Latin America
Abstract
Latin America is facing a rapid increase in internet use along with fast growing computer sales.
Penetration with electronic equipment is in some countries approaching the level of
industrialized countries. There is an evident need to resolve the management of “end-of-life”
computers and other electronic equipment. Several studies in Latin America assessed the
increasing e-waste quantities and confirmed the importance of a sustainable e-waste
management. This paper gives an overview on the status on e-waste management in Latin
America, explains the challenges for establishing an e-waste management system in a developing
country setting and highlights the social and economic potential and the possibilities of a
regional approach.
Introduction
Global ICT-trade and generation of e-waste from ICT
The global production of electronic devices and particularly of Information and Communication
Technologies (ICT) faces the biggest industrial expansion of the history: OECD figures show
that global trade of ICT technologies has reached 7.7% of the gross world product by 2004, the
major proportion accruing from China [1]. In 2006 an estimated 230 million computers and 1
billion cell phones have been sold worldwide which corresponds to a volume of 5’848’000 t [2].
As a consequence, Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), or e-waste, is by
far the fastest growing waste component. It reaches more than 5% referred to municipal solid
waste and e-waste generation in developing countries according to UNEP is expected to triple by
2010 [2].
According to the OECD e-waste is “any appliance using an electric power supply that has
reached its end-of-life” [3]. The European WEEE directive [4] distinguishes 10 categories of e-
waste: Big Household Appliances, Small Household Appliances, IT and Telecommunications
Equipment, Consumer Equipment, Lighting Equipment, Electrical and Electronic Tools, Toys,
Leisure and Sports Equipment, Medical Devices, Monitoring and Control Instruments, and
Automatic Dispensers. In this paper e-waste and WEEE are used as synonyms. Focus will be laid
on e-waste from IT-equipment (IT-waste), corresponding to category 3 of the European WEEE-
Directive.
1 Corresponding author. Tel.: +41 71 274 78 58; Fax: +41 71 274 78 62.
E-mail addresses: heinz.boeni@empa.ch (H. Boeni), ucasilva@sitiosur.cl (U. Silva), daniel.ott@empa.ch (D. Ott).
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E-waste marks an emerging environmental problem as well as a business opportunity, given the
content of both toxic (about 2% of total weight) and valuable materials [5]. While the toxic
substances are of low risk during the use phase of the equipment, they can become extremely
harmful in the end-of-life phase. Lead in Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT), cadmium and brominated
flame retardants in plastics and mercury in flat screen backlights are just a few of the many
examples of toxic substances which potentially endanger the health of people and the
environment if not dealt with properly. It has been documented in several studies that the
dismantling of electrical and electronic equipment in developing countries is done mainly by the
poor – without any occupational health and safety measures [6]. As a trigger for these unsuitable
practices serve rising metal prices particularly for copper, nickel, gold, silver, iron and
aluminium. These extracted metals can be sold locally and will be exported to the world markets.
The share of precious metals contained in e-waste is substantial: It is estimated that in the 230
million computers and the 1 billion cell phones sold in 2006 the quantities of gold and silver
reach approximately 70 t respectively 535 t, which correspond to about 3% each of the world
mine production for both metals. For palladium these figures even reach 18 t or 12% [7]. One of
the main obstacles to efficiently and effectively recover these resources is the almost nonexistent
infrastructure for collection and recycling as well as the missing assignment of clear
responsibilities.
E-Waste Generation in Latin America
E-waste generation
Latin America is characterized by a high urbanization rate reaching 75% compared to Asia and
Africa with 40% respectively 38%, and a world average of 50% [8]. In line with the urbanization
goes a high penetration rate with IT-equipment and a high level of internet use. The latter is
estimated to reach 24% in Latin America, but only 14% in Asia and 5% in Africa, whereas the
world average reaches an estimated 21% [9].
Even though IT use in Latin America still lags behind their northern neighbours, the region has
experienced an almost 600% increase in internet use from 2000 to 2007 [9]. A similar trend can
be observed in most Latin American countries in the sales of IT-equipment for the past few years
and in particularly for 2007. The digital markets in Latin America have been growing on average
14% between 2003 and 2005, more than twice the rates from Europe and United States (5%) and
Asia-Pacific (6%) [10]. Figure 1 provides an overview of the development of penetration rates
for PCs between 2001 and 2006 in selected countries of Latin America [11].
The rapid growth of sales of IT-equipment is resulting in increasing quantities of e-waste.
Several country studies in Latin America confirm this appraisal by predicting fast increasing e-
waste streams:
An e-waste study for Colombia (population 45 Mio) revealed around 6’000 - 9’000 t of
computer waste for 2007, a quantity that is estimated to double within the next five years
[11]. This figure is in the same range as estimations of 7’300 t/a made for Peru
(population 29 Mio) [12]. Corporate IT-waste produced by the public and private sector
is assessed to be around 50-55% in both countries.
A detailed assessment for Chile estimated 7’000 t for 2007 (population 16 Mio.) with a
rate of corporate IT-waste of 65% [13].
During 2007 in Argentina over 20’000 t of IT-waste have been generated according to a
recent study (population 39 Mio) [14].
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A similar report from Mexico estimated 28’000 t of IT-waste for 2006 (population 103
Mio) [15].
In spite of the lack of comprehensive figures and a standardized methodology to assess e-waste
generation it has to be concluded that Latin America will have to address in the near future the
question of disposal of rapidly increasing numbers of end-of-life computers and other IT-
equipment. As already stated by Ripley [16], e-waste is reaching critical mass in Latin America.
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
Argentina Brasil Chile Colombia Mexico Venezuela
PC penetration rate in %
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Figure 1: Development of the penetration rate of PCs between 2001 and 2006 in selected countries of Latin
America [11].
Policy Principles and Global Framework
Extended Producer Responsibility
Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR is defined by Lindhqvist [17] as a “policy principle to
promote total life cycle environmental improvements of product systems by extending the
responsibilities of the manufacturers of the product to various parts of the entire life cycle of the
product, and especially to take-back, recycling and final disposal of the product.” The incentives
are twofold: to relieve municipalities of some financial burden of waste management, and to
provide incentives to producers to reduce resources, use more secondary materials, and
undertake design changes to reduce waste [3]. EPR as a policy principle enjoys meanwhile a
wide acceptance by governments and industries. Initially it has been applied for packaging waste
and batteries, was later extended to WEEE and recently in the European Union to end-of-life
vehicles. As the coverage of EPR is more and more extended to various post consumer waste
streams, the range of approaches for implementing EPR is widening. The producer responsibility
can vary from fully private models to publicly required ones, sharing in different grades
operational and controlling aspects.
The manner in which EPR for WEEE is transposed into legislation and its subsequent
implementation differ from country to country, particularly in its scope (all WEEE or only some
categories), range and type (collective vs. individual responsibility) and funding mechanisms
(financial responsibility and its point of imposition) [18]. EPR is not limited to industrial country
settings; also in a developing country context it can be transposed into national legislations and
be implemented in different ways. The challenges can be met considering that in developing
countries the share of historical products is still low and the share of non-branded products is
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often overestimated. Formalization of part of the informal sector is a must, however low-risk
operations like collection can be left in part to the informal sector [19].
Corporate responses
In recent years some EPR initiatives of mobile phone producers (for example Motorola and
Nokia) have been launched in developing countries. These voluntary take backs schemes
concentrate on either mobile phone battery or complete mobile phone take-back only. Computer
related initiatives cover printer and toner cartridge take-back actions (by Hewlett Packard and
Lexmark). Dell has extended his Consumer Free Recycling programme in 2006 to some
countries of Latin America. Collective or individual EPR programmes covering a certain WEEE
category regardless of brand and type of equipment have not evolved yet.
Basel Convention and StEP
The “Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and
their Disposal” adopted in 1989 is the international framework for hazardous waste, including e-
waste. The Ban Amendment to the Basel Convention from 1995 is prohibiting any export of
hazardous wastes from industrialized to developing countries. It has not yet entered into force
since it requires the signature of three quarters of the countries which signed the Basel
Convention.
The 8th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Basel Convention in Nairobi declared in 2006 e-
waste a priority issue and emphasized the need for creative and innovative solutions for the
environmentally sound management of e-waste [20].
Globally standardized recycling processes recovering valuable components in e-waste, extending
the life of products and markets for their reuse, and harmonizing world legislative and policy
approaches are the prime goals of a global public-private initiative called “Solving the E-Waste
Problem (StEP)”. This initiative was launched in March 2007 by various UN organisations
(UNU, UNEP and UNCTAD) together with industry, governments, donors and academic
institutions.
Regional Agreements and National Legislations
Regional agreements
The Mercosur Policy Agreement from 2006 [21] mandates its member states Argentina,
Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil to take national measures to ensure post consumer responsibility
by producers and importers. This policy agreement is a sub regional attempt to anchor the
concept of EPR as an environmental policy principle.
The Organization of American States (OAS) has declared in its Santo Domingo conference in
2006 the readiness to prevent and mitigate negative effects associated with the use of ICT along
the whole life cycle, particularly pertaining also to an inadequate recycling.
National legislations
Costa Rica has stipulated EPR as a policy principle in its recently drafted decree on WEEE.
Producers are hold responsible for the proper management of e-waste from ICT. They have to
comply with goals set up by a public-private committee which will be formed for implementing
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the decree. At present only WEEE categories 3 and 4 (ICT and Consumer Electronics) are
addressed.
In 2005 Argentina initiated a national plan on integrated e-waste management and in 2006 a
project on a specific legislation on WEEE which is supposed to cover the 10 WEEE categories
according to the European Directive. In 2007 a third project was proposed to establish guiding
principles for companies working in e-waste management. However these proposals have not yet
got the political support needed in order to become effective.
In Brazil the situation is somehow contradicting between state and federal level. On state level
some EPR based waste framework laws have been issued. In Sao Paolo as well as on federal
level there seems to be strong opposition from producer’s side to include EPR for WEEE
management as a guiding principle [16].
In Peru in the course of the revision of the national waste legislation the explicit inclusion of the
EPR principle is under discussion whereas in Colombia the draft of a specific legal framework
for WEEE is on the political agenda.
Refurbishment and Recycling Infrastructure
Refurbishment projects
Projects for computer refurbishment are basically the result of social initiatives aiming at
reducing the negative effects of the digital divide trough computer donations. The reference
model was the Canadian “Computer for schools” initiative. In this context various initiatives
evolved in Latin America which differ in their operational design and coverage. The most
successful programme is “Computadores para Educar” of the Colombian Ministry of Education
which has in 2007 reached 28’000 delivered computers to schools totalling almost 110’000 since
its start in 2001.
In most cases the refurbished computers are used to supply public education programmes under
the umbrella of the Ministry of Education of a particular country. A strong government support
of such programmes has demonstrated to be a crucial factor due to its financial support but also
in order to facilitate distribution in public education, to get access to the computers from public
institutions, corporate users and external donor agencies and to disseminate positive experiences
through public mass media.
E-waste recycling infrastructure
Formal recycling of e-waste in Latin America, mostly limited to a professional disassembly, is an
emerging recycling activity. In a number of countries like Chile, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and
Brazil traditional metal recycling companies have discovered the e-waste recycling market.
Processed quantities are still on a modest level, since neither the political framework, nor the
logistical infrastructure is allowing for larger quantities. Most of these companies do not offer a
full fledged service since they preferably concentrate on valuable components, like printed
wiring boards, disregarding an adequate disposal of components like Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT)
or other components which have a negative economic value but pose a potential environmental
or health risk.
In Chile formal recycling of IT-waste reaches only an estimated 1.5-3% of the quantities
generated [13], a figure which is likely to be similar or even lower in the other countries. Most of
the companies concentrate on service delivery to big national and international companies
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following a business-to-business (B2B) approach, whereas the informal sector is trying to make
benefit of valuable e-waste components from private households.
International Initiatives
The Basel Convention Regional Centre (BCRC) in Buenos Aires has started an initiative to
collect basic information trying to quantify the amount of e-waste generated in the different
countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Consolidated figures are not yet available. In
April 2008 the BCRC supported in Colombia a pilot take-back campaign of IT-waste. Similar
pilot e-waste collections have been realized earlier in Costa Rica and are now planned for Lima.
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) through its Institute for Connectivity in
the Americas (ICA) started in 2003 a programme on reuse of computers for schools in Latin
America and the Caribbean (LAC) in cooperation with SUR, an NGO in Chile. The programme
focuses on exploring challenges and opportunities created by shipping obsolete computers from
industrialized countries to Latin America. It looks into environmental and social aspects of such
ICT transfers, particularly of those dedicated for schools and other educational programmes.
IDRC concluded that the reuse and distribution of computers on a large scale requires end-of-life
solutions for the obsolete equipment and therefore needs to address recycling aspects too. In a
second phase which started in 2007 the programme is now addressing this issue through the
creation of a Regional Platform for the management of waste from computer in Latin America
and the Caribbean (www.rrrtic.net).
The Swiss Federal Laboratory for Material Testing and Research (EMPA) is implementing the
international e-waste programme “Knowledge Partnerships in e-waste Recycling”
(www.ewasteguide.info) financed by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (seco) of the
Swiss Government. In close cooperation with relevant stakeholders from industry, government
and NGO the programme is supporting the establishment of sound e-waste management systems
in South Africa, India and China. After three years of implementation substantial improvements
in e-waste management can be claimed as a direct or indirect outcome of the program: In China
the programme supported the development of a national e-waste law and technical standards, and
will now accompany their translation into an operable e-waste system in the two cities Hangzhou
and Qingdao. In India the cooperation led to the foundation of a national e-waste strategy group
which currently develops a producer responsibility concept and to the establishment of first
"Clean e-waste Channels" in Bangalore and Delhi. In South Africa the cooperation resulted in
the creation of the e-waste Association South Africa out of which the South African IT
Association (ITA) launched an initiative to establish a Producer Responsible Organisation (PRO)
by the end of 2007; "Green e-waste Channels" started their operation in Cape Town,
Johannesburg and Durban. The programme of the Swiss Government is now being prepared for
extension to Latin America with Colombia and Peru as focus countries. It will be carried out in
close cooperation with the programme of IDRC/SUR.
Social and Economic Potential of e-waste management
Low risk processes, such as manual dismantling of e-waste offer good job opportunities for low
and medium skilled labour given proper training and access to the necessary and affordable
technologies [22]. The SWICO system in Switzerland has created around 1’200 jobs in social
institutions by recycling around 45’000 t of e-waste from ICT annually. Refurbishment activities
have a high potential to generate low and semi-skilled jobs too. The project “Computadores para
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Educar” in Colombia will create in its final stage around 390 low/semi-skilled and about 50
highly skilled jobs with the refurbishment of 46’000 computers annually [23].
Challenges for a sustainable E-Waste Management in Latin America
Policy and legislation
E-waste management is slowly been taken into the political agenda of some countries in Latin
America. However in most countries the present destinies of obsolete electrical and electronic
equipment as well as quantitative figures are unknown. Only Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia,
Peru, Argentina and Chile have particular baseline studies available so far.
Specific e-waste legislation is in development in Costa-Rica. All other countries of Latin
America still lag behind in drafting a legal framework for e-waste management. While drafting
such legislation the roles of both government and industry need to be clarified. Traditional
models for solid waste management have assigned the tasks of collection and disposal of waste
to public authorities; however, an EPR model requires an adequate assignation and repartition of
responsibilities along the reverse supply chain. A participative process in designing the legal
framework is therefore a prerequisite of a successful later implementation.
Collection and recycling infrastructure
Waste collection and recycling infrastructure in developing countries is characterized by a high
level of informality. A certain level of informality will prevail even when a regulated e-waste
management system becomes operational. While formal recycling companies will enlarge their
activities and increase the processed quantities when a formal e-waste management system is put
into place, informal recyclers will continue to collect from individual households those
components with an economic value. A major challenge is therefore to guide the role of the
informal sector towards a future system. As a consequence e-waste management systems should
incentive individual and corporate consumers to dispose potentially harmful WEEE into formal
collection systems. In order to become effective, some sort of financial scheme which
compensates return of obsolete equipment will be needed.
EPR in a Latin American context
Latin America is characterized by a wide range of different economical levels which in turn
result in different social levels. Given the differences in framework conditions and present waste
practices EPR implementation can not be based on a single model approach which is universally
applied to either a waste stream or country. In order to get the ICT producers and trade industry
committed and to assign responsibilities, strong and responsive trade associations which
represent the largest producers, importers and retailers should be in place. In a future e-waste
management system such associations can assume the role of a PRO.
Experience has shown that starting an e-waste managements system based on EPR does not
imply having all producers and importers on board from the very beginning. A limited group of
the largest importers and producers allows to get a system off the ground, even before legislation
is put into force [18]. In an initial stage resistance from a PRO towards the inclusion of non-
branded (“cloned”) and historical products might occur, however the share of such products
which could potentially benefit from a system without contributing to its financing is often
overestimated [19].
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A major challenge now is the implementation of the EPR concept considering the high
percentage of cloned computers on the market, where a responsible producer is difficult to
identify.
The material value of the discharged electric and electronic equipment is the driving force in an
e-waste management system and at the same time represents the key to its financial basis.
Producer Responsibility Organisations can benefit from this added value while operating a
system. The question whether the intrinsic material value is sufficient to finance a system has
been debated widely. However it must be concluded that a full-fledged system which implies the
proper disposal of toxic components, an adequate drop-off and collection infrastructure and a
control mechanism will require additional financial resources [19].
Furthermore, e-waste management systems for obsolete IT-equipment have to consider the
possibility of combing refurbishment and recycling. Reuse of equipment which has not reached
its technical lifespan is a precept giving the limited access to information technologies in
developing countries. Future systems should therefore integrate refurbishing activities and build
on synergies with the respective actors.
Outlook
In the course of designing a future solution of e-waste management in Latin America different
actors will become involved and will be assigned specific roles in that process. A continuous
dialogue from the very beginning between the governing bodies and the importers, producers and
retailers is a must. Even though further voluntary solutions by some producers will evolve, these
will only offer services for single products of a single brand. Such particular approaches will not
solve the challenge of growing e-waste streams. Solutions with comprehensive schemes and
public-private partnerships will be required. The combination of refurbishment and recycling
will offer an opportunity to link socially motivated educational initiatives addressing the bridging
of the digital divide with resource recovery and generation of economic activities. E-waste
management in developing countries is challenging, but will also provide opportunities for new
and innovative approaches.
The potential of regional solutions lies particularly in aligning policy frameworks and treatment
standards, in harmonising operational schemes and in controlling the transboundary movements
of new and second-hand components and particular e-waste streams. Quality standards for
donations directed to refurbishment programmes will be of particular importance. Formal
cooperation between corresponding actors should be initiated and regional activities should be
consolidated in a regional platform for WEEE management, synonymous to the WEEE forum
which has been established in Europe.
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... difficulties due to particularities of the countries, varying in terms of scope, range, type, and funding mechanisms (Boeni et al., 2008;Torres et al., 2015). Chile approved the law 20920 in 2016, which mandates the application of EPR for waste management, but without a specific law on E-waste (Congreso Nacional, 2016). ...
... In Latin America, initiatives on E-waste management have become social imperative; particularly in the collection phase that represents job opportunities for vulnerable groups in growing economies (Magalini et al., 2015). E-waste collection is typically performed at municipal level, and in most cases, it is left in part to the informal sector (Boeni et al., 2008) which is constituted by groups of collectors, scrap dealers, and traders (Fernández Protomastro, 2013). Informal collectors receive different names, such as "recicladores de base"-base recyclers- (IRR, 2015), "segregadores" (Espinoza et al., 2008), "cachineros," "recicladores" (IPES, 2014), or "recuperadores" (Uribe et al., 2010); in this work the term base recyclers is used. ...
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... For instance, in Colombia, the "Computadores para Educar" (Computers to Educate) initiative aims at extending the life-cycle of computers discarded by donating to less privileged communities to provide access to informatics tools like the Internet, office software, among others. Researchers have suggested that to succeed in managing ICT waste, it is necessary to involve participants like local governments, ICT companies, and users [Boeni, Silva, and Ott, 2008]. Bartolo and Urbina [Bartolo Pinzón Jonathan Urbina Guerra, n.d.] display statistical information related to waste management in Colombia. ...
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Electronic waste (e-waste) is a rapidly developing environmental problem particularly for the most developed countries. There are technological solutions for processing it, but these are costly, and the cheaper option for most developed countries has been to export most of the waste to less developed countries. There are various laws and policies for regulating the processing of e-waste at different governance scales such as the international Basel Convention, the regional Bamoko Convention, and various national laws. However, many of the regulations are not fully implemented and there is substantial financial pressure to maintain the jobs created for processing e-waste. Mexico, Brazil, Ghana Nigeria, India, and China have been selected for a more detailed study of the transboundary movements of e-waste. This includes a systematic review of existing literature, the application of the Driver, Pressure, State, Impact, Response (DPSIR) framework for analysing complex problems associated with social ecological systems, and the application of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for evaluating the environmental impact of electronic devices from their manufacture through to their final disposal. Japan, Italy, Switzerland, and Norway have been selected for the LCA to show how e-waste is diverted to developing countries, as there is not sufficient data available for the assessment from the selected developing countries. GOOD, BAD and UGLY outcomes have been identified from this study: the GOOD is the creation of jobs and the use of e-waste as a source of raw materials; the BAD is the exacerbation of the already poor environmental conditions in developing countries; the UGLY is the negative impact on the health of workers processing e-waste due to a wide range of toxic components in this waste. There are a number of management options that are available to reduce the impact of the BAD and the UGLY, such as adopting the concept of a circular economy, urban mining, reducing loopholes and improving existing policies and regulations, as well as reducing the disparity in income between the top and bottom of the management hierarchy for e-waste disposal. The overarching message is a request for developed countries to help developing countries in the fight against e-waste, rather than exporting their environmental problems to these poorer regions.
... In 2007, when over 20,000 tonnes of information technology waste has been generated, a third project was developed to establish guiding principles for companies working in electronic-waste management. However, these proposals have not yet received the political support needed to become effective (Boeni et al. 2008). Thus, significant amounts of E-waste still end up in municipal dumps with consumers not aware of the environmental consequences of E-waste (Protomastro 2007). ...
Chapter
Increased demand for electrical and electronic equipment as well as a reduction in the end of life of most electrical products has led to the generation of large amount of E-waste. These wastes contain both beneficial and hazardous components. Therefore, there should be proper management of E-waste in order to protect man and the environment. In this review, we addressed the various categories deployed towards effective E-waste management such as collection and disposal of dangerous portions and recovery of precious metals and energy. The benefits, challenges and future of E-waste management were also highlighted.
... In 2007, when over 20,000 tonnes of information technology waste has been generated, a third project was developed to establish guiding principles for companies working in electronic-waste management. However, these proposals have not yet received the political support needed to become effective (Boeni et al. 2008). Thus, significant amounts of E-waste still end up in municipal dumps with consumers not aware of the environmental consequences of E-waste (Protomastro 2007). ...
Chapter
Rapid influx of modern technology in the past few decades has led to an exponential increase in the usage of the electrical and electronic equipment on a global level. This unprecedented increase, on one hand, has revolutionized the field of communication and information technology, providing a major boost to business and economic activities; however, it has also led to the generation of one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world, popularly referred to as E-waste. Constituents of E-waste are both hazardous and nonhazardous and valuable, comprising of toxic elements (Cd, Cr, Hg, As, Pb, Se), radioactive active substances, halogenated compounds (polychlorinated biphenyls, polybrominated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, chlorofluorocarbon, etc.), plastics, glass, ceramics, rubber, ferrous and non-ferrous metals (Al, Cu) and precious metals like Au, Ag, and Pt. With 20–50 million tonnes of global E-waste generation and an anticipated growth of 33%, the problem of rapidly growing E-waste is an issue faced by both developed and developing countries of the world. Additionally, unscientific and crude disposal and recycling practices for management of E-waste have severe implications for the environment and human health resulting from release and exposure to toxic emissions and constituents. In view of the above, the present chapter attempts to provide a brief insight on the global trends of E-waste generation, critical issues and challenges associated with E-waste and its effects on environmental and human health, thereby highlighting the need for sustainable environmental management of this newer waste stream.
Thesis
Electronic waste, “E-waste”, is the fastest growing waste stream globally. Informal e-waste recycling lacks the policy and regulatory controls found in formal industry, creating health hazards for workers and communities, while potentially achieving higher recovery rates of raw materials and related reductions in impacts. This dissertation evaluated routes of exposure to metals, physical hazards faced by workers, material and economic flows, and environmental and human health damages, through the lens of Total Worker Health (TWH). The research described took place in informal e-waste recycling communities in Thailand and Chile, countries with different cultural contexts and recycling paradigms. Following the introduction in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 examined metal levels in a variety of environmental samples, surface dust, air, and human biomarkers. Concentrations of metals in environmental samples were elevated. Surface wipe samples from Thailand showed no significant difference in metal concentrations between surfaces used for food and work, while there was a difference in Chile. Despite having higher overall concentrations of metals in wipe samples, workers in Chile had lower concentrations of metal biomarkers than workers and non-workers in Thailand. Results from an application of the Method of Triads showed that surface wipes generally had the highest validity coefficients of the various measures evaluated. Chapter 3 evaluated the physical hazards of e-waste recycling. No workers were exposed above the recommended occupational limit for noise of 85 dBA. However, a portion of workers had audiograms indicative of noise-induced hearing loss. Sixty percent of workers in each country experienced at least 1 work injury in the previous 6 months. Analysis of injury risk factors using survey data and a novel semi-quantitative video analysis indicated high frequencies of ergonomic stressors and working near sharp objects in both countries. Logistic regressions in Thailand showed that odds of injury were greater among workers who reported more frequent noise and regular use of personal protective equipment. In Chile, buying/selling of e-waste was associated with lower odds of injury. Poisson regressions showed that older and more educated workers in Thailand had a lower injury incidence rate ratio (IRR). In Chile, older, more educated workers, report of a dangerous task, increased frequency in the use of cotton gloves, repetitive arm motion, and lifting of < 20 pounds had a higher IRR. Chapter 4 combined material flow analysis (MFA) and life cycle assessment (LCA) methods to analyze the quantitative flow of materials, economic benefits, and human and environmental impacts of informal e-waste recycling. Four e-waste products were selected for the MFA in a Thai community and then fed into a LCA to estimate net avoided emissions. One village processed ~40,000 kg of e-waste monthly, worth a net value added of 157,000 THB (~$5,000). Recycling in one village avoided 0.2 Disability-Adjusted Life Years, 60,000 kg of CO2 equivalents, and nearly 400,000 megajoules each month. Dismantling of e-waste by informal e-waste workers with downstream processes (e.g., recovery of dangerous, precious, and trace materials) completed by more formalized operations may be advantageous for both sectors. Finally, Chapter 5 provides overall conclusions and discussion. This dissertation yielded important information on how to protect informal e-waste worker and community health. Exposures to metals occurred during both work and non-work activities, and the participating workers experienced a high rate of injury, affecting health and economic well-being. Short-term economic benefits may be out-weighed by long-term ecosystem damages.
Article
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Electronic waste (e-waste) has become an increasingly pressing problem worldwide because of the increase in the volume of waste, without a corresponding increase in the recycling rate. E-waste recycling models show a low percentage of reuse, at around 17.4% in the world, 11% in Latin America, and 3% in São Paulo City, Brazil. The sources of conflicts relating to e-waste recycling networks are diverse, including asymmetries of objectives, knowledge, ethical values, and culture of sustainability, which indicates the need for a system of regulatory mechanisms. The article’s main proposition is that constructed governance, which is a collective process involving many actors, could be an alternative to e-waste recycling management. The city of São Paulo was chosen to be analyzed. Using an abductive methodology, the data analysis shows a fragmented network, with conflicts of interest among commercial and sustainability objectives, an absence of legal knowledge, and increases in the incorrect disposal of waste. However, initiatives in small groups in Brazil, which can be considered as examples of constructed governance, show a better volume of waste and the transportation of waste material to the right destination. The authors argue that constructed governance could be an efficient tool for e-waste recycling management systems. Besides, the article offers a matrix of indicators that can be used by both researchers and recycling managers.
Article
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The paper investigates the potential of circular economy of authorized e-waste collectors, dismantlers, and recyclers of Maharashtra. The study determines the drivers and barriers associated with e-waste collection in the region. Furthermore, it explores the handling techniques including dismantling, recycling, and scrap disposal. This is done through a case study of a recycling company based in Mumbai, Maharashtra. A questionnaire-based survey is used to study e-waste processing units. The qualitative analysis of the questionnaire shows that lack of awareness of environmental impact is the greatest constraint in the collection of e-waste and data security is the most crucial driver for enhancing the collection of e-waste. The case study reveals that the quantity and type of e-waste are more important than the distance between the processing unit and the collection point. It discloses that the primary factor for building trust between e-waste collectors and waste holders is data security.
Chapter
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Recycling and sustainable development issues are increasing in importance around the world. This aspect is more prominent in developing countries, in which there are many informal recycling activities and few environmental legislations regulating waste management. This chapter discusses the recycling challenges regarding the adoption of e-waste reverse logistics under the perspective of developing countries. For this purpose, we gathered information from papers published in international databases and reports such as the United Nations Environment Programme and Global e-waste Monitor, thus identifying data available to American countries (Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico), South Africa and Asian countries (China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore). As key findings we can point out the categorization of the barriers into financial/economics, environmental, market related, legal, policy related, management, knowledge related and technical and technological related. As main contributions of this chapter, we can highlight (i) the compilation of information related to recycling challenges of e-waste in developing countries, and (ii) the identification of some solutions and actions to overcome these barriers is also performed, which can be useful for practitioners and researchers in this field.
Conference Paper
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Legislation like the "End-of-Life Vehicle Directive" or the "WEEE directive" aim -among others -at saving natural resources through improved reuse and material recovery. Considerable efforts have been undertaken successfully to develop efficient recycling technologies for cars and electronics to "close the loop". The "recycling society" in this context is a frequently used keyword, which seems to indicate that we have already made considerable progress in this direction. In reality however, especially for cars and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), we are far away from achieving high recycling rates for important "trace elements" along the entire lifecycle of these products. The reasons don't mainly lay in technological shortfalls but in the structural deficits of "open cycles". In a research project, jointly conducted by Umicore Precious Metals Refining and Germany's Öko-Institut on lifecycle efficiencies of platinum group metals (PGM), it could be shown, that in many industrial applications (e.g. chemical catalysis) PGM lifecycle-efficiencies > 90% are achieved, while in the autocatalyst and electronics applications more than 60% of PGMs are inevitably lost along the lifecycle. A number of reasons play a role here. Most important are the breaching of system boundaries -used & EOL products are exported from Europe to developing and transition countries, where recycling probability is very low -and the dissemination/dilution effect of trace elements in the end-product, which negatively impacts their efficient recyclability. This publication elaborates the approach of "closed and open cycles" and shows that besides precious metals other important metals like indium, bismuth, tin, etc. face the same difficulties. Moreover, requirements for a "global recycling society" are defined to address today's reality of global flows of used consumer products, taking into account the likely needs of the future.
Article
Electronic waste, or e-waste, is an emerging problem as well as a business opportunity of increasing significance, given the volumes of e-waste being generated and the content of both toxic and valuable materials in them. The fraction including iron, copper, aluminium, gold and other metals in e-waste is over 60%, while pollutants comprise 2.70%. Given the high toxicity of these pollutants especially when burned or recycled in uncontrolled environments, the Basel Convention has identified e-waste as hazardous, and developed a framework for controls on transboundary movement of such waste. The Basel Ban, an amendment to the Basel Convention that has not yet come into force, would go one step further by prohibiting the export of e-waste from developed to industrializing countries.
Article
E-waste, a relatively recent addition to the waste stream in the form of discarded electronic and electric equipment, is getting increasing attention from policy makers as the quantity being generated is rising rapidly. One of the most promising policy options to address this issue is to extend the producers responsibility for their products beyond the point of sale, until end-of-product-life. This paper briefly introduces the concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR) and its applicability in the area of the end-of-life management of electronic and electrical equipment (EEE). It then examines the decade-long experience of Switzerland in using EPR to manage its e-waste, elaborating on the experience of the Swiss system in overcoming specific issues, and finally wrapping up with a synopsis of the lessons for policy makers. We consider each issue as an enquiry of questions confronting a policy maker and the choices that may present themselves. The five issues discussed are: (i) the challenges in getting an EPR based system started; (ii) securing financing to ensure a self-sustaining and smooth functioning system; (iii) organising a logistics network for the take back and collection of the e-waste; (iv) ensuring compliance of the various actors involved; and finally (v) reducing the threat of monopolistic practices.
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