Sources and Streams of Electronic Waste

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Within one or two decades, the mass of electronic devices discarded by consumers could exceed 100 million tons annually. Yet, far more pollution and waste arise “upstream” during the mining for and manufacturing of electronics. Avoiding and reducing pollution and waste must begin long before consumers have their devices in hand.

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... The continuous demand of raw material (for example, heavy and rare earth metals) imposes pressure on natural resources and their sustainability severely (Dudka and Adriano 1997;Haque et al. 2014). The majority of CO 2 equivalent emissions arise when new products are produced from the raw material as compared to the case when recycled material is used (Lepawsky 2020). The carbon intensity per kilowatt-hour (CIPK) can be further reduced, if one uses optimized carbon-intensive process. ...
Once the operational life of electronics component is over, it becomes part of electronic waste (e-waste). Afterwards, it is either dumped in landfills or recycled for metallic constituents. Landfills, in long run, are proven hazardous. Recycling approach also leaves a significant energy footprint on environment. This article presents a brief insight into the harmful impacts of the e-waste. Primary aim of this work is to justify the importance of adjusting new technology according to the conventional one so that the working components from the obsolete technology can be utilized optimally. Prototype of compact 3D printer and 3D scanner combo is presented here, as one of the solution. The main components of this system, namely stepper motors, power supply, and metallic supporting structure, are salvaged from e-waste. Interfacing and control codes (novel aspects of the work) are developed for automation. Performance of this printer is compared with a commercial 3D printer. Prototype is found suitable (even performing at par) for samples (wall thickness of 0.1mm). The inter-convertibility act will become necessary when new technologies like 5G, electric vehicle take over and existing one will become obsolete leaving significant e-waste to dispose. It is expected that this philosophy, if integrated at industrial level by encouraging protocols for product development and manpower training, would reduce the burden on the environment.
... Wearable gas and pressure sensors, in particular, are useful for detecting hazardous gases and monitoring human physiological signals [2,3]. Meanwhile, transient and environmentally friendly devices that reduce the growing electronic waste are becoming crucial [4][5][6]. Therefore, the development of high-performance transient gas and pressure sensors has essential significance in wearable electronics. ...
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Environmentally friendly degradable sensors with both hazardous gases and pressure efficient sensing capabilities are highly desired for various promising applications, including environmental pollution monitoring/prevention, wisdom medical, wearable smart devices, and artificial intelligence. However, the transient gas and pressure sensors based on only identical sensing material that concurrently meets the above detection needs have not been reported. Here, we present transient all-MXene NO 2 and pressure sensors employing three-dimensional porous crumpled MXene spheres prepared by ultrasonic spray pyrolysis technology as the sensing layer, accompanied with water-soluble polyvinyl alcohol substrates embedded with patterned MXene electrodes. The gas sensor achieves a ppb-level of highly selective NO 2 sensing, with a response of up to 12.11% at 5 ppm NO 2 and a detection range of 50 ppb–5 ppm, while the pressure sensor has an extremely wide linear pressure detection range of 0.14–22.22 kPa and fast response time of 34 ms. In parallel, all-MXene NO 2 and pressure sensors can be rapidly degraded in medical H 2 O 2 within 6 h. This work provides a new avenue toward environmental monitoring, human physiological signal monitoring, and recyclable transient electronics.
This paper offers both empirical and conceptual interventions toward an environmentally grounded sectoral analysis of the electronics sector and against the pernicious myth of the digital-as-ethereal. Empirically, it maps pollution emitted from electronics manufacturing facilities in the NAFTA region (Canada, the United States, and Mexico) over the decade of 2006–2017 using publicly available facility level data from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s pollution release and transfer registry (PRTR). Total releases and transfers of pollutants and waste from the sector in the NAFTA region amounted to over 366 million kilograms over this time period. 244 facilities (6 of 50 facilities in Canada; 40 of 264 facilities in Mexico; 198 of 1,593 facilities in the US) account for 80–90 percent of total releases and transfers in the NAFTA region. Further data collection about the owners of these 244 facilities identified an additional 1,495 instances of them or their parent companies reporting a presence in a country outside of NAFTA. Nearly half of those 1,495 instances (greater than 47 percent) are located in countries that currently do not have a publicly available PRTR. Conceptually, the paper develops the notion of ‘occlusive residues’ to help interpret the patterns suggested by these data. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of potential ameliorative action and future research directions for a fuller environmentally grounded sectoral analysis of the electronics sector.
Technical Report
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The Global E-waste Monitor 2017 is a collaborative effort of the United Nations University (UNU) represented through its Vice-Rectorate in Europe hosted Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Programme, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). This report provides the most comprehensive overview of global e-waste statistics and an unprecedented level of detail, including an overview of the magnitude of the e-waste problem in different regions. The report includes up-to-date information on the amounts of e-waste generated and recycled, makes predictions until 2021, and provides information on the progress made in terms of e-waste legislation. The e-waste volumes are indicative of the recycling industry’s potential to recover secondary resources, as well as setting environmental targets for detoxification. The report highlights the need for better e-waste data and information for policymakers to track progress, identify the need for action, and to achieve sustainable development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
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Ghana's pursuit of socio-economic growth has necessitated joining the information communication technology (ICT) revolution, thus increasing the consumption and obsolescence rate of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and the creation of what is popularly called e-waste. The absence of legislation governing its importation and disposal, combined with the dynamics of Accra's urban economy, including neo-liberal policies and lack of formal job opportunities, has triggered people's ingenuity to engage in novel occupations such as e-waste recycling. Though a lucrative strategy, it comes with a price for those involved: environmental health risks, a fact well articulated by a burgeoning literature. Nevertheless, little empirical evidence exists relating to this perceived relationship. Using questionnaires, FGDs and in-depth interviews, this study fills the lacuna. The findings reveal that the mean daily income of an e-waste worker is GH¢30, far above the daily minimum wage of GH¢4·48. Despite the positives, the findings also show that the environment and health can be compromised.
Herein, crop (vegetables and rice, n = 30), soil (n = 14), dust (n = 12), and PM10 (n = 25) samples were collected to assess the environmental quality of a former e-waste recycling area and evaluate the related health risks. In dust and PM10, the concentrations of heavy metals (Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn) were lower than previously reported values, although the numbers for soil, vegetables, and rice remained high. The average accumulation factors of heavy metals in crops decreased in the order of Zn > Cd > Ni > Cu > Pb, and soil was identified as the largest contributor to crop pollution. Heavy metal ingestion largely occurred via rice consumption, which accounted for a significant fraction of the total average daily dose (ADD; 75.2–86.7% in children and 78.0–91.7% in adults), especially for Cd, Cu, Ni, and Zn. However, in the case of Pb, soil ingestion accounted for 48.9% of the ADD in adults, while in children, vegetable, rice, and dust ingestion accounted for 44.7%, 28.6%, and 23.7% of the ADD, respectively. The combined exposure hazard indices at the fifth, median, and 95th percentiles for all heavy metals were determined as 2.54, 9.40, and 40.1 for adults and as 3.75, 13.7, and 58.4 for children, respectively. In terms of health risk, crop consumption was identified as the major exposure pathway for both children and adults, featuring a contribution of 99.9%. In addition, the 95th percentile carcinogenic risks for Pb exceeded the acceptable level. Thus, this work shows that to reduce the health risk for local residents in the former e-waste area, more attention should be paid to soil repair.
Exposure to phthalates is pervasive and is of concern due to associations with adverse health effects. Exposures and exposure pathways of six phthalates were investigated for 51 women aged 18-44 years in Ontario, Canada, based on measured phthalate concentrations in hand wipes and indoor media in their residences. All six phthalates had detection frequencies of 100% in air (∑6670 ng m-3 geomean) and floor dust (∑6630 μg g-1), nearly 100% detection frequencies for hand palms and backs that were significantly correlated and concentrations were repeatable over a 3 week interval. Phthalates on hands were significantly correlated with levels in air and dust, as expected according to partitioning theory. Total exposure was estimated as 4860 ng kg bw-1 day-1 (5th and 95th percentiles 1980-16 950 ng kg bw-1 day-1), with dust ingestion, followed by hand-to-mouth transfer, as the dominant pathways. With the exception of diethyl phthalate (DEP), phthalates had over 50% detection frequencies in surface wipes of most electronic devices sampled, including devices in which the use of phthalates was not expected. Phthalate concentrations on surfaces of hand-held devices were ∼10 times higher than on non-hand-held devices and were correlated with levels on hands. The data are consistent with phthalate emissions from sources such as laminate flooring and personal care products (e.g., scented candles), followed by partitioning among air, dust, and surface films that accumulate on electronic devices and skin, including hands. We hypothesize that hands transfer phthalates from emission sources and dust to hand-held electronic devices, which accumulate phthalates due to infrequent washing and which act as a sink and then a secondary source of exposure. The findings support those of others that exposure can be mitigated by increasing ventilation, damp cloth cleaning, and minimizing the use of phthalate-containing products and materials.
Here we report on the concentrations of 79 flame retardants (FRs)and plasticizers, including 34 polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDE congeners, 17 “novel” brominated FRs (NBFRs), 15 dechloranes, and 13 organophosphate esters (OPEs)in air (n = 9)and dust (n = 24)samples from an active waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)dismantling facility in Ontario, Canada, collected in February–March 2017. This is the first study of its kind in North America. The facility processes a range of WEEE including monitors, computers, printers, phones, and toys. Of the 79 target compounds, at least 60 were detected at a frequency of at least 50% in both air and dust. Dust and air concentrations were dominated by three compounds: BDE-209 (median 110,000 ng/g and 100 ng/m ³ , respectively), DBDPE (median 41,000 ng/g and 41 ng/m ³ ), and TPhP (median 42,000 ng/g and 27 ng/m ³ ). Levels of PBDEs, NBFRs, and dechloranes were close to two orders-of-magnitude higher in dust from the dismantling facility than in residential homes, while OPEs were one order-of-magnitude higher. Congener profiles of PBDEs indicated debromination of BDE-209. We calculated that a total mass of 44 ± 1 mg day ⁻¹ of 79 target analytes were released to air from WEEE processed in the dismantling hall and a further 270 ± 91 mg day ⁻¹ were released to dust. It is clear that WEEE dismantling facilities are a serious concern as a source of emissions for a wide range of FRs at relatively high concentrations to both workers and the immediate environment.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were widely used as flame retardants in consumer products including electronic devices. Important routes of human exposure are contaminated food and contact with dust. In this study, we measured twelve PBDEs in household/workplace dust and blood plasma samples provided by 113 volunteers living in the Puget Sound region, WA and working at electronic waste (E-waste) recycling sites (n = 29) or non-specific indoor (n = 57) or outdoor occupations (n = 27). The volunteers in the outdoor group were also selected because of a history of high seafood consumption habits. Results indicated the sum PBDE levels varied between <2.5 and up to 310 ng g⁻¹ lipid. E-waste recyclers were predominantly men, generally consumed low amounts of seafood, and had PBDE blood levels (geometric mean, GM = 26.56 ng g⁻¹ lipid) that were similar to indoor workers (GM = 27.17 ng g⁻¹ lipid). The sum PBDE levels were highest in the outdoor group (GM = 50.63 ng g⁻¹ lipid). Dust samples from E-waste sites were highly enriched with BDE-209 and BDE-153 relative to non-E-waste businesses and homes. The concentrations of these BDE congeners in dust at E-waste sites were ∼32–39 times higher than in dust from other sites. However, the detection rate of BDE-209 in plasma was low across all groups (13%) and no statistical comparisons were made. Our results suggest that E-waste recyclers in this study population did not have elevated PBDE levels in comparison to volunteers working in other types of occupations.
This book analyses the treatment of uncertainties within risk management and regulation for hazardous wastes, in five national case-studies. It is shown that, although institutional uncertainties vary between national political cultures, regulatory bureaucracies everywhere understate these more fundamental uncertainties (which are often structural conflicts, of different rationalities) and define them instead as marginal technical uncertainties or imprecision in risk-definitions. Close comparative analysis shows that technical regulatory standards depend upon their local institutional setting in systematic ways, so that conventional regulatory emphasis on technical precision or standardisation should be replaced by greater social negotiation, and educated public involvement and control.
The monster footprint of digital technology
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Europe has e-waste problems: exporting to Africa isn't one of them
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The challenges of temporality to depollution & remediation
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