E-waste Recycling: Current State and Process

What qualifies as E-waste?

Electronic and Electrical Equipment (EEE) that have surpassed useful life cycles and / or are discarded qualify as Electronic waste (e-waste). You do not have to look far from our surroundings - household, office, schools and universities, to understand the various items that eventually will end up as e-waste. Dysfunctional television sets, air conditioners and refrigerators to discarded computer monitors, motherboards, mobile phones and chargers, compact discs, headphones are all under the umbrella of e-waste.

EEE which is enroute for refurbishment, reuse, resale, salvage recycling through material recovery, or disposal can be considered as potential e-waste.


Understanding the current state of E-waste

How much of the generated E-waste is being recycled?

Global e-waste monitor 2020 reported a 21 percent jump in global e-waste generation in just five years. A record 53.6 million metric tons (Mt) of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019. Asia alone generated the greatest volume of e-waste in 2019 at around 24.9 Mt, with India and China being major contributors. Under 18 percent of the global e-waste generated is being collected and recycled.

Impact of untreated E-waste

The economic growth in the technology sector leading to higher output of e-waste and poor waste management infrastructure, as seen in many other developing countries, is becoming a leading concern for human health and environmental conditions.

E-waste is continually being dumped alongside generic waste in open dumpsites / landfills. A deeper study about the impact of e-waste reveals the magnitude of adverse effects on the health of workers and their communities. Children, in particular, are highly vulnerable and constantly exposed to hazardous and toxic substances. It needs to be highlighted to ensure more robust e-waste management practices and recycling methods are implemented.


Are you recycling your e-waste?

We spoke about the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) and we cannot emphasize enough about the importance of each of them. To recycle e-waste at home - not trashing e-waste, fixing and reusing old gadgets are some practices that must be inculcated. Over the years waste recycling practices of segregating dry and wet waste have become a norm. It is paramount that we educate ourselves about the healthy practices for handling e-waste.

However, when it comes to a sustainable framework for e-waste management, recycling is the one that needs immediate attention. Legislation in India has been a driver for the setting up of formal recycling facilities, and there are 312 authorized recyclers in India, with the capacity for treating approximately 800 kt annually. However, formal recycling capacity remains underutilized, as most of the waste is still handled by the informal sector.

Let us dive deeper into the recycling processes -

The electronic waste recycling process

There is a wide variety of electronics in the market making the recycling process to be challenging. However, all discarded electronics devices are manufactured from varying proportions of glass, metals, and plastics. The process of recycling can vary, depending on the materials being recycled and the technologies employed, but here is a general overview.

Collection and Transportation:

The initial stages of the e-waste recycling process start with collection drives. Several non- profits / NGOs are collaborating with businesses to set up collection bins or e-waste pick up options across the city. In Karnataka, the collected e-waste is then moved to KSPCB authorized collection center. Once a substantial amount of e-waste has been collected in the center, KSPCB authorized recyclers to pick it up to transport it to their recycling facilities.

Manual sorting and Dismantling:

The recyclers then manually sort the materials in the e-waste stream. Post that e-waste is dismantled and taken apart into various categories where they are segregated into parts that can be reused or would continue downstream in the recycling process. This is a very labor- intensive process.

Size reduction stages:

Items that could not be dismantled properly are shredded in multiple stages and separated on conveyor belts. Fine dust particles which are not detrimental for the environment are discarded at this stage.

Separation of Metallic and Nonmetallic components:

Powerful over band magnets are used to separate iron and steel components. Other metals like Copper, Aluminum and Brass are also separated to be sold as raw materials or directly reused in manufacturing.

Water Separation:

Water separation technology is then used to separate glass from plastics. The final step in the separation process locates any raw material that can be sold for reuse. The products sold include plastic, glass, copper, iron, steel, shredded circuit boards, and valuable metal mix.

Material Recovery Reports:

A material recovery report is generated and shared with the organizations through which the donors / customers can get to know the details of the metals being recovered, toxic metals being diverted.

Preparation for Sale as Recycled Materials:

After the shredding, sorting and separation stages have been executed, the separated materials are prepared for sale as usable raw materials to produce new electronics or other products.

Lastly, with e-waste growing at an unprecedented rate, it is incumbent upon us to follow the rule of 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle). Even if you are purchasing the next electronic item, do check out the thriving refurbished industry for your product. In case you go with a new product, ensure that the old product is disposed of properly and doesn't add to the e-waste stream.

E-waste contains valuable materials such as copper, silver, gold and platinum as well as potentially toxic substances and can be safely recycled to recover metals and other materials for reuse and dispose of toxins appropriately. Be-Responsible can help you in e-waste recycling. Connect with us today.

E-waste Pick Up Events