E-waste Management: A Necessity of Contemporary Times to Reduce Carbon Footprint.

E-waste is a growing concern & its management by recycling & reduction is critical. Government policies & laws are needed to make e-waste management a norm


“Technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master”, it was rightly said.  Electronic devices have grown into an inevitable part of our daily lives. From our mobile phones to ceiling fans and refrigerators, anything that runs on an electrical circuit is a potential future E-waste. When they are functional, they are worthy but when they have run their course, they are not only waste but a harmful hazard to the environment.

According to the Global E-waste Monitor 2020, a record 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019, up by 21 percent in just five years. The new report also predicts global e-waste - discarded products with a battery or plug - will reach 74 Mt by 2030, almost a doubling of e-waste in just 16 years. They just keep filling up the landfills that eventually become big piles of threat to the natural environment.

Why is E-waste considered such a nuisance? Well, the obvious reason being that it is made up of entirely non-biodegradable materials. They do not break down and perish on their own. Many other materials do not compose as well as plastic then why does E-waste stand out as a bigger problem? Most electronic devices have radioactive materials incorporated in the batteries and other places, because of this, one cannot incinerate them and when they end up in the trash sites and junkyards, these materials tend to degenerate slowly. They release toxic materials including beryllium, cadmium, mercury, and lead, which pose serious environmental risks to our soil, water, air, and wildlife. They seep into the ground via a process called leaching. It reaches the water table and later oceans as well. Not only that, E-waste emits passive radiation as well.

Now that we know why E-waste is probably the biggest environmental issue right now, let’s talk about how to deal with and thereby bring our Carbon footprint down a notch. In one of the first attempts, the Environment Protection Act of 1986 initiated the ‘polluter pays principle’. This was an afterthought of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, in which also the polluter pays the ‘extended polluter responsibility’. 

E-waste recycling is a tedious and multi-step process. It is a heavy investment industry too. However, with government support, it will be possible. The administration could provide incentives or affiliations towards pushing forward the green industry and creating green jobs. This would be especially lucrative for countries like India, where there is grave unemployment. Safety will remain a major workplace concern but the pros outweigh the cons. It’s high time that climate becomes a major part of the government’s policies, businesses, academics, and most importantly our daily lives. Just planting trees is not going to be enough. The taxation and financial budget of a country should have enough allocation for such investments and initiatives. 

A recent example would be New Zealand which became the first nation to introduce Climate change laws. Introducing small green taxes on electronic companies and using them for E-waste recycling would be an efficient method, as is done in a few states in the USA and some European countries. Recycling E-waste from landfills will reduce Methane emissions which are 25 times more potent than Carbon dioxide in increasing greenhouse emissions. 

Besides recycling, there are steps that we can individually take up as well, to reduce the consumption and thus the production of E-waste. These include not hoarding devices just for the purpose of updating and repairing them for reuse. Sustainability is not the journey of a single person, company, or even a country. Nature is a whole, and its preservation is everyone’s responsibility alike and it’s high time we consider it seriously. 

Written By:

Iqra Tofiq

Iqra is a writer with an aptitude for creating opinionated pieces on politics, climate, and society. She has a background in Geography and has previously worked as an SEO content writer and manager for an online media company.

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