Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) waste or e-waste is expected to balloon to 74 million metric tonnes in 2030*. It is the world’s fastest growing domestic waste stream.
The range of e-waste is expansive. It includes TVs, printers, keyboard, computer monitors, mice, cables, circuit boards, calculators, flashlight, smart phones, answering machines, digital/video cameras, VCRs, DVD players, MP3, CD players and radios.
What is worrying is the debilitating effect on human lives and the environment. E-waste impacts every system in the human body because the materials that make up e-waste contain several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury, brominated flame retardants (BFR), and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Even the plastic casings of electronic devices contain polyvinyl chloride.
When e-waste is incinerated, toxic chemicals are released into the air, damaging the atmosphere which is catastrophic. When they are dumped into landfills, their toxic materials seep into ground water, causing harm to both land and sea animals.
In Third World countries, waste workers and rubbish pickers who forage e-waste are the most vulnerable. Their direct handling of solid waste often result in various types of infections and chronic diseases.
Guiyu in Guangdong province, up to a few years ago, is the largest e-waste disposal site in China and quite possibly the world. Many of its residents exhibit substantial digestives, neurological respiratory and bone problems. It is no longer the case as China has stopped receiving shipments of toxic e-waste from all over the world.
As countries grapple with ways to dispose off their e-waste, the fact remains that 20 to 50 metric tonnes of e-waste are discarded worldwide every year. Unfortunately, only 12.5% of e-waste is currently recycled despite the fact that there are substantial precious metals residing in many of the disposed electronic devices.
E-waste also contains several precious, critical, and other non-critical metals that, if recycled, can be used as secondary materials. The value of raw materials in the global e-waste generated in 2019 is equivalent to approximately US$57 billion. Iron, copper, and gold contribute mostly to this value.
The current practice of extracting gold from EEE is through the use of toxic chemicals such as cyanide and harsh acids. This practice is unsustainable and is harmful not only to the environment but also to mankind. Companies doing the recycling of e-waste must extract gold safely, sustainably and ethically.
Clean Earth Technologies has a non-toxic gold recovery reagent that extracts gold cleanly and sustainably without the use of cyanide and harsh acids. This process features a novel and safe way to rapidly leach the gold in high yield and then use an award winning, patented sulphur polymer to recover the gold.
The Global E-Waste Monitor 2020 is a collaborative product of the Global E-Waste Statistics Partnership (GESP) formed by the United Nations University (UNU), the International Telecommunicaations Union (ITU) and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) in close collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).